Thursday, April 10, 2008

Times They Are a'Changin'

Are They?
Hey, during Bob D's day times felt like they were a'changin' but then here we are 45 years later and just how much have times changed since the days of JFK, Lyndon "Big Balls" Johnson, and Richard "I Am (Not) a Crook" Milhouse (see where Matt Groening came up with a Simpsons's character's name?) Nixon ("Put the Nix on Nixon"--a Dumbocratic slogan back in them thar days)? I say times ain't what they used to be but they haven't changed hardly at all.

I'm not ashamed of writing complicated sentences, jumbled sentences, disarranged sentences, hell, OK, deranged sentences, sentences that sometimes lead to a jumping off place leaving the reader stuck in mid-air--or "mid-sentence" if you like. That's why we call being sent to prison a sentence--and a sentence shouldn't have any definite form or time period or absoluteness. Everything is inconclusive, isn't it?

I know there are sentence police out there, serious corrector types (that's why prisons are called "correction" facilities--corrections people are there to correct the rough drafts of the life chapter writers under their command (a command key)(you do need a key to unlock a lock to get out of prison or a computer)--I'm writing in quicksand suddenly--let me take hold of this rope this talking horse is hoofing me--ahhhhh--pull, boy, pull--ahhhhhhhh, that's much better, I'm out on dry land again--whew, let me dog-shake this water off me bow and stern and settle down into dry dock here.

On Democracy Now this morning I heard a computer systems security expert revealing how "Verizon" (he didn't name names) is opening up their communcations lines to the FBI's secret "Quantico Circuit" that screens all our telephone calls, our Internet usage, our text messaging, our emails; why they can even locate and keep track of our cell phone usage on this secret government circuit (your government does hate you, by the way--or haven't you noticed?). Here's another champion blogger we just found who'll explain all this corporate-Fascist-crap to you better than EYE!

And Then I...
went on wood s lot and I read Mark's reprint of an article talking about how modern writers in order to support their novel-writing habits are giving up some of their free novel-writing time to hack out screenplays, which sell when they sell for the biggest bucks in the writing business...

And I stopped right there--and I thought, that's been my struggle all my life, both as a writer, a poet, a musician--you have to go commercial to realize the big bucks--so why not just go commercial, like Tom Wolfe, those birds, and stay there, write your ass off commercially--you'll make big bucks, get to live in Brentwood or out in the Valley in L.A., have the trophy ex-actress wife or trophy ex-actor-producer-writer husband (like Joan Didion), have your faux ranch out further in the Valley, have some horses--hey, have Chris Reeves out to show off his jumping horse! In jazz, I remember when Dave Brubeck went commercial. I remember when Herbie Mann went commercial. I remember when Norman Granz tried to take Charles Parker, Jr., into the commercial jazz world with Bird w/strings albums. But I remember the oh so many who did not go commercial, who did not go to Hollywood. Some jazz dudes went to Hollywood and did quite well for themselves and still played some cool uncommercial jazz, Gil Mele, Benny Golson, Lalo Shiffren--novelists who've gone commercial: Faulkner tried it and failed; Thomas Wolfe (the author not the fop from Richmond) tried it and flopped at it (he was given a treatment to do and it came back over 500 pages long); Jack Kerouac tried it and couldn't hack it; Scott Fitzgerald tried it and it killed him; some pulled it off, like Lillian Hellman, though I suppose she's more of a playwright than she is a novelist; playwrights do pretty good in Hollywood since they're practically scriptwriters anyway--a play script is closer to a movie script than a novel, though the novel has its built in directions and scenes and stagings, too; but then I believe all writing is writing! And novel writing to boot; though I'm always wrong when it comes to my attitudes about writing, real writing, crap writing, and writing for bucks. Anita Loos was successful in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Oh well, professional jealousy, I guess.

I don't recall who the writer of the article wood s lot printed was but who the hell is that self-confident that they can advise novelists to give up their obsession with writing the Great American Novel, put it on the back burner, and go out there to La-La Land and make a half-million writing screenplays, then you can write novels to your heart's delight after you've settled on your faux ranch in El Segundo.

Truth is, writing screenplays is a no-no to a serious novelist or serious wordsmith, a nutjob like myself who has to write whether any of what I write ever SELLS or not! I hate that word "sells" 'cause it brings up the word "salesmen" and that's exactly who ruined old-style-for-the-writer's-sake-publishing, the book salesmen who came to editorial one day and said, "Hey, we can't sell this shit you're publishing, nobody wants this shit, they want 'reality' books, like celebrity-telltale books or how-to-get-rich books or self-help books, that's what the reading public wants--and the major bookstores, they want something that won't stay on the shelves gathering dust for months and months--'shelf life'--they want a short and sweet shelf life that is active not dormant until PR'd into action--and then slim action not volume action--and we've got to provide them with books that have constantly shifting shelf lives, like Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking--sure a bullshit book to you 'literary' types, but a long-lasting bestseller in my circles--I mean the stores can't restock old Norman's books fast enough and, too, I mean Norman's books are on the bestseller list forever it seems like, the old ones still selling even after he cranks out a new one, which we encourage him to do at least once a year if not more often--why I see all of old Norman's books on the shelves at the same time all the time--that's what 'shelf life' means--books not gathering dust but gathering sales."

I had watched a PBS documentary on Zora Neale Hurston last night before reading the above-mentioned article on wood s lot this morning. She was the kind of writer I champion. She wrote 'cause she had to write. She was compelled from deep within to write--to tell tales, stories, to bring life to reality through her imaginative use of language and the words language provides for us--compilers of words--pilers of words--laying words into walls like bricks are laid into walls--pages are walls--walls that broadcast back a story that logically leads to progressive empiricism on the part of the hypnotized reader. It's hard to find a hypnotized reader though they are out there still reading novels no matter how poorly written, intended, or whether they're covered with dust or not.

Zora Neale Hurston wrote on a houseboat, which she motor-boated herself all the way down the Atlantic Coast from New York City to Miami, Florida before WWII. After the houseboat, she moved into a trailer house in Miami, only to then move over to the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida to end up in Fort Pierce, Florida, in a tiny two room house and there she began writing a column for a Fort Pierce black newspaper. Meanwhile her books that once before WWII sold like little hotcakes were now mostly forgotten, pushed far back in the back pages of US literary history--times they are always a'changin' for the individual while maybe not for society. Society is easily distracted--and certainly they are distracted by what's going on constantly. Novels represent retro-reading don't they? Novels are about things that have happened or in the case of the sci-fi folks what's going to happen in the future (how right-on have our modern-day sci-fi writers been over the years--I don't think life is Star-Warsy yet though it certainly seems to be dreamily drifting out that way; I don't HAL has taken us over yet (and Arthur Clarke is dead now) though surely some wacky computer scientist is working on a human-replica computer (probably modeled after Adolph Hitler) that can rule the world one day. Nor have we seen any apes dragging Einstein around the beach at Malibu by a dog leash yet either, though, hell, one could easily foresee that happening--maybe dragging Stephen J. Hawking around by a dog leash on a Coney Island beach.

OK, yes, maybe the times they are a'changin' but is mankind? According to Carl Jung, until we recognize ourselves as just plain-old animals and not supernaturally created angels or devils we are in worlds of trouble in terms of keeping up the charades. Einstein on a beach. Where are the apes?

for The Daily Growler

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