In which the Author bitches about writing
and ponders a dangerous flirtation with Boom . . .
There is only one good thing about small town
there is only one good use for a small town
there is only one good thing about small town
you know that you want to get out
When you're growing up in a small town
you know you'll grow down in a small town
there is only one good use for a small town
You hate it and you'll know you have to leave
--Lou Reed, "Small Town"
Train entering the city
I lost myself and never came back
Took a trip around the world and never came back
Black silhouettes, crisscrossed tracks, never came back
--Lou Reed, "Forever Changed"
A Note Regarding Weblog Reincarnation
If you're curious about what I'm doing back here, these are the tenuous explanations. But be forewarned--I still don't have a clue about the latest purpose of this blog. Not yet, anyway. The only certainty is that what I write here will be thoroughly Not Like My Book--although I suspect it may often be about my struggles with it.
William Gibson famously said that "The street finds a use for things." And similarly, I'll eventually understand what to do with CultureHack (Mark IV). I'm guessing we'll all find out what I'm up to at the same time, when whatever this site is supposed to do reaches critical mass and manifests. But in the meantime, I'm not worrying about it: After all, I always do my best work (and feel most comfortable) in interstitial spaces . . .
I'm just going to put it out there: The process of writing the book currently sucks. Oh, there's been a halcyon period, and before final revisions there may be some kind of Late Golden Era. But right now it's effing hard work, and it's been made even more difficult by the escalating requirements of the writing.
Here's the effing hard work part: I've just spent six days writing a sequence insert of 2,000 paltry words. And yes, it was worth it but that's not the point--as a writer I'm a marathoner, and single-digit daily page counts drive me crazy with frustration. As if this weren't enough, the latest of the escalating requirements is a killer: At this stage in the writing, I need to work in silence--the rhythm and sound of the sentences have become as important as images, word choice and structure. But also know this: Music is monumentally important to me--take it away and, well, I'm in a state too grim to describe.
The sheer suckage of the past week is best understood by putting all of this together: I've been averaging just over a page per day, surrounded by a silence so tomb-like the Dieter Rams desk clock sounds like the Cosmic Metronome of Doom. So yeah, lately writing the book in something like a state of auditory hyperesthesia has been very House of Usher.
Thus bashing out something that's so-not-the-book--even if it's blog-ish--is psychological balm, and not my attention wandering. I may not know exactly why I'm here, but this much is certain: It feels good not to slam into the manuscript. At least for a while.
I'm blasting Live a Little at concert volume level, with the other installments of the Pernice Brothers catalog neatly lined up waiting their turns. And given the recent Period of Great and Absolute Quiet, it's oddly consoling to see the bass lines rattle the window panes in their muntins.
Even better, there are no outlines, flow charts or research databases guiding these words--just a vague idea of a subject. Which, paradoxically, is directly connected to the interminable sequence insert from the past week. Proving, I suppose, that there's no insight without pain.
While putting final touches on a section where Tony visits Beatrice, I suddenly felt the need to add a flashback showing that Tony's childhood hometown is almost identical to where Beatrice is living. Though a structuralist, if I feel strongly about a divergence from the narrative plan, I usually follow the impulse and decide about its inclusion afterwards. In this instance, the insert worked quite well--but initially I couldn't articulate why.
At first it seemed a way to blunt Tony's savage assessments about Beatrice's town; a he's-actually-like-her interlude. But I don't believe that characters necessarily have to be likable or conventionally motivated--my only obligation is make them interesting. After more coffee and pondering, I suddenly had it: I'd intuitively emphasized that Tony had long ago moved on to more vital, open environments, while Beatrice has willing embraced the same small-town claustrophobia that had caused him to flee. The inclusion of the insert extended Tony judgments past the town to Beatrice herself. Which neatly made him even less likable and a bit more interesting.
That's how it worked, but it didn't explain why it was effective. So I kept analyzing: Tony and Beatrice regard her town in significantly different ways not because of Tony's past, but by the amount of distance he's placed between himself and small-town insularity. Tony has literally and figuratively moved while Beatrice has not. And there it was: parallax. I had allowed Borges' territory below the map to poke through. Which is as worrying as it is pleasing.