Hang on to every choice word, my friend. By the time you reach the end of this post, you’ll find yourself dazed and confused. You may even feel delirious from the taste and the dizziness from the slant of the words.
How do you see the world? Through rose-colored glasses? Through a glass darkly? With blinders? Through a microscope or a telescope? A wide angle lens? A fisheye lens? (Forgive me, that was the philosopher/scientist in me, all talking out my 3rd Mojito.)
I don’t know about you, but I tend to look at the world from the point of view of the infinite Cosmos. God-centered and omniscient. As opposed to looking at things from where I stand. Down here. Where everything seems overwhelming and so impossible every day. (Yes, for those of you who haven’t awakened from your drug-induced comas yet, like I have: the world is getting scarier by the millisecond. Just stick your head out the window.)
Last week I posted a similar essay. “Strong Medicine for Novelists”. When I began this Blogspot, I had alerted readers that my posts are designed to “burst your bubble” to the realities, albeit, absurdities devised by noveliticians, and I’ve held up my end of the bargain. I’ve delivered the goods under the presumption of a self-imposed contract between us. And as you know, just as comedy heightens tragedy, my intended humor leads into the darkness of drama. Everything that’s real and dreadful under the guise of the absurd.
But the reality is simply this: all endeavors in life, i.e., sports, music, painting, writing—the arts at large are all metaphors for life. Because life is indeed a challenge from the moment we’re pushed out or plucked out at birthed until the moment we succumb to the devices of the fatal games we play. It is a constant struggle. A never-ending loop of insanity, wrapped up in a neat little package known as: your so-called wonderful life.
Here it is my friend, in all its glory, in all its divine splendor. Now suck it up and deal with it!
In Spanish, the old saying is “En La Lucha”, loosely translated as: “In The Fight”, more aptly, “In the Struggle”. But what do we struggle against? What is our cause, or our reason’ for’ being? (That’s right I loathe French phrases, and the French for that matter. Can anyone tell me what the fuck they’re good for, other than sniffing Bordeaux’s and cranking out half-ass souse chefs? This is a rhetorical question BTW. Although, the word “Fuck” (which is near and dear to me) and “Penis” and the word “Sex” are of French origins, as so are many other English words. But fuck the French anyway.)
What is our purpose in life? What is our purpose in writing? What do you want to say, but more importantly, why must you say it? Why is it relevant to you and to who else should it matter?
All this sounds way too heady and over-the-top doesn’t it?
Okay, then hang on to dear life, precious ones, because my Aristotelian antics and poetics are about to hit the proverbial fan and disintegrate into tiny little shards of digestible wisdom for your enjoyment and edification. Your goal is to gather all the tiny little pieces of this puzzle, decipher them into intelligible syllables and sentences, arrange them within the realm of your knowledge, and put it all into good practice by forging ahead with an effective, relentless master plan.
In other words: Read, comprehend, and apply with your heart and soul.
Once upon a time, God confounded the languages…wait a minute, that’s going back way too far. Let’s take a gigantic leap through the ole Star Trek time machine and set this narrative inside a much more relevant scenario. A futuristic dystopian landscape perhaps, a la McCarthy’s “The Road”. (Possibly the only book that will survive the end times.) How about the year 2075? Perfect.
And so, now the question becomes: What has happened to literature since the times of Homer? (BTW has anyone figured out his godforsaken last name? Homer is his last name? I’ll take that one up with the Greek gods, those bastards must know something. But I digress, as usual.)
If Homer or Aristotle were to reincarnate and find themselves in the year 2075, (not together, holding hands like gay chums or anything) and picked up any of the popular novels of the time, who would they most likely read? James Joyce, Dos Passos, Jorge Luis Borges, Roberto Bolaño, Hemingway? How about Virginia Woolf, or Fitzgerald. What about contemporaries such as: Anne Rice, Nora Roberts, Alice Walker? (How did they get in here?) Cormac McCarthy, G.G. Marquez (Yes, he’s working on a new novel. No, no, not McCarthy, he’s stuck polishing his “blind man” characters.)
You get the idea folks. This list could go on for light years. Let’s come back down to Earth.
What about you? That’s right. What would you be inclined to pick up from a year 2075 bookstore shelf, take home and read, hopefully cover-to-cover without cheating? Would it be a genre romance, a mystery, a western? (All this provided that the Kindle will not systematically rule the world of publishing by then.) (Hey, maybe the subject of my next blogpost, goshdurnit! Finger snap right here.)
What would have changed with the passage of time? What has changed since the ancient times of Greek Mythology? Everything. But nothing at all. (How profound can I get?)
So here’s my point. You’re going to read what you like. Duh!? What was that George? (BTW, I’m convinced that Pinky, the mouse in Pinky and the Brain was based on Steinbeck’s classic buffoon character, Lenny—“Of Mice & Men”). Thank you.
And based on that highly philosophical observation, you’ll most likely write about the things you like to read. Conversely, you are inclined to read about things you like to write. Huh? Sure makes sense to me. But what if you tried to write like Steinbeck, for instance? Or like Hemingway? Literati try all the time. (Am I preaching to myself again?) Have they succeeded? Unless they’re channeling the defunct writer’s ghost in some way, probably not.
(Besides, identity theft is certainly a big issue these days. Highly frowned upon but rampant in today’s society, just like pirating music or movies is, very, very big in Puerto Rico, Asia, and South America, FYI. Matter of fact, Chavez encourages it.)
You can imitate, steal or plagiarize, but you cannot “become anyone else”. Right. The last time I checked that was still against the law. God’s law, that is. Matter of fact, I think that’s why he bestowed each of us with 12 unique strands of DNA. (Except for me, I’m missing 3, and the rest are super-coiled, like dreads.)
If you’ve been following my posts, you’ve heard this before, and I’ll say it again, at the risk of you flipping a birdie at your screen in my direction. It all boils down to this: Being Yourself. (Good grief.) How else can you float to the top, or sink to the bottom of the gene pool? Take your pick. Either extreme is noteworthy in its own way but for different reasons. And somewhere inside that cosmic muck, lies the polarity of a writer’s life (whatever that means).
Take it or leave it. Like it or lump it. (I had to dig deep for those.) This is the real you. The novelist. The aspiring novelist. The writer on a mystic journey to________fill-in the blank. (That’s where your cause belongs. Ahhh!) Your beliefs, your concepts, your longing desires and your fears. Your daring statement to the world! My mama’s favorite Pilaf recipe? Whatever.
What’s it going to be? Well, that’s entirely up to you. It can be something as deep as an abyss, or even as shallow as a puddle, or anywhere in between. Not only is the choice yours, but more often than not, the choice has been made for you by a higher authority. (How else can we mere mortals explain the writings of Kingsolver or Marquez? BTW, take this one up with Robert Mckee) Right, a higher authority. You know, like your fate, or your destiny. That kind of thing.
And within the realm of your God-ordained destiny, there are decisions to make. That’s right, none of this happens automatically. You must first recognize it deep inside your soul, decide to nurture it through diligent study, and then you must practice it, as if your life depended on it. Because it does. (You can thank the great Guru Master, Tony Robbins for that one.)
But take heart dear ones, here’s a quote you don’t hear every day:
"Although I also know that it's true that a writer's country isn't his language or isn't only his language.... There can be many countries, it occurs to me now, but only one passport, and obviously that passport is the quality of the writing. Which doesn't mean just to write well, because anybody can do that, but to write marvelously well, though not even that, because anybody can do that too. Then what is writing of quality? Well, what it's always been: to know how to thrust your head into the darkness, know how to leap into the void, and to understand that literature is basically a dangerous calling.” Roberto Bolaño. (1953-2003)
Swish that one around your skull folks. It’s like a fine Merlot, sweet but tart. Or is that Chardonnay? (Wine aficionados, the fucking French, sit back down.) The life of a writer is just that: a life. A way of life and not just a way to survive a life. It’s a sacred commitment. It’s about communities of writers coming together--and stealing each other’s ideas.
(Unless you’re James Patterson.)
You can do it for money, or you can do it because you have no other choice. Because nothing else will do. Nothing else will satisfy you. Nothing else will make you as happy. Very big difference.
And so, success is assured to those who rightly persevere, and to those who don’t give up in the face of adversity, or waver behind a myriad of obstacles. There are no excuses, (Ask Napoleon Hill.) only reasons to forge ahead against all odds. Sellouts need not apply. Because the last successful step is nothing more than the very first step to beginning again. And the cycle continues. One-hit wonders beware.
That my friends, is not only a proven fact in life, but it is a proven fact on becoming a published novelist just the same, or anything else your heart desires for that matter. And being an original, or as close to an original as you can be…that’s where you’ll find the answers you’ve been searching for. That’s where the void is, according to Bolaño. Write it down.
(Let’s face it though, nothing since the KJV Bible has been totally original. Just ask Simon & Garfunkle and Hemingway while you’re at it. Then again, does Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” count as totally original? Hmm…good question. She might’ve had a little help from somebody named Truman Capote, and God only knows where he got the idea. Great book, better movie: Robert Duval’s brilliant debut as Boo Radley. Bravo! -- stole the movie right there.)
And in order to tap into that wondrous void that Bolaño mentioned, otherwise known as the gap, (take this up with Deepak Chopra) all you have to do is plug into that cosmic computer, otherwise known as the Universe and reach out into the constellations with all your might and all the determination you can muster, and with as much bravado and inner strength as you can possibly summon from the depths of your mind, grab a random thought…and write something.
ANYTHING FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!
Uhhh…does all this have something to do with my writer’s block?
Which reminds me, does “borrowing” other writer’s ideas and freaking them and bastardizing them into your own ideas count? Like I did with DFB? You know, like John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola did in Apocolypse Now with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?
You bet it counts. Who the fuck understands “Heart of Darkness” anyway?
Spontaneous Combustible Rant: If I’d lost my house to Hurricane Hanna, or Ike, or any of those westbound storms from Hell, I’m moving to Galveston armed with the wrath of the Almighty Living God!
Ahhh…breathe. Breathe deeply Alberto, and count to ten. One, two, three…
You think I’m excited? I just got my Borzoi Newsletter and I swear I’ve never heard such a biased promotion in favor of one book all my life, ever. Hell, forget promotion, they’re so excited about “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, by Stieg Larsson, that it sounds like they’re masturbating and typing the review with one sticky finger.
Hopefully by the time I post this next week, the humps at Borzoi Reader would have gotten over their electric, multiple group orgasms with Ben-wa balls up their butts tone of voice.
They have no shame. No shame whatsoever.
The worst part is that by fawning over, coming on, and humping Larsson’s book in every imaginable position, they’ve managed to dilute all the other author’s book offerings to nothing more than drivel by comparison.
Neutral journalism? Keep it in your pants Borzoi reviewers. Ladies, get both hands back on that keyboard!
It’s pathetic. Stay tuned, I’m blowing the lid off the whole shebang.