Ask me a questionPost a question to the QnA section by using the form below.
Q and A
Your "captcha" ate my question. I guess "captcha" is the part where you have to type in letters that look like they're from a funhouse mirror. I guess those letters must be having a great time at the carnival. I wonder if they also eat cotton candy and go on the spinny rides and then have cotton-candy-colored barf.
So here are my questions: First, do you have "Top 5" lists of your favorite movies, novels, and music albums? Maybe for all time or even just for the last few years? Do you have "guilty pleasure" versions and if so, what makes you feel guilty? What is the guiltiest you have ever felt for liking a book or movie or record? If you feel guilty for some pleasures, do you ever feel proud of others? How come there are "guilty pleasure" movies and stuff, but not "proud endurance tests"? Like, "That crime drama was so hard to get through but now I feel absolved of sin!" Anyway, more questions:
Do you feel that a writer has to have a lot of unusual experiences in order to be a worthy writer? Could a person just sit in his room reading newspapers, magazines and books and end up just as good a writer as somebody who traveled the world six times over while working some intense job that involved riding dolphins and performing magic tricks for the children of potential terrorists, or something? What about you Stacey, do you have a bunch of experiences that make you a good writer? Do you ever go out and do stuff with the idea that it will make you better at writing? Does that ever get in the way of enjoying doing things, or does it make you more observant? Do you think there are any books that will be written today that will deserve to be classics in the future? Or that aren't classics now but ought to be read by everybody in high school? Okay so that is my question. That is my one and only question.
Juan! So inquisitive! I'm going to start with the guilty pleasures thing.
Pleasures: I don't have a list of the best books, movies, and albums, not even a mental one--I'm not like that. Instead I have obsessions, usually with things I love but sometimes with things that are flawed in a way that's interesting or maddening to me. A sampling of the obsessions of the last several years would include Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés (which I recently got to see in Philadelphia, to my joy); Just Kids by Patti Smith (very good and fucked up in intriguing ways), Bob Dylan's version of "Froggie Went A Courtin,'" Roberto Bolaño, the movie The Shining, Updike, the Ramones (they all died!). I tend not to feel too guilty about liking things, though occasionally I feel ashamed. I'm ashamed to have liked Two Weeks with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. I'm a little ashamed of liking the novel One Day by David Nicholls but only because of the sappy ending. The most media-based shame I've ever felt (if you don't count playing Boggle online) came from regularly reading The New Yorker. At the time I had a subscription it was a smooth swirl of snappily written prose that seemed intelligent but was really just soothing. I finally cancelled my subscription after the article about the Mach Three razor. (Apparently, it has three blades). I'm sure I'd feel a proud pleasure if I read Ulysses in it's entirety.
Classics: I like your question about classics. Yes, I think there are books written today that will deserve to be classics to be read in high school or maybe college, and some of them may not seem like classics at the moment. That's how it always goes. One of the reasons books come to be classics is that they embody the zeitgeist of a particular era; it's hard to tell, when you're in that era, that this is happening. I would say Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho is a classic of sorts, though no one though of it that way when it was first published. (Another recent obsession: Bret Easton Ellis).
Experience: I would never say you have to go anywhere or do anything in particular to be a good writer, though I think it depends on your temperament. Obviously Jack Kerouac liked to see stuff and write about it--that was his whole deal. If it's your deal, then yeah. But if it's not, then it's not. As it turns out, not everyone has the ability to do all that running around with the dolphins stuff; I can't do it, my peeps can't (the sick, infirm, elderly, and pained). But look what Frieda Kahlo made, despite living with great pain (or maybe even because of it). Having limitations doesn't dampened creativity. And being a homebody doesn't either, if that's who you are. Knowing yourself always comes in handy. Being observant can be about the world out there, but it's also be about the world inside, between your ears.
The experiences that affected my writing most were the experiences of my childhood.
Do you believe in a deity? Does your belief or lack there of effect your writing? How? Jimmy Cliff is alive! He is a Muslim, converting from Rastafarisam in 1974.
Thomulon, I hail thee! No, I do not believe in a deity. I don't think I'm an atheist though, since I've never renounced or longed for a belief in a diety. I'm so sincere in this that the Jehovah's Witnesses won't even come back to my house, though I ASK them to. I invite them, I urge them, but once I've told them that I don't believe in anything, they wander off and don't come back. It's the same with the little Mormon Elder boys.
Though that particular idea doesn't seem to affect my writing, I do think that belief fuels fiction, absolutely, and I think that everybody has a belief system, even if they're not aware of it. Because if you don't have a point of view, or something to say, or a strong idea pushing you forward, what's the point? That's interesting about Jimmy Cliff!
So what's next?
Hi Stacey, How's the Pirate novel coming along? Tom
Good! I'm done. It was awarded the 1964 Pulitzer Prize.
Hey Stacey, you ever see Angie Bowie at the supermarket, or the library, or the bus stop or anything?
I've seen her, yes, though not at the bus stop (I think it was an art opening). I never thought she was going to stay in Tucson for long so I neglected to notice her, or think about her, or understand how cool she is, until recently when I reread Please Kill Me and realized I'm an idiot who should have been paying more attention.
I am a cat. I have a problem with my fur. The problem is I lick my fur and end up with saliva on my fur. Then I rub the saliva on my paw and wipe it across my face to clean myself. I am wondering if there is a solvent or maybe type of vinegar I should be using instead. If so, does it come in a container that can be opened in paws. Also, can I pay for it using some sort of barter system involving crunchie remnants? I have neither money nor pockets for money. Also, why do I purr? I purr so much it scares me. My purrs have purrs. Also, my tail: Why does it exist? It looks like a racoon tail. What is up with that? It is embarrassing. is there some sort of tail surgery I can get to look more like a jaguar or a leopard? Come on, I need help here. Please help. Meow meow for the love of god help, meow.
Did you know that "meow" is a combination of the feline word "me," which means "come here," and the feline utterance "ow," which means "go away you disgusting cur?" No, you did not, because you're just a little cat and you don't know anything. Mitten, Mittens: to be a cat is to be ambivalent, to feel too dirty one moment and excessively licked the next, to be ashamed of one's tail and then excessively proud of it, to be a little baby and a mighty hunter at once, meow meow. The solution is simple. Find the nicest carpet in the house and throw up on it.
Have you ever seen True Blood? I was going to say it is like magical realism, but then I realized it is actually just magical, and in no way, not even metaphorically or psychologically or philosophically, real. It is a filthy pleasure and you should check it out.
No. Okay, I will. I hear the dudes are all naked. I don't have HBO but am hatching a scheme to get it. But also, do I have to? Remember those things, books? I like them.
Stacey, You give great life advice! I like how you actually give advice instead of taking a namby-pamby, repeat back what the person said, therapy-like approach. (My parents are therapists and all I can every get out of them is something like, "it sounds like you are feeling confused..." Okay here is my dilemma: I am 23 and have always had fantasies about living in the red American desert by myself with an athletic dog. As a way of realizing this I have been planning on going to grad school in Laramie, or Reno, or some place like that, finding a dog soul mate, and then studying alone in my mobile home. But then I fell crazy in love with a very domestic, bespectacled, dark and handsome 30 year old man with a mortgage and a grown-up job in one place (not the desert). I know if I lost him because of my crazed desire to enact this singular fantasy for 2 years, then that would really suck. But then what if I'm 30 and pregnant, and saying, shoot, I never acted out those favorite dreams of independence! Where has my inner cowboy gone?
Hi Cookie. It sounds like you're freaking out. That’s fine, love freak-outs are normal, but I don’t think your dilemma is actually about trailers and dogs. I think it’s about about the fear of losing the sense that you have, stretching before you, a life of infinite possibilities. Of course you don’t want to lose that! But consider this: you’re not the first person to fall crazy-in-love and then immediately begin contemplating how to hightail it out of there. Love is terrifying; it involves giving things up (like possibilities) and puts you at a terrible risk of being left (which can be avoided by leaving first), and sometimes, if you’re really crazy-in-love, you might let it take some other things away while you aren’t paying attention, like your sense of yourself as an independent entity, a cowboy-girl who has friends, independence, passions, and ideas, who can spend time by herself no matter where she lives.
Here’s some great news: I’ve decided that your quandry isn’t real! Not actually real, like a rock. Because in real life, Laramie and Reno don’t even have red soil, and Laramie is probably too cold for trailer living—so how serious could your dream be? Only vaguely serious. But that’s good! Metaphorical quandries don’t require freezing your ass off in a double-wide for a solution! You may feel stuck between wanting a crazy-love boyfriend and wanting total independence, but guess what? I think you know where I’m going with this: you can have both. The choice between pairing up vs. being a renegade chick might have been real for our mothers or grandmothers but for a young lady of your vintage, it’s all in your head. Crazy in love is great, you should enjoy it, but you don’t have to spend all your time with your boyfriend. You shouldn’t. You know that feeling, that you can’t get up and he has to get up and get you a glass of water; and also that other feeling, that if he leaves the room you’ll die? That’s something to resist. Though fun, it's actually bad because it sucks away at the core of your individual identity. Don’t do too much of that. Get up and go do your thing every day. Be your cowboy--it's an inner state. Get a trailer where you are, and a dog, and use them.
Because honestly, your dream isn’t going to work out now no matter what. It’s not going to be a truly solitary life. If you go to Reno, you’re probably going to call him all the time anyway, think of him, and visit. Anyway, the world is full of wonderful animals, and places are always there, but there’s only one bespectacled man and you have him right now. So just have him.
And Madeline, don’t let his 30 year-oldness impress you—that’s not so old, and I’m sure he’s still totally retarded in many ways. Don’t be surprised if, when you stop having your love vs. independence freak-out, he starts having his own. Most relationships contain a fixed amount of sheer intimacy-terror and if one person drops some, the other picks it up. I’m sort of afraid that if you settle in with him, he’s going to get terrified and dump you. I don’t want that to happen (though then you can go live in your trailer), so I'm going to advise you to be sort of mysterious and French about it. Do it slowly. Keep him guessing. Don't make him curtains yet. Wait. Let him make you curtains first.
You know where there’s red dirt? Moab, Utah. It’s beautiful. There’s a huge animal rescue place in the middle of nowhere near there called Best Friends. I bet you could go there for a few months and volunteer. They probably have trailers; in fact, they might not have anything else.
Hi Stacey, how has your summer been? I've decided to try my hand at writing. So far it's been a lot of fun. Do you have any advice for a beginner?
Hi Tom. My summer has been okay but I've had a lot of pack rats up in my shit, like my car engine and my hot tub filter area--though it just occurred to me that maybe the pack rat is my totem animal. That would fit, as they are very, very cute and very, very destructive.
For you, Tom, as a beginning writer, my advice is to try to write some good dialogue; to get there, look at books you like to figure out what you think good dialogue is. That way you'll have at least two characters and, if you're lucky, a little bit of frisson. You strike me as being sort of simultaneously attracted to surfaces and depths, and since surfaces are easier in dialogue, I'm afraid you'll write dialogue like: A) "What time is it?" B) "I don't know." A) "Shouldn't the pizza be here?" B) "Yeah. It's late. I'm starving!" A) I know. Food is good!" etc. But you can do better!
Have you heard the new Jimmy Cliff record, "Rebirth"? It is really good!
Oh, no no no no. A pillar of my life-strategy has been: avoid all reggae music (though I do really like "A Message To You Rudy"). Anyway, I didn't think Jimmy Cliff was still alive. Is he still alive? Because if he made it while dead, that would interesting to me.