Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Literary Equivalent of an Uber Driver

Perhaps your thoughts about actors today come from trying to get an unruly chapter in your work in progress to mind.  Perhaps it was because of a discussion with a friend who has sometimes acted but is now more of a dramaturge and writer.  

Another perhaps came during a phone conversation with a friend who lives in Hollywood and who claims her apartment building has a heavy population of actors.  These potentials remind you of the sentiment voiced by the friend from Hollywood in so many words, "Actors are well beyond normal."

In a recent conversation with your literary agent, who at one time ran the editorial department of a publisher in New York and another in Boston, you paid close attention to the sentiment that beginning writers are only starting on the learning curve of craziness.  You recall your father, who was not a writer, asking you at one point in your early twenties if you were crazy enough to be a writer.  O tempore, o mores.  (Not to be confused with O tempura, O morays.)

At the time of being asked, you were convinced you were crazy enough.  In retrospect you see you were not so much crazy as naive and/or rebellious.  Those are in fact wonderful qualities for a writer to have at any stage, thus this revelation of you being at the rat tail of the learning curve.  You had a long way to go to get to the point at which you now reside.  You are willing to face the fact that you are not crazy enough to be of any account, which leaves you hovering near being no account.

Since you've hung out with a number of musicians, you have some ability to recognize craziness in that demographic, one slight example being a local musician who for the longest time showed up at informal jam sessions with a didgeridoo, a true enough instrument, requiring physical and musical acumen, but nevertheless one not readily associated with improv groups in this part of the world.

You've had enough association with fine artists to have recognized a quirk when you saw it, including a woman who had several sketchbooks devoted to her studies of insects.  This of itself is not a quirkiness, but, you argue, wishing to add at least one insect to any oil or watercolor before she could consider it complete does qualify.  There was a trompe l'oeilist you met briefly who assured you he concealed a dead mouse in each of his trompes l'oeille.  He showed you one.

You at one time knew a house painter who may have been pulling your leg when he spoke of regarding each of his works as though it were a Navajo rug, which meant that it had to have some imperfection built into it because a Navajo rug is a copy of a sand painting, which must be perfect, and must be destroyed after being drawn.This house painter was nowhere near being a Native American, thus the rug construct qualifies as a creditable quirk.  If, that is, he were not pulling your leg.

Taking a leg pull seriously forms an important part of this essay. You're only aware of the times you suspected or caught on.  Beyond your skepticism is a naivete as thick as the marine layer in residence off the Central Coast during June and July, meaning you've no way of knowing when you believed something to be true that was or is not.

However grand the temptation to include copyeditors in your list, because they do have some remarkable traits, these are not official quirks, only extremes of tidiness,  The facts speak to you, penetrating the bubble of your own quirkiness.  These individuals all have an ability you strive for and are willing to spend hours in daily practice attempting to achieve.  

The ability is the ability to transport the reader/viewer away from the present moment and position, into another time frame and location.  You may call the locale Los Angeles or Santa Barbara or Cincinnati, but it is not that place, only a simulacrum you have created as a part of a leg pull in which things actual and suggested happen in this faux locale but did not happen in the real one, except that the leg pull might have happened among real persons, who are crazy in their own way for living in such places as Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, or Cincinnati, but not crazy enough to be characters in stories.

You are the literary equivalent of an Uber driver, picking up and delivering total strangers to destinations, with money exchanging hands through electronic media that, a few years back, would have been considered a leg pull.  In the sense that a reader wants to go to a puzzle or romance or history, you deliver the passenger to the destination, but the route you've chosen is pure invention and exaggeration.  

At one point when you worked for a massmarket publisher, you had statistics for a certain title you wished to contract that argued for a sale in the hundreds of thousands.  You were promptly reminded, "You are in massmarket now, Lowenkopf.  You were brought here because you had books that sold millions. Hundreds of thousands is not massmarket."

Well, it certainly is, but you still smart at the recollection.  Massmarket has come to mean ordinary to you.  You are not massmarket.  You are nuts.  You are a writer nuts and crazy.  You do not appeal to massmarket.  In some ways, you can still hear Jake asking if you are crazy enough.

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