December 6, 2007

Philip Lee Roth

So I’ve been losing my head a little bit. A lot. Better now actually, but I go through these phases where I am increasingly apocalyptic. Wondering the point of it all when the earth’s going to melt. Especially wondering the point of writing fiction in this “climate.” There’s an extremely fascinating post at Reality Sandwich about what an artist is supposed to do with so many real-world problems coming to a head. Echoes many of my own sentiments.

Is writing overly graphic or depressing work just contributing to the malaise? Yes, I think, which is why I have no interest in seeing a movie like “No Country For Old Men,” which attempts to sicken people with fear. Yes, that is a clear reflection of the current zeitgeist, but adding more grist for the mill, and, in effect, turning it into entertainment, is counter productive. It helps, I think, George Bush, so that every time you read or see a little tidbit scaring you half to death, you’re reminded that once fear was entertaining. Also that humanity isn’t worth saving. That movie is further proof that Cormac McCarthy is a sadist, of both his characters and his audience.

It was striking me on a by-second basis how stupid and misguided humanity is and the only way we’re going to save ourselves is a complete restructuring of how we operate. We’re still going to baseball games and movies like there’s no problem. I’ve read Pinchbeck call these “Weapons of Mass Distraction,” and it’s true, we’re being distracted until the game’s finally over. Incredible and baffling that we are living as we are, when so much proof shows that we should be doing otherwise. But I’m a prick: I don’t recycle because I think what the fuck’s it matter, one bottle isn’t going to do any good, we’ve got to change the entire human system. And that’s not going to happen, short of aliens giving as free energy technology, or a way to suck CO2 out of the air. Yes, I do hold on to this hope. I lost half my audience right there.

Then my wife calmed me down, saying, “Everybody dies, you can’t stop that. And you can’t stop the earth from dying as well.” Which is also true, and I realized that my despair for the “earth” was really just projected despair for my own self: anger and frustration that I’m sick (kidney problems) and I have to spend many hours of my time and creative muscle paying the bills. I’m obviously not a completely healthy person and I don’t know if I have decades in front of me and I have a lot I still want to do, so I rail at humanity’s sickness, when mostly what I’m concerned about is my own.

I’ve been souring on fiction. The industry, the output. I still love writing, but the thought of being a part of some literary culture does not appeal to me as it once did. Mainly because I look at other writing that’s successful and it moves me not at all. I have a theory that there’s one book that you should be reading at any one time, and that book will find you. Otherwise, for me, it’s like reading hieroglyphics. I pick up book after book and it doesn’t seem urgent enough. That’s no reason to quit writing, but it’s not exactly inspiring either. So I started working on a screenplay for a few reasons.

Mainly, movies reach more people. Skip back to that Reality Sandwich post. I still have this megalomaniacal desire to reach a lot of people, to change minds. Pinchbeck, for all his success, has sold something like 40,000 copies of 2012. I read somewhere else that Mark Danielewski’s most recent sold something like 20,000. That’s a major success in publishing...for a certain kind of writing. Pretty depressing, if you ask me. Am I in it for the love of art and pure self-expression? I wish that I could say I was. With the world as fucked-up as it is, maybe I can reach more people, the way people used to with fiction, through movies.

Also, I need to finally make some money as a writer, hopefully giving me more time to write fiction. It’s way easier to sell something to Hollywood than to New York. Hollywood pays more and buys stuff that it doesn’t get made into a movie. Publishers never buy something that they don’t print. It took me six weeks to write the script, it takes a year to write a novel, at least, and then there’s the whole wall that comes with trying to sell it. God, I wish the writer’s strike would end so the script could be sent out.

I feel I have to justify this because everything I’ve written comes from the point of view of a Hollywood-hating motherfucker. I don’t hate movies, whatsoever. I hate celebrity, there’s a wide gulf of difference. So I’m thinking screenwriting, I’m thinking music, fiction isn’t exciting me as much. I should just roll with my inspiration, and not feel despair about what I’m neglecting. That said, I managed to finish a story yesterday and send it out.

What’s the last book I read? This one:


David Lee Roth is a super-genius, and one of the least self-deprecating people on Planet Earth. Inspiring.


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