Monday, October 25, 2010

Free-Writing II

10/25/10, 12:32 pm-

Sometimes I think, when people ask me the question “what’s your book about?” I should tell them, “It’s about a pair of magical shoes. A little boy finds them and gets into all sorts of hijinks”. The reason for that is, against all my better attempts, I just end up fumbling my way through a ridiculous simplification which has nothing or next to nothing to do with my book anyway, and in the end I get strange looks either for my ideas or probably more accurately my portrayal of them. This has a lot to do with who’s asking the question, however. If it’s someone my age, especially a guy, but the age is the most important factor it seems, I’ll give them a one-liner which comes pretty close to what a Hollywood pitch would be. “This guy does this in the middle of this. It’s like this existing property, only better” and the reaction is more or less positive. If they’re as little as ten years older than me, it’s time to REALLY simplify, because any more seems to incriminate me as some sort of maniac who spends his time murdering imaginary friends. Which, of course, is what I’m doing. The best example of this was when I started at my job and I let it slip for the first time that I was a writer. I usually stall out this reveal as long as possible, not for the sake of mystery, like I’m an onion that can be peeled at random times and still show new layers, but to delay the disappointment and horror that always follows. In fact the only time I reveal this information about myself seems to be to justify why I’m thirty-one and working at a job which I have no intention of turning into a career. I explain that every job is a temporary job to me, because in the long run I plan to make a living as a writer, at which most people get fairly excited in a bewildered kind of way, and then ask me what I write, is it poetry or essays or movies, somehow they always seem to avoid the right answer. It used to be, when I was younger, that I’d tell people I wrote short stories since it was all I did in those days, and that would seem to awkwardly end the conversation. Now I tell people I write books, novels, and at the outset they seem much more impressed, more interested, more able to keep the conversation going in that next logical step, instead of attempting to ask something like “Oh, short stories?...What are they about?” and I say “Like, all of them?” and they say “I don’t know, I guess so. Are they mysteries?” which makes me laugh to think how accurate that actually is to so many conversations I shared over the years. So now it’s novels and they can simply ask, “Ooh, what’s IT about?” pertaining to whichever came up, likely A Chemical Fire since it’s completed and in print and so on and so on, and I can answer and then we can move on to them talking about how much they love Dan Brown. But the best example of having to simplify and censor that answer, and I can’t remember if I started talking about this or just thought about it but I can’t stop to look back now, was when I was surrounded by my new co-workers (and yes, I did start saying this) and they asked me what my first book was about. And I looked at my bosses, and the other employees, and three of them were mothers and one a very strict Muslim, and I thought about my book about zombies and painkillers and the awful people I’d dreamed up who burned up and put bullets into one and abused the other, and I thought about the questions it would raise, and how it would make me seem like, AT BEST, a weirdo, and at worst a drug-fueled murderer, and I thought about it a second and I replied, “It’s pretty much about the end of the world.” And then I realized that maybe it made me seem like I WANTED that to happen, like I was a pissed-off Travis Bickle type (is that his name? From Taxi Driver?) so then came the fumbling even if I’d tried to avoid it, and I explained that I always enjoyed movies like Children of Men, which was the most respectable piece of art in that genre I could think of, which sort of worked because none of them had seen it, and most of them seemed to buy it and smile and go about their business happy to have something a little different around walking among them. And then I got into a weird conversation with Kulsoom, the Muslim of the group, about how her religion is so much about waiting for the world to end, and how did I envision it happening, and it would be interesting to compare that with how her faith did, and then I realized something interesting which was that in her own way she was far, FAR stranger than I, because she was telling me how she passionately prayed every day for the end of the world, especially for her kids, and it highlighted the truth about how I feel so different from these people, which is that I feel out of place for not being as crazy as them, or not the same type. Every time I start to think my processes are a little out of whack I turn around and see a married mother of four who is convinced of some idea which I literally think is that of a sick person, and I compare it to how I feel, which may be the opposite, and then I objectively weigh them against each other and realize, no, I’m right here, it’s not right to think that way, and so all that time I feel apart from them it’s not that I want to be a part of them, because to do that would be to accept their fucked up way of thinking and being, their isms nd phobias, and so its not that I want to be a part of them but maybe just appear that way, just wear the camoflauge, like small talk, god I wish I could do that mindless small talk thing. Not that I can’t be friendly and have a good conversation, but so many people are capable of that “So how’s things treating you? Good, good. And the kids? My word, he’s getting so big” and I try it on and it always seems to fall off like a pair of overalls ten sizes too big all floppy down to the floor, and the sound it makes when it hits the tile is so fabricated, as if a .wav file with poor compression plays on impact. It just feels wrong and so I get by on smiles at places like work, and it’s shocking how well that works, but I’ll never memorize their names, or rarely, never get into ten minutes of filler, but people like that, without it they think I’m shy, but no, not really, maybe at odds and maybe anxious and maybe quiet when there’s nothing real to say, but not shy. How could I be? They never give you the chance.

-1:07 PM, 35 mins, approx. 1,237 words

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