Friday, November 9, 2012

The Writer as the Drunk in the Parking Lot


 Life is the only game in town.  You are aware of such potentials for mischief as the house odds, controlled payouts, and the heavy potential for the tables to be rigged.

From your younger years spent working at a traveling carnival, you learned to look for the G, or gimmick, aware that there always was one, whether you could see it or not.  The game is constructed around the inevitability of a G, buried somewhere within the rules of the particular game or within the markers in the game.

You’re further aware that this knowledge gives you a cynical edge, in which you have tendencies to look first at persons, places, and things with the speculative eye of impending disappointment.  But as though that were not enough incentive to send you striding away from the game, you step up to the table from time to time, thinking to factor in the degree to which the G tilts the game to favor the house.

You and many others you have watched play at this only game in town according to our own perception of the rules and our system for not being brought to grief by the G.  You and many others continue to play at the game; rather than stand down to the helpless resignation of believing the system cannot be fought.

At various times in your life, you thought you had an equivalent of a bible, something to give you solace in the face of your recognition of the mountainous odds stacked against you and the equally mountainous ones favoring the house.  You variously carried about with you such secular bibles as the poetical works of John Keats, a book from your late teens you have not reread for some time and are fearful of doing so now, The Journal of Albion Moonlight, by the Avant guard novelist and poet, Kenneth Patchen, a book apparently carried about by millions like you, The Catcher in the Rye, and in more recent years a book-as-secular-bible you put much more faith in because it so well bears rereading, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller.

You do not believe these secular bibles have the same effect as a crucifix or a clove of garlic when held before you to fend off the advances of a vampire.  Rather, like the “ap” on your iPhone, these secular bibles produce a powerful beam of light, which help you see your way in the darkness.  Thus you have some help in the existential dark, the equivalent of the drunk in the parking lot, looking for his lost keys near the light poles rather than where he believes the keys were in fact dropped.

You and many others of whom you are aware, mindful the system cannot be beaten for long, look for some loophole by which to work capitalist magic, for you believe Marx was right about such matters as the creation and meaning of money, the value of work performed, and among other things, the attempts of the house or those in control to minimize the value you put on the work you do.

For a number of reasons, which transcend house rules, story has conventions and loopholes.  Along with sister and brother writers, you look for and exploit loopholes in dramatic conventions, willing—perfectly willing—to exchange certain Marxist financial gains for greater Marxist values related to the knowledge that you have discovered beyond a loophole, rather an explanation of the behavior of the species that directs the beam of light to a place in the parking lot where you might have dropped the keys.

Although you have not been drunk for years of recent memory, you have not forgotten the times you were, or the feelings accompanying the state.  You have been drunk in a number of landscapes beyond mere parking lots.  You have dropped more than your keys.  Sometimes you’ve dropped your dignity, your sense of reason, your sense of patience with the house rules, seeking in those moments of drunkenness to distance yourself from your cynical awareness of the G in the game.

Because you have not been drunk for a time does not insure your sobriety or your refuge in story.

The game, after all, is rigged.  You are doing your best to write your way out, against the odds.


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