Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Perchance To Dream

Dennis was commenting on a thread earlier and wrote, "I love words, words are cool..." That they are, and I do too. In fact, I love 'em enough to think that, were I able to find a way, writing is what I'd like to do. I think that's probably a completely pie-in-the-sky wish, frankly, but it's what I'd like to do.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have an illusions about getting rich and famous, and for that matter, I don't think I'd want to, but I would love to be able to pay the bills by writing. Now, is that really such an outlandish thought?

Well, maybe so, because after all, who the hey would and could pay me to do it? I'm never at a loss for something to say; I could crank out a quick, concise 1000 words a day, day in and day out, without fail or compromise. That's well and good, but what would I write about, and who would want to read it? I haven't the foggiest...

All around, I like what I write, and I love writing it. I do not, however, have illusions about where I sit in the hierarchy. I ain't nobody, as far as that goes. No one knows me, and so, why would they care about what I've got to say? It's like I commented on blogs a while back - For all I know, what I write and the way I write would be construed as the Something-I'm-Not-Interested-In Category for most folks... Now, I get told I write well and that people like it, but those are mostly friends and family: My big question is this: What if I do write well? How does one get to a wider audience, how do you even get a shot? Frankly, (My whoppin' helping of personal self-confidence aside), I think I write better than a good few I've read, but they've got the public pulpit and I don't. It strikes me kinda like music - I've heard plenty of little singers or bands, people that I know full well could and would knock a big, wide chunk of the listening public dead if they were heard; but they don't get heard... Jessica Simpson, with big hair and no talent, gets heard: She gets a multi-million dollar recording contract, while the talented, heartfelt, no name singer songwriter never will... What's with that? What's at the root of the inability to get heard and have a shot? Well, as far as writing goes, there ain't no 'American Idol' for budding authors, nor any equivelent that I know of. I can't really get a job doing it, because I have no degree or broad experience in journalism, technical writing, etc, and as far as any other category goes, I wouldn't know where to look.

Back when I was growing up, I used to listen to WRKO in Boston, it was, I believe, an AM station. There, on any given day, you'd hear The Beatles, Nancy Sinatra, Herb Alpert, The Animals, Captain Beefheart, 10 Years After, B. B. King, Carole King, and maybe Mary Wells, (Remember her? She did 'My Guy' - rowwrrrrr...). Now adays, there ain't no WRKOs out there. Radio is formatted for its prime listening audience, narrowly defined and neatly packaged. Country means Top 10 Country and not much of anybody else. Classic Rock means the same damn 25 songs over and over again. It's the same for metal, hip hop, jazz, whatever... The vast majority of stations don't have D.J.'s, so you couldn't call and request something different, even if they had it.

The current scenario for writing, at least a lot of the popular writing that I've seen, is much the same. If Kerouak showed up in 2006 and whipped off 'On The Road', do you think it would get published, let alone sell? I don't, personally... Would a thirty-five foot long, semi-autobiographical, stream-of-consciousness one-humongous-sentence manuscript even get read by some screener, or passed to a waiting publisher? I doubt it, I'm afraid, and that's odd and sad. Therein lies the problem: There may be, for all we know, a 21st Century Kerouac working right now, but if he blogs alone from a garrett in Greenwich Village, is anybody there to hear him? Kerouac emerged in the height of the 50's conformist era, and whacked it across the head with a splintery length of 2 x 4. On The Road ignited the Beat Generation, and brought the essence of non-conformity to light. If ever there was a time that needed that wake up call, that was it - But then again, if ever there was a time that needed such a wake up call, this is it... Kerouac not only was a hell of a fine writer, he was an inveterate supporter of other writers, too: Jazz musician David Amram said of him, "I never heard Jack put down another writer. He went out of his way to enourage young writers. His work reflects this spirit of kindness, generosity, and love." Well said, David. Are there famous authors out there doing what Kerouac did? I've always loved Kerouac's quote on fame, too; "It's like old newspapers blowing down Bleeker Street," too cool, man... But I digress, so are there?

'Famous' writers today, like everything else in this overblown time, means 'Rich' authors: Brown, Rowling, Koonst, King, whomever - All rediculously wealthy; celebrities is what they are, not writers, in my opinion. Do I begrudge them wealth? Yes, if that is that what it is about. Is that what it's become? Formulaic and predictable, dull and boring, is it worth it? I don't know how somebody can crank out uninspired stuff, same as the last stuff, over and over again; I sure can't read it, anyway... Obviously, other people do, or they wouldn't be rediculously wealthy, now would they? Or would they... I think books have become much like bands or movies: If it's not gonna be a blockbuster, nobody's interested and nobody cares, yet the stuff that they decide is a barnburner is way more often than not, total crap!

I love mysteries, but I learned to do so at the pens of Agatha Christie, P.D. James, and Tony Hillerman. I don't think the term 'formulaic' would ever cross my mind in describing those writers. Writers... Recently, I was told about an author writing good cop mysteries, so I checked 'em out: The book I read was charming, and OK, although I knew what was gonna happen a third of the way through it. I read two more, and lo and behold, they were exactly the same. Again, they were charming, and I really liked the main characters, but the formula of the books was exactly the same every time: Murder at the front, first 1/3 of the book chasing false casts, second 1/3 narrowing focus, last 1/3 some sort of desperate attempt to cloud what's already known by the hero, and last 5 pages, final resolution... Every one of 'em. Am I a snob? When I read a murder mystery, I want to wonder what's going to happen and how it happens and who done it - Hell, that's why they're called who-done-its, right? Jeesh... This writer has made a great living writing something like twenty of those suckers; blows my mind... I mean, they're $6.95 paperbacks, but I buy paperbacks to be entertained - I'm not buying more than three if I know pretty much exactly what I'm gonna get - If I want that kind of reading fix, I'll re-read one of the many classics that are always worth a re-read; (Tolkien, for instance...) Oh, and just so I don't sound too much like I'm talking out my ass; yes, as a matter of fact, I have written a cop mystery, and I think it's pretty good, (As did others who read it, and nobody figured things out right off the bat, either!)

So anyway, here I am, bitching about people who 'succeed' and telling myself I couldn't or wouldn't. I don't know that that's true - I tend to think that I can and will succeed at damn near anything I put my mind to, frankly. And I'm probably gonna find a way to try and do this, I just don't know where, how, or when and it's frustrating. Welcome to the real world, Eben... So, what would your literary hero, Jack say about this situation, hmmm?

How about this from 'Big Sur':

Ah, life is a gate, a way, a path to Paradise anyway, why not live for fun and joy and love or some sort of girl by a fireside, why not go to your desire and LAUGH..."

Yeah, that'd probably work.

1 comment:

BFA said...
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