Homage to Catatonia

A Loving Catalog of Orphaned Ideas.

Month: July, 2013

Lessons Learned

For the second straight year I have decided to share some of the lessons I learned during my 82-day hiatus from the workaday world. When you don’t have to spend 1/3 of your day five days per week performing tasks as assigned by someone else you have time for frivolous, human activities like learning about yourself, the world around you, and life. Note: Please do not expect these lessons to be especially profound. Just because an observation is true (or truish) does not guarantee that it is deep or even useful.

  • Life moves pretty slow, if you blink it can create a sort of strobe light effect that’s kind of cool
  • YOLO. Not that “you only live once” (which I figured out when I was six) but that this is what YOLO stands for. Somehow I managed to avoid learning this until June.
  • Wearing a Superman shirt to the gym is less embarrassing than one might think.
  • If you’re going to say “I’m so effin’ sexy” in a public place do it with authority.
  • Some people conceive of Heaven as an outdoor mall where the guardian angels are African-American women and a small delegation representing every waiter you’ve ever given a generous tip will sing you a Christmas carol.
  • If your strategy is to play the long-game make sure you know how much time is left on the clock.
  • Lucian Freud has been to my gym.
  • The area code for Wyoming is 307.
  • If someone takes the trouble to advertise that they’ve put cardamom in something it’s probably worth giving a try.
  • People who have spent time in Santa Fe are diplomatic about what they think of it until you’ve been there yourselfthen they’re far more forthcoming.
  • Breaking a world record is actually pretty easy.
  • Salt & Straw sells at least one type of ice cream that can cure a migraine. Not sure if this is true should you eat it with a fork.
  • There are more well-maintained vintage cars in Oregon than you’d expect.
  • You don’t really know a place until you’ve written a lengthy description of it.
  • There are no happy endings, only happy middlesand for some people even the prospect of a happy middle is slight.
  • Just when you think James Franco can’t get any more lame and idiotic you find out that he’s even more lame and idiotic than you think. Then he gets more lame and idiotic.
  • While I was overjoyed to have a good friend marry into my family some of my friends are less than enthusiastic about the idea of my marrying into theirs.
  • Tony award-winner and three-time Oscar nominee Joan Allen spends more time in your bathroom than you do.
  • The essence of Portland cuisine is high-end versions of low-rent dishes and low-rent versions of high-end dishes.
  • “Women have roles. After you learn that you’ll stop objectifying them.”
  • Sometimes your penance takes the form of paying Facebook $1.
  • Washing your hands is the most important, rewarding thing you can do all day.
  • Russia has nine time zones. It used to have eleven.
  • The secret to drinking heavily without getting a hangover is to drink eight types of alcohol.
  • Nothing may not take up a lot of space but it takes up a surprising amount of timemore time, in fact, than most Things. I’m going to miss having nothing to do.

Works In Egress

Notes for a non-novel about not writing a novel

Title: Works In Egress

Description: A book-length collage (rhapsody?) of sentences, paragraphs, pages on the theme of failing to write a book. Include different drafts of various sentences, paragraphs, scenes. Include biographical anecdotes/sketches that represent intrusions of life upon art (insofar as there is any useful distinction to be made between the two). Include clips, scenes, false starts.

Examples . . .

Disclaimer: This is not an attempt to write a new kind of novel, nor is it meant to be groundbreaking or innovative. The result, whatever it proves to be, is simply the only book I can write.

Opening sentence: [Insert well-crafted, engaging opening line here.]

After trying to write a novel and failing, I’m writing about the failure. Is the result a novel? I don’t think so. Maybe. (I second guess myself a lot).

He never metafiction he didn’t like.

One problem with writing a novel is that you’re not the same writer — the same person — as you try to tell the story over the course of many weeks, months, years.

Every work in progress has slipped away, becoming a work in egress. Even completed stories are works in egress. Paul Valery, a French poet I haven’t really read, once wrote that “Poems are never finished, only abandoned.” Wikipedia tells me that after the death of his mentor, the poet Stephen Mallarme, Valery did not write for twenty years. (Digressions like this will help give Works In Egress length and, perhaps, depth.)

Ending: All our works are nothing but works in egress. They slip away: incomplete, abandoned. They slip away: forgotten, chronically neglected. They slip away: completed but falling well short of what we envisioned. All of it, everything, slips away. For what is life itself, dear Reader, but a work in egress?

It would be dishonest to end with the paragraph above. Chekhov (A Russian writer I have read regularly for years, albeit it only in translation) once said that it is in the beginning and endings of their stories that writers lie the most (should I use the actual quotation, as translated, or is this pararphrase close enough?). The paragraph above is true but to give it the weight of finality, the quality of crescendo and coda (too clever?) would be a lie. Life, people, even stories should limp along for awhile at the end, like a wounded dog: carrying on, oblivious that all the aesthetically pleasing moments have come and gone. Or maybe they should end abruptly. Or both. Yes, maybe