28 May 2006

My Sole Literary Ambition

Let's make some noise! Avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen
(pictured here, preparing to kill everyone) gets paid to
make music out of train wrecks and ostrich farts. Why can't I make a
living with my obsession?


Got your message. Heard you were going to be out until Monday. What do you have to do that's so all-fired important that it's going to keep you away from the telephone for that long? Are you camping out for tickets to an Imax film about the history of the slide rule? Or is the Nevada Whores Orphan's Symphony mounting a retrospective of the works of Karlheinz Stockhausen? Whatever it is, I hope it brings you joy, and that you return to the telephone with your voice intact. I know how you like to shout yourself hoarse at Stockhausen concerts.

Which brings me to my next point which is things that bring me joy. Correction: "the" thing that brings me joy. It's just that yesterday while I was revising my profile to say "My sole literary ambition is to write these letters to my brother Greg", I realized that my sole literary ambition is to write these letters to my brother Greg. So it's the joy of self-actualization, one that you are keenly aware of being a musician and all. It seems that those who are aware of exactly what their self-actualizing gig is - the one thing that they do with their own hands that gives their life purpose, meaning and direction - are understandably the ones who feel the constant frustration of not being able to do just that one thing all the time.

Some folks might say that's just the way life is, that you don't just get to entertain your obsessions, artistic, scientific or otherwise. I say that's a load of hooey - you don't get to entertain your obsessions if you can't make money doing it. But this is America, dammit! There's a way to make money doing just about anything!

So what predicated my assertion of letter-writing as my sole literary ambition was a recent compliment I received from one of my co-workers. Patrick Kevin, a marketing - wizard? junkie? stylist? seargent? - anyway, he came into my office, apropos of nothing, and asked me in (what I took to be) abejct flabbergastration, "What are you doing here?!" At first I thought he was implying that I blew off a deadline by sitting on my hands or playing Frogger or something.

Clarification and amelioration: I do, at times, sit on my hands and/or play Frogger. I do not, however, blow deadlines. Why? Not because I have a good work ethic. Because I'm as neurotic as a hamster on meth, and believe that I'll be stricken with boils if I'm dilatory. This digression has been brought to you by GlaxoSmithKline, makers of both Dexedrine and Paxil.

So I says to him I says, "uhhhhhwwWWwhhhhuhhhh?" And he surprises me by telling me that he's been reading my blog and why am I not making big cash dollars writing screenplays or something instead of writing junk - excuse me, opt-in email when all the writing he sees out in the world can't touch mine with a three-meter pole and so on. I know that Patrick knows his way around good writing from our conversations. And I could see he was really serious about what he was saying by the way he was stirring the air in my office with his right arm and then his left, as though he were making peanut brittle and trying to make good and goddamn sure it didn't scorch before it reached the hard-ball stage. (That's a little confectionary insider joke.)

I have to tell you honestly, it was the best compliment I've received on my writing since PEN/Faulkner and National Book Award Winner T. Coraghessan Boyle called me "a fine and pithy writer who won't miss any more classes." (Emphasis: his.)

So anyway, yeah, that about made me stammer and blush. But it also made me think about why I'm not making big cash dollars writing screenplays. Then I remembered how I've already written six or so screenplays, ranging in quality from "sucky" to "unbelievably sucky" to "unforgivable", and that I really didn't like the whole film culture (oxymoron?) or writing screenplays. It also occurred to me that I might write a novel or something, but coming home mentally knackered after a hard day at the email factory left me precious little motivation to even press the start button on the TiVo, let alone coordinate the mammoth task of creating an ampersand by way of pressing the shift key.

Then I realized that the one thing that taps into a boundless well of desire to write is the simple thought of writing to you. There's nothing I'd rather do than gab to my brother Greg on paper every gol-durn day. Honestly, I can only - and do often - converse unceasingly with you on subjects as diverse as game theory, The Funkadelics, my cat's ass (aka The Brownstar), and the hubristic hegemony of the right wing. Watch, I'll prove it. I can say, "Fast and bulbous, The Mascara Snake!" And you'll automatically say, "Also a tin teardrop!" And I bet you even said it before you read that sentence. Why? Because you get it, and by extension, you get me. And there's nothing more affirming and comforting in this often confounding and heartbreaking life than being understood.
It's the one time you're sure that you're alive.

Thanks for being my brother, and thanks for giving me a reason to write.

And if you enjoyed this, please send $75,000 and full medical coverage to my home address.



T K Wilson said...

So what have you got to say that somebody else is willing to pay to hear(prefferrably a large number of other people)? Obviously you've got the wherewithal.

Figure that out and you've got it dicked.

Thaddeus Gunn said...

I appreciate the idea, however I don't think we share the same colloquial definition of "dicked".

Hunter Bang said...

Here's what I gathered ... "I'm thaddeus, I rule. Other people think I rule. Ussually rulers make all the money. Why don't I make all the money? I love my brother."

Is this appropriately nutshelled or am I missing something? You know me, I need the grist to get the gist.

Thaddeus Gunn said...

Here, I'll go real slow for you, Mister Bang: I have no real literary talent other than to write shitmail and this blog. Can't cook. Can't clean. Fair to middlin' in bed. So if either of those two things goes away, I'm scrod. Shitmail pays me. The blog does not. If it were the other way around, the world would be a perfect place. I would still be a hack, albeit a happy one. Is such simple joy too much to ask of this life, Mister Bang? I'd rather do a good job well with poor talent than do a bad job poorly with great talent. And yes, I love my brother. Questions?