Right now I would like to deconstruct everything I am doing with this on-going narrative. This is not intended as some pretentious, literary pat on the back or something else self-serving. But it is after 2AM, I am an insomniac and need to splatter something out to restore my mind to ease. And so I will employ a contradiction of the education I received in my Masters in English and ‘Fine Arts,’–just another asshole taking classes that are supposed to make them a better writer.
Now before I go on I would like to expose the nonsense that is these FA Graduate English classes. Now of course I cannot speak for all of them–perhaps some are even worthwhile–but I can speak of my experiences and I have to tell you, it is a grim future we have to see in the educated end of literary fiction.
Okay: so what I experienced in these sessions was a group of competitive, arrogant people sitting around and criticizing one another. Of course the seminars were led by some modestly to extremely well known author and they would be the center of the commentary, the only one who mattered. Everyone else was petty, looking to tear down, seeking to obliterate ambition to perhaps give themselves one more rung on a hopeful future. I was no different. But I was not specifically malicious unless I thought someone’s material was shit. Others tended to equivocate their negativity in suggestions of how to improve things with their out-of-context minds. As for me, I would either praise them or let them fucking have it.
I remember this one–volume three of the autobiography of a twenty-eight year old woman. None of us, of course, had read the first two and both remained unpublished in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. She was a self-important witch–clearly well educated in literary terminology and analysis. But she couldn’t write. She couldn’t write for shit. And she was aggressive, spoke more than anyone, including our celebrity moderator, and she was really mean too.
When I had the chance (and this was before my own material was discussed, a mean-spirited novel that I abandoned many years ago), I ripped this woman apart. Of course it was unjust and of course there was no reason for me to be so harsh, but I didn’t like her, thought her writing was awful and I wanted her to know just what kind of backlash she should expect, in terms she would never hear. All she would see were form rejection letters, ending with hopes that she could find a different publisher who might be interested in her work. I said, “This is volume three? Wow. Your life is incredibly boring. Was your childhood at least interesting? Your teenage years? Because in this book you talk about your wedding and the detailed ins-and-outs of raising your children. This could, of course, be an interesting topic, but not in the way you write it. Here’s a direct quote: “And then I changed his diaper and realized what an important job I had ahead of me. Changing diapers. Feeding. Loving. Getting very little rest. It is hard to love someone, but love someone we must. He is my child. Mine. And I love him. I just love him. I love him. I am in love.”
Now I will admit that the prose itself is serviceable. There is a certain flow in the repetition. But it is boring. Oh my God is it boring. Now I want you to take that passage and repeat it for fifteen pages. While other people said that she clearly loves her family, I was being a literary critic and I told her that she made me not care about her child at all, and, more specifically, she made me hate her.
Obviously this did not go over well and when she got a chance to respond to the incredibly violent horror/western book I was then pitching, she called me disgusting and said I was a sexist. Now the first comment was fair and was also the effect I was then looking for. I had written an incredibly violent piece and what I had submitted to the class was, at that time, the grossest thing I had ever written. So I accepted her distaste and understood that my style wasn’t for everyone.
But sexist? That painful label assigned to generally awful people? I could not accept this. Yes, women were killed in my narrative, but so were men and animals and even ideas. What I killed was hope. This was not a sexist piece. It was purely misanthropic and I told her so. Her response was for some reason to call me ‘racist’ and I simply laughed. Our sponsor, a uniquely stylistic African-American author of some note, interrupted her to say “how is it racist?” I will now admit that he did not like my story at all, but I appreciated the defense. One of the female students who had actually liked my story said, “How is it sexist?” Everyone else was indifferent, more concerned with the response to their own pieces than what anyone might be saying about hers or mine or anyone else’s.
Some of the pieces were great and I was happy to share this opinion. Most of the material was pretentious clap-trap, someone trying so hard to sound literate that their writing made no sense. There were poets, most of them terrible, one of them quite good, and then there were the faux history writers who wrote their opinions instead of the facts and prefaced everything with a footnote. This was the world that I once existed within.
And then I was done, finished with those people and I actually watched one of them, a writer I admired, develop into a rather successful author. I published scattered stories as I still do today. I make an income, but not enough to sustain me. I obviously have other pursuits, like most writers, and have recently decided that genre fiction is the most likely goal for a serious writer. I mean, to take a tired old style and breathe new life into it is a serious literary goal–Nobel Prize stuff, but not in a realistic way. It is all about our greedy ambition and we go to sleep dreaming about what we think we should be and how we believe we deserve to be acknowledged.
I actually have a handful of fans–true believers who are likely rather creepy and who want my autograph and who dream of taking me home. This is not ego speaking, because I have actually been in this situation. Years ago–back when I was writing comic books professionally (Boneyard Press, a defunct company that has transformed into the much more interesting American Horrors streaming channel–please check this out) I had one crazed fan, whom my publisher told me in advance had fucked and sucked two other people in the previous two days, who showed a rather vile, in retrospect, interest in me. But I was young. I had met an actual fan. She wanted to spend time with me. She wanted to fuck me. What was I supposed to do? I was about to get laid because I was a somebody!
It was a dreadful experience and I left late at night from her shitty apartment, embarrassed for her and embarrassed with myself. It taught me that the price of celebrity, even among a fringe group of followers, is often too much to handle. I was not really a celebrity, but a twenty-one year old kid who was starstruck by the interest of another in me because I wrote some horrible shit. My friend and publisher mocked me later and he still mocks me to this day. But I suppose I deserve it.
Now I realize that I have gotten off track and have been far more autobiographical than I ever intended to be, but these are the random thoughts late at night that create a narrative of editorial history. I am editorializing my own life right now, justifying nothing but only explaining my thoughts on what has happened. It is not important–surely less important than the series I will shortly be returning to on lies and the impact they have had on society since the beginning of civilization (please check them out–they are the best pieces on this string). But there is a consistency in the theme, in the blanket misery of everything in the world I see.
There was a warning in my first post that this whole thing would be miserable. Yet I hope that my sense of humor can provide a few jokes and a tittering of nervous laughter. Right now I am all alone, everyone else asleep–my dog asleep on the carpet in front of me. And I am wide awake, thinking of something else, not really interested anymore in anything I have been saying in this post. Goodnight. Goodnight to all. Please forgive me for this distraction.