Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fiction Writing, Art, Writing...And A Brief History


When I decided that writing was the profession I wanted to pursue I was, in my mind, late to the game. As a student in high school I was truant, disinterested and unsure where I fit in the world. I grew up in a small suburb of New York City without any mass transit to the city. I was trapped. My friends all had parents with similar backgrounds to my own, participated in sports and became fans of mainstream music. There was little discourse in my life regarding art, literature or the world outside of New York State.

I moved away to college in Colorado, which felt like an odd extension of my hometown, and I began to grow more shy and introverted. I had spent so much time trying to be popular, interesting and to fit in at all, that I had lost sight of my most prized possession, my mind. It was that first semester of college that I wore myself down trying to make it to every party, drunk and stoned and searching for friends who wanted to discuss something more than when a concert was happening or what sports were on TV. I found that in books, in silent dialogue between my eyes and the words printed on the page. I started with simple literature and eventually dug deeper.

After that first year of college I moved to New Orleans, which was a terifying moment of self-realization. I had for 19 years refused to have an identity and that had cause me so many nights of restlessness. Even worse, not having a personal preference or identity for that long opens you up to the type of personal criticism that could act as an agent counter to the development of personal preference. I found myself constantly being discounted by friends and elders as I took the road to discovering a voice of my very own. I remember that the first piece of art that spoke to me was THE LIVES AND TIMES OF ALLEN GINSBERG a wonderful documentary about the poet. Besides the title, what left the biggest impression on me was Kerouac. And the summer leading into New Orleans I read every book Kerouac wrote, grew an affinity for Port wine and trains.

At Tulane I read Thomas Wolfe, because Kerouac spoke of him constantly, and then I finally understood trains as the blood and tracks as the vains of old America. From there it was all the books by Hemmingway as I skipped every class that semester and then James Joyce for Christmas break. First, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and then Ullyssess. From there I hit Dylan Thomas and by then I was restless and typing constantly, not sure what I was doing.

Simply put, I thought writing was the practice of developing legend or myth. When I look back now, I believe that is indeed what writing is, as is art, music, and basically any artistic endeavor, even the ones I lack the capacity to describe with words. And maybe this shouldn't hinder you from your own opinions about art, but it was a very personal thing. I was an underdeveloped person and art was the place where I finally found my voice.


The thing about books and I learned this rather quickly. They are maps. They are maps to history, to the pyramids and the railroads. To religion, philosophy, love, alienation and ambiguity. I cannot put one book down without wanting to pick up another one.

I was cocky once, saying I had read every book worth reading, but now I realize that is nearly impossible. I am now of the belief that while I think my writing contributes to the greater picture of literature, that literature is an ocean and empty space is quickly filled in by the tide of words.

I read one thing which lead to another and another and have never been able to stop. History, fiction, poetry and essays. I read newspapers, websites, blogs, poems, art magazines. And books encompass them all. Everything can be found in a book. Nabokov has a story that describes a painting so well you would never want to see the actual painting. Regardless of what I try to convince you, I realize that everything is not connected, but there is a relationship occurring at all moments in time.

Tomorrow's Post Will be About Time.

To Sum Things Up

I write because of Calhoun Street in New Orleans. Because of the sound of trains, the burn of whiskey, the belief that love is holy and that a sensation can be summed up in a sentence like, the night was wet and humid, my mind was goopy and her breasts were pressed close to my chest in the Maple Leaf, Rebirth Brass Band playing a tune familiar to the way it sounds to enter a room and know that chaos will tackle you. My mind's mystery is the character of my friends and the way I see them all spread across the room dancing and sweating and finding something to break the silence of their bodies.

I write because I believe that someday I could be the reason you write. I write because I once was lost, and I am still lost and I may never be found, but from second line parade to boardroom meeting in my Hollywood office I feel sensitivity to the bum, the artist, the woman, the man, the drunk, the drip and the dream. I feel the earth shake at night and the sun shine in the day. Mostly, I feel guilt. Every moment is guilt.

Guilt: I should have read more. i should have written more. I could be painting, playing music, reading poems, feeling something stir inside me. I could be doing Paris on $2 a day, in Brooklyn with my best friend destroying a world.

The point is, I could be doing and I celebrate those who are. And here is the point of the night, for you people out there celebrating, complaining, being celebrated, being criticized. You are provoking some reaction. You are proving me right, I am done tonight.

Tomorrow I will discuss time and how it wants us all to die or live.

1 comment:

  1. Ah! I love it! Cheers to Paris on $2 a day.

    Bravo, my friend.