Tag Archives: Dave Eggers

“Set Me Free, Why Don’t Cha, Babe? Get Outta My Life, Why Don’t Cha, Babe?!”

“First of all:

I am tired.  I am true of heart!

And also:

You are tired.  You are true of heart!” — 

Dave Eggers,  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Sometimes, forgiveness — means being silent.

You are still thinking of that person who has mishandled you, who has mistreated, misunderstood it all — someone who has committed a sad misstep.  But, of course, you think of him!  How could he?!

But time happens.  It keeps on happening.  That just can’t be helped.

And as the time happens, his misstep seems sadder and sadder.  But it’s rarely tragic, really — if you look at it hard enough.  It may be chaotic, self-serving, unfair.  Foolish and hideous.  Confusing.  Unkind.

But in the end, it’s just sadder.  Especially if you commit yourself — to forgiveness.

For a while, his face floats above your head like a helium filled balloon, tied to the shoulder strap of your luggage.  And you lug it around:  Because these — are your “things”, you see.  And you feel like you’ve gotta keep holding onto them.  You’ve gotta keep holding on!  Because what would you be — if it weren’t for your “things”?

So, the balloon keeps following you, floating above — a strangely pretty thing:  The head of a decapitated ghost.  If you look at it closely enough — it’s quite beautiful, actually, in that post-fuck-up sort of a way.  You can still see the beloved’s face.  You remember the cause of your love.  But there is also a tiredness there that can be confused for peace.  And there are consequences that may result in grace, eventually — when the time allows.

You just gotta commit yourself to time.

You just gotta commit yourself — to forgiveness.

But you aren’t ready yet.  Or so you say.  So you keep lugging the luggage around, earning calluses on your shoulders:

“These are my ‘things’, you see!”

“Oh, yes!  How could he?!” others respond.

At first, you are selective with the audience to your story.  Perhaps, you’ll tell it to your shrink, or to your folks.  When you do, there will be grief written on their faces.

Okay, maybe the shrink will remain stoic:  She’s got too many of you’s — and many more are worse off than you.  But your folks:  They might humor you.  They’ll feel badly.  They’ll behold.  They’ll even claim to pray, on your behalf.  (You’re too busy to pray for yourself, with all that condemnation being flaunted at the balloon-face.  But don’t worry:  Your gods will forgive you for forsaking them (and for forsaking your better self), until you’re ready to commit yourself — to forgiveness.)

“How could he?!” your folks will say.

And it’ll feel good, for a while:  all this attention to your story.  To your “things”.  So, you’ll start telling the story to your friends.

They are good people — your friends, aren’t they?  They will leap to conclusions and advice.  They’ll take your side, if their definition of friendship matches yours.  But some will judge.  Others will hold back.  And some will even want to share their story, because to them, that’s how empathy works:  It gives space — to their sadder, sadder stories that aren’t really tragic.  Except, when you (or they) are in the midst of the story, tragedy is a lot more precise.  It matches the weight of the “things”.

You may get annoyed at your friends.  You may disagree.  You may even demand more kindness.  Or more time.

Because time — keeps on happening.  That just can’t be helped.

And you wish, it would move at a slower pace, sometimes.

And, okay, you just may get a little bit more of it, if you keep retelling your story to enough new people.

“How could he?!” they’ll say.

And you’ll get off, for a bit.  (Feel better yet?)

One day, though, you’ll catch yourself in the midst of sadness.  You’ll be showing your “things”, the way you always do, waiting for the “How could he?!” to follow.  Your habitual anticipation of likely reactions will suddenly feel tired.  You — will be tired.

A thought will flash:

“I don’t know if I wanna keep lugging this ‘thing’ around, anymore…”

His face — still floating, hanging above your head like something that used to belong to your favorite ghost — will seem slightly deflated.  Sadder — NOT tragic.

Still, you will keep lugging.  For a bit more, you will.  You still need more time.

You’ve started this thing, and the ripple waves of gossip and misinterpreted empathies will keep coming in, for a bit longer.  But they won’t bring you any more catharsis.  And as you keep retelling the story (which will now sound a lot more fragmented), you’ll notice your people lingering:

“Isn’t it time yet?” they’ll ask you with the corners of their saddened eyes.

They are tired.  You — are tired.

So, you’ll feel stagnant; stuck with that silly, slowly deflating balloon shadowing you and your “things”:  RIDICULOUS.

And time — will keep on happening.  That just can’t be helped.

And the relief will linger on the other side.

But then, again:  What would you be — if it weren’t for your “things”?

Whether because you’re finally tired of retelling your story or because every one of your people has heard it — you stop.  You stop retelling, and you stop asking for more time.

You let go.

You unleash the face of your favorite ghost:  You let go.

YOU LET GO.

And you get a hold — of silence.

“While You’re Gettin’ Your Cry On — I’m Gettin’ My Fly On.”

A cup of brutal coffee and a bath with a wrinkled Bukowski.  Who said that mornings had to be unkind?

These days of waking in a vacuum of unpredictability — they make me think of all the big dogs that have come and gone, and suffered for centuries before me.  Like my own fellow comrades — the big-dogs-in-the-making — they had to have wondered, at times, about where the next meal would come from, or the next rent.

They would hang, like poignant ghosts, at their regular spots, hoping the bartender would eventually remember their faces to comp a drink or two, just when they would be about do a touchdown with the rock bottom.  (Those moments — are the best, in life:  Three minutes before a suicidal thought or the a late afternoon phone call giving you a break.)  And the bartender would nod, quickly, familiarly:

“This one’s on the house…”  

(Actually, I’ll never comprehend the hopefulness of that post-midnight line; for I prefer to not suffer from other self-afflictions besides that hideous empathy of mine.  That’s a handful already.  Don’t hand me any more.)

Only at friends’ barbecues — or at other people’s office parties at Christmas — the big-dogs-in-the-making could get plastered enough on free liquor, to not mind their misery in sobriety.  But elsewhere, at all other times, they could never afford enough drinks to get them there.  So, they would loom on their scuffed-up bar stools, waiting for the bartender’s charity:  The wrathful face of Hemingway and the disappointed one of S. Thompson.

Or perhaps, if their beat-up faces were lucky enough to have appeared in black-and-white print a couple of times by then (they were the big-dogs-in-the-making!):  Perhaps, a random nerdy fan would come out of the woodwork — or from behind a ping ball machine — and start lapping up their faces with his star-fucking gazes; then offer to pick-up their tabs with a handful of sweaty cash.  The female groupies would be less useful at the bar, but better equipped to restore their ego elsewhere — anywhere! — like the backseat of their boyfriends’ trucks, or the nook by the graffitied pay phone, near the john.

Somehow, the big-dogs-in-the-making would gain enough swagger to bed a woman:  because there was always some wide-eyed girl or sinister-eyed widow in the mood for the struggling artist type.  But then, someone’s heart would get attached, then broken; and the big-dogs-in-the-making would scurry back to their crammed in joints, with other struggling types crashing on their couches or sleeping in their bathtubs; and they would write for long enough to finish a pack of cigarettes.  Or to run out of their typewriter ribbon.  Or to forget about a drawer full of rejection letters from agents and publishers:

“At this time, we must regretfully inform you…”

And what did they do, with all those regretful notes, by the way:  so insincere, yet always signed “sincerely”?  Did they glue them with gum, onto a white wall painted by someone with zero of imagination, during a sleepless night of annoying heat and warm beer, in a vacuum of unpredictability?  Or did they tear them up, like I do, just in half — never wasting too much energy on anger, for fearing the flip side of it — then burry the pieces under an aged coffee filter from the morning before?  And just how long would they sit in silence until trying their hand at yet another letter, yet another submission — another hand at that cunty luck:  Would it take them a month?  a year?  a trip to Brazil?  another broken heart of another wide-eyed girl?

And then, there were always those with annoyingly stubborn writing discipline:  The respected academic of Nabokov and the celebrity hermit of Roth.  Every year, their friends would catch them at yet another book deal, another fellowship, another grant.  And surely, the big-dogs-in-the-making would feel the envy on the other end of the phone, as thick as aged honey; and just as grainy:

“Oh really?…  Congratulations…  We should celebrate…”

They had to have hated those ellipses loaded with a strained goodwill of their “friends”.  So many!  So many had to get lost during this game of chasing the impossible, often self-destructive but hopefully somewhat self-redemptive career.  Several had to be dismissed face to face, in a drunken fight when these “friends” dropped their pretenses.  Others — would flake off on their own, with enough time and enough demands from their bratty marriages and whiny children.  But the most relentless, the slowest of losses were those acquaintances sticking around for years, only calling after picking-up a few crumbs of new gossip:

“Saw you in The Paris Review…  Congratulations…  We should celebrate…” 

And the big dogs would lie:  Yeah, we should.  But they never would.

No, they’d rather save up their new money for a better hermitage on the coast of New York.  Or maybe even of Connecticut, if they got fed up with all that grime and despair — with that cunty luck — and if they could finally part with their superstition that well-fed artists lost their edge.

I also think of the new big dogs — the ones that are living and publishing now.  They are all quite belligerent — Eggers and Sapphire — shooting out their words with such discipline and urge, that even the confused and the lazy can’t dismiss their names.  The ethnically ambiguous have come through in this century:  The hilarious Diaz.  The empathetic Smith.  The diplomatically graceful Lahiri.  They are all still quite young — and quite beautiful, physically — surfing through their academic careers to earn the respect of the white critics; but then always bringing it back to the streets, back to where they’ve learned to how suffer and how to make use of it; to the rest of the ethnically ambiguous and ethically confused:  To the rest of us.

And somehow, I allow myself the vague hope that maybe, in this century, it needn’t be so painful, it needn’t be so hard to get to one’s often self-destructive but hopefully somewhat self-redemptive career.

Because who said that the mere human suffering — wouldn’t be enough?

And with an empty cup stained by coffee and a cold bath with a soaked Bukowski, who said that mornings — had to be unkind?

“Don’t Need No Hateration, Holleration: Holla, Holla, Holla!”

How about:  I start with gratitude?

There are days when the ego wakes up early on me, and like a petulant child nagging his mother for junk food in line at a supermarket, it gets going before I decide to open my eyes and admit to the start of a new day:

“But, but, but…” it whines, throws fits and manipulates itself into more convenient emotions — the junk food for the human spirit:

–  Contempt:  That one always promises to be easier; but so obvious its wastefulness, I haven’t tried my hand at it — EVER!

–  Anger:  A real dilettante, claiming its expertise when leading to solutions; but then, it always runs out of air on me, long before the finish line.  Oh, but it has tempted me enough times to have learned my lesson, by now; so, I don’t follow its lead.

–  Expectation of justice:  I might as well resign to never allow another human to affect me, because such an expectation — is a moot point, fo’ sure; and it certainly cannot be an objective in any of my actions.

–  Self-pity:  I’m altogether allergic to that sucker, so I haven’t seen its face around here, for ages.  Same goes for jealousy:  In my universe, it’s a leper I prefer to keep at ten-foot distance.

But take this morning:  I woke up tired.

“First of all:  I am tired.  I am true of heart!

And also:  You are tired.  You’re true of heart!” *

So, that must be a starting point, for most of us.  A common ground, eh? Perhaps, that is why many prefer to be in love; for in those glorious beginnings of an affair, it gives you reasons to get up.  Exhaustion does not seem to matter.

(The work?  The work surely comes later.  The ghosts come out to play:

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”

The patterns play hide-and-go-seek for a while; but when the lovers lose their libido at trying to impress each other, the hidden qualities crawl out:

“You’re it!”

So, in comes the work.)

But take this morning:  I woke up tired — and not in love, with another.  For a while, I tossed my exhausted limbs in bed and dismissed the temptations of the ego to start weaving its through-line for this new day.  I checked the phone:  No visible commitments.  Where to start, I thought.

How about:  I start with gratitude?  

So, I got up, mostly out of habit, got the coffee going.  The first obvious choice of action — was to clear the space.  I’m in control of it, this year — my space; but even that takes some discipline.  Because I no longer can blame any outer — or inner — clutter on my bunkmate.  My space equals my freedom equals my problem.  My responsibility.

“It’s a question of discipline.  When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.” **

And so, I did that, mostly out of habit, but secretly letting the faces of my beloveds slip into my memory.  Perhaps, they were in the things that I shifted around my space.  These things either tended to originate from all my loves or to lead me back to them, in unpredictable ways:

There was that one, on the furthest coast, who mattered the most — she was heard from, yesternight:  She always justified my love.  My brothers, scattered all over the continent because they are that much restless of a kind — they all came forth throughout the last few days.  The lovelies in this city, where, for whatever reason, it’s much easier to get distracted:  They too made their adoration for me audible.

And then, there was a boy:  A boy from last night, who with his youth and beauty, insisted that even though I was tired — I was true of heart:

“I thought you were really cool,” he said, sitting underneath a yellow light on the floor of his hallway.  “But I didn’t know you’d be so different.”

(He would later make me laugh, make me lighter; tease me, teach me; make me sit still — underneath the yellow light, on the floor of his hallway — while respecting my tiredness.  He was not a love.  Not yet.  But oh, so lovely he was, in this city where, for whatever reason, it’s so much easier to get distracted.  Perhaps, it was the late hour of the night…  (Or was it the early hour of the morning?  I never know the difference.)  Perhaps it was the late hour of the night, but the mutual ghosts did not come to play:

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man…”

But I was already too tired and true of heart — too wise, beyond my years — to not notice the patterns peeking out their turned-up noses from underneath the door of his apartment.)

But take this morning:  I woke up tired, not in love with another, but slowly, seemingly in love — with so many.  I continued to shift things around, organizing the space, getting ready to do my daily work.  Slowly, the sleepiness evaporated.  The exhaustion — suddenly didn’t matter.

I was loved, I thought, or at least adored — by many.  And they were all so magnificent:  These hearts, equally tired and true, searching for something just a little better than survival.  And whenever they chose to remember me, they gave me reasons to get up.  My tribe.  My comrades.  My witnesses.  My better selves.  They made me matter, rebuilding me every single time I was too tired to start a new day:

“You are fabulous creatures, each and every one.

And I bless you:  More Life.

The Great Work Begins.” ***

With the space cleared, it was time — to do the daily work.

“But where do I start?” I thought.

How about:  I start with gratitude?

 

*  Dave Eggers, A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius.

**  Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

***  Tony Kusher, Angels in America.  Part Two:  Perestroika.

From the Taint of Mother Literature

Those who know me—and now, those who read me—will testify that meekness is just ain’t my style.  Oh sure, I can be gentle and kind as a friend.  As a lover, having cradled many men’s heads on my bosom and their secrets in my heart, I tend to be more maternal in the bedroom.  But my years of quietly struggling as a closeted, unpublished writer who blushes when accepting praise and negotiates her pay only at the end of a conversation—after fulfilling the service with flying colors—have magically come to a closure last year.  Hundreds of odd jobs, millions of unpublished words and dozens of shared writing spaces later, this year I’ve launched an endeavor that, besides granting me a daily artistic orgasm, in the words of my current lover, “has added inches to my dick.” 

Speaking of a writer’s dick, recently devouring the February issue of Esquire (aka:  my Bible), I’ve discovered an editorial on the topic of our contemporary writers’ temperament.  Using James Frey, who not too long ago was brought down by the Mighty Oprah for committing plagiarism, as its archetype of a flawed, fallen—and recently resurrected—writer, the article refuses to tear this, may I say, “colleague” of mine to pieces.  To the contrary, it advertises the more unorthodox methods of this writer’s art and publishing technique as ballsy.  Because you see, my comrades, according to the critic, we have entered an age of “literary in-betweenness” in which everyone and their friggin’ mother wants to be a writer and has access to self-publishing via the non-discriminating WWW-dot.  You don’t have to live in my city—just any city—to know that every Starbucks is held hostage by such wannabes who glare from their tables at the common folk ordering their lattes a little too loudly for their taste.  So:  the competition is fierce!  Add to that the opportunistic celebrities cashing-in on their fleeting fame by publishing and promoting their poorly written memoirs—and the young, aspiring writer is fucked.       

So, what does James Frey have on all of us in this age of “literary in-betweenness”—which I prefer to tag as Mother Literature’s Taint?  Well, comrades, I tell you:  It isn’t primarily talent!  What it takes to be a paid artist these days is a non-apologetic self-promotion, Kanye-Fuckin’-West-style.  (See the same critic’s bit on that loud mouth (and my occasional archangel):  http://www.esquire.com/features/thousand-words-on-culture/kanye-west-twitter-1210).  Sure, Kanye tends to push the envelope a bit too far, Tweeting from his decked-out bathroom or stealing a moment of fame from some wide-eyed mediocre singer.  But how else to get our attention in these days of information overdose?  When it comes to the chosen art of my own—and Mr. Frey’s—the situation gets even trickier.  I mean:  Who the fuck is still reading literature these days?  Even the ever-so-humble Dave Eggers had to venture out into screenwriting to earn himself more serious cash. 

So, instead of head diving into my self-denial about being deserving or catering to my endless bullshit to be magically discovered one day, I prefer to follow the footsteps of the loudmouths and embrace the available means of distribution and self-promotion.  Because the reality is:  When this evening, like other actors and artists in town, I clock-in for my 7-hour shift of catering to drunks at my night gig, I’ve already done my art for the day.  I’ve already fucking published!  And considering I am never meek in my words, I would’ve already experienced my artistic catharsis; so when asked what I wanna be when I grow up, I can answer with esteem and calmness that comes from doing—not dreaming. 

Of course, when I return home, I’ll have to collect the consequences of my art via the hateful commentary on my obnoxiousness and misinterpretations of my intensions by well-wishers.  Just last night, for instance, a male reader threatened to scream at my face—then asked me out on a date.  (Try and guess where I told him to go!)  And you know what, my comrades?  Mazel tov!  As Mr. Frey’s career proves once again, there is no bad publicity.  So, V is not here to be liked:  I’m here to speak up—and be paid for it! 

Finally, I must chime-in here as a woman writer—because I can.  Or actually, because I must!  Because this is my bloody blog—and because the above mentioned Esquire piece included ZERO writers of my gender, while complaining about the sexless literature of today.  Newsflash, ladies:  As an artist, you are not gonna be seeing any greens if you get yourself locked-up, like Charlotte Bronte, and then shrug off all inquiries about your writing by saying, “Oh, I’m just writing a diary.”  Or thank-you cards.  Or whatever the fuck.  Speak up!  Sarah Silverman or Zadie Smith style!  Sing like Jhumpa Lahiri or holler like Rinku Sen (http://feministing.com/).  Do your quirky thing like my girl Molly McAleer (http://molls.tumblr.com/) or grow up to be the sarcastic, poignant, brilliant cunt Manohla Dargis.  But speak, for Mary’s sake!  That way, perhaps, while we live through this era of Mother Literature’s Taint, the Esquire critics won’t have to point out the sexlessness of this era’s collective writing.  Be obnoxious, like the shady Mr. Frey and the douchy Kanye, and:       

“Never apologize, never give up, and be entrepreneurial.”

P.S.:  For the piece that started all this go to:  http://www.esquire.com/features/thousand-words-on-culture/james-frey-full-fathom-five-0211.  And pah-lease, go buy yourself a book!