August 17th, 2005


just possibly

Another good day yesterday. I did 652 words on the prologue for The Merewife. Normally, I'd not consider 652 words a good day, but when it's me trying to write in the exact same voice I was writing in twelve years ago, and when I actually manage to do that, 652 words is perfectly frelling fine. It's quite a strange endeavor, though. When I stopped working on the piece in '93, I left off halfway through a sentence, ending with the word susurrus and creating for myself a sort of literary Mary Celeste. For twelve years, susurrus sat there, unconnected to anything, not really waiting because I never really intended to come back to the story. Just sitting there. Drifting, derelict, incomplete. And then yesterday I finally finished the sentence. The act left me with an odd feeling, one I'm not sure that I can describe more precisely. Anyway, aside from the writing, I managed to read "A Literary Copernicus," Fritz Leiber's essay on Lovecraft, at the instruction of oneirophrenia. Yesterday was also one of my rare telephone days. I talked with Ted Naifeh about a number of things, including Dragon*Con and his girlfriend Kelly's birthday and the illustrations he's doing for the Dancy Flammarion collection, Alabaster. Then I talked with Harlan, and he said, in response to some writerly complaint of mine, some comment on recent difficulties, "Just remember. The trick is not to become a writer. Becoming a writer is easy. The trick is to stay a writer." And then I seemed to play phone and e-mail tag with Neil all day and night long.

Last night, late, we read all the way through The Merewife again, just to be sure it was working. Back in '93, I was writing the piece almost exclusively to Bjork's first solo CD, and that was one of the tricks I used yesterday, to tease my brain back into that long-neglected story-space — I listened to the album, remembering that summer, everything I could recall about that summer, when I still lived in the little apartment on 16th Avenue South in Birmingham. Music has always worked wonders for me as a sort of associational mnemonic tool. Everything that I write sounds like something, because I always write to music. So, strong bonds form between a story and an album, a song and a chapter. In this instance, it allowed me to work backwards and find the feel of the piece again. We also watched O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and I fell asleep to The Two Towers about 2 a.m., right about the time Merry and Pippin were escaping from the Uruk into Fangorn Forest.

I'd intended to write something more this morning about the whole "self-indulgence" thing, particularly relating to the issue of accessibility and difficult texts, but now I feel like I'd only be squandering energy that's best reserved for writing the part of the story that has to be written today. Perhaps I'll get back to it tomorrow, as there are still a few thoughts on the matter (and related matters) that I'd like to get out. In the meanwhile, I direct you to some very astute comments by Hal Duncan (thanks, Gwenda), who writes:

The real problem is that such shorthand usage is indistinguishable from the sort of commonplace philistine critique of "show-offery" applied to anything which dares to be difficult, to risk incomprehension and resentment on the part of the reader for the sake of ambition. The critic may well be right. The book may be deeply flawed, it's aesthetic balance way off, because the writer's just plain failed to pull off what they were trying to do. But the word "self-indulgent" doesn't communicate that any more than calling the writer a poncy git does. And as an accusation of a lack of self-awareness on the author's part, of selfishness and unfounded pride even, it's about as personal as that sort of name-calling.

I disagree with him on a number of points, but nothing so profound that it prevents me from appreciating this as one of the most articulate and useful entries I've read regarding the Grand Esteemed Recent Controversy.
  • Current Music
    Pink Floyd, "Take It Back"

Addendum: Butts Redux

docbrite has been spillin' da beans about our misbegotten youth and the "butt game." But she didn't say anything about the Beavis and Butthead remote control thingy that I got somewhere (and I believe I still have). You'd press a button and some annoying sound fx or idiotic bit of dialog from the show would play. Loudly. When we went to Ireland together in '96, I took it along, and we kept pressing buttons during the flight — "This sucks! Change it!" or Butthead laughing or "I am Cornholio!" or, my favourite, the sound of breaking glass. These days, having a thing like that on an airplane would probably end with permanent incarceration at Guantanamo Bay or Area 51 or something. Also, her post reminded me of the 2002 World Horror Con in Chicago. tjcrowley and I were sharing a room, and one night, after I'd won two IHGs and he'd thrown a big, drunken shindig, we'd gone to bed, the lights were off, and one or the other of us began replacing words in the title of Lovecraft stories with "poo." You know, "The Poo of Cthulhu," "The Shadow Over Poosmouth," "The Colour Out of Poo," "The Haunter of the Poo," etc. and etc., ad nauseum. I think we giggled until one or the other of us almost puked. So, don't ever say I haven't been honest about my propensity to act like a total dumbass. Because I have.

Hey, Poppy. "It's still there."

Anyway, here's a cool new Cambrian thingy (I'm thinking it might be a primitive chordate, like Pikaia from the Burgess Shale). Several people have sent me the link, and I thought I should share.

Last night, we took an extra long walk, and the bats were out again. One snatched a cicada from the air, and the most hideous cacaphony ensued — the muffled scream of a cicada as the bat flittered about overhead, the insect's cries slowly growing fainter and fainter like the engines of a dying jet fighter.
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