Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Summer Life

 A large (and naive) part of your early game plan was to make your living from the writing you did (as opposed to your current state where a pleasant income stream is based on writing produced by other writers, or yet another stream involving individuals who wish to learn how to have what they write become publishable).  Fearful of your egregious lack of command of the craft known as plotting, you imagined you could find your way to some measure of a comfort zone with short stories, vignettes, reviews, and essays.  To an extent, this scenario bore you along in a kind of anxiety-ridden comfort, by which you meant that your trips through the aisles of Hughes Market on north Highland Avenue in Hollywood were fraught with the implication of how far a crock pot full of chili would go as opposed to the potentials from some ham hocks, green peas, and carrots in the same crock pot.  The big existential issue to be encountered had to do with whether you could maintain the discipline not to splurge should simultaneous payments for two or three shorter pieces arrive at the same time.  Such events did, from time to time, occasion ventures into caviar, splendid reds from the Martin Ray vineyards, and oh, his lovely, handcrafted champagne.

Seeing a number of your friends move over toward the paperback original novel, with generous advances and agreeable royalty percentages, turned you into a midnight study fanatic, where you deconstructed, outlined, and otherwise got a handhold if not the actual hang on plotting to the point where you set off, only slightly fictionalizing the events you experienced one summer while working the carnival season, when a certain young lady named Honey, worked at the booth next to you, saw no future in the carnival life nor the restrictions of being a member of a large Gypsy family.  "You've got to get me out of this,"  she told you one steamy evening during the Labor Day Weekend at the enormous State Fair in Sacramento.  "I have no real skills outside the carnival and cooking and my body."  She edged closer to you as she said this, the effect causing you to envision a life of carnival during the summer, writing, her cooking, and her body during winters.  "I see you in the motel with that red typewriter of yours,"  she said.  "You have something to go to when this is done.  You've got to get me out of this."  Then she touched you in a way that made you forget about writing and cooking.  There was enough edge in her desperation to provide you with a tad over fifty thousand words, which that rascally agent, Donald MacCampbell, turned into ready cash.

Your next long-form venture involved your acquaintance with Bimbo, the Snake-girl, who, your absolute disliking for any of that form of reptile to the contrary notwithstanding, saw you as a kindred spirit, the absolute proof of which, she argued, was manifest in a secret she made you promise to uphold.  You have long believed that persons with secrets long to tell them to writers, their agendas multifarious and inclusive of the hope their secret will be betrayed in print.  Remember, you were still relatively naive, in spite of your red Olivetti portable typewriter and The Viking Portable Conrad.  You imagined Bimbo's secret had to do with an incredible flexibility of her hips.  Had you been less naive, you'd have seen that as an asset rather than a secret.  Bimbo's secret, revealed to you in the hot tub of a motel in Bakersfield, was a sorority pin.  Bimbo swore she was a member of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, and you wanted to believe her.  The novel you drafted had a Bimbo surrogate securing the sorority pin from a jilted suitor, wanting an illusion of a university education and sorority affiliation to stand in stark irony against her carnival life.  You called the work A Summer Life, which MacCampbell hated because it was not enough about sex and too much about status.  "I am not,"  he told you, "called King of the paperbacks for nothing."

You have nothing against sex although you have come to regard it in written form much the way you regard whales in Moby-Dick.  A little goes a long way.  Evoke, as Flaubert did in Bovary.

It could be an amusement to dig through your papers and/or memory for traces of A Summer Life, resurrecting it now.  At the time, you listened to MacCampbell which led you through a set of Viconian Circles James Joyce might have enjoyed had he lived to see it:  After a year of magical winking, or perhaps even magical wanking on the page, you moved on into the accident that brought you to the other side of the desk, the publishing/editorial side, where among other things, you were acquisitions editor for a brisk little seller called Don't Step on It--It Might Be a Writer.  The author?  Why, of course:  Donald MacCampbell.