Forget the Black, Unmarked Bags

When you leave the shop and that little black bag swings at your side; non-descript, unidentifiable, concealing the tawdry publication living within the plastic sheaths, no one is fooled by what you have, and it is made worse by the fact that you know everyone else knows what is in the bag. But, all you can do is keep your pace, praddle on as though you are person of the world, having seen a thing or two in your day.

Why should you feel guilty? It was an impulse buy. It tempted you with curvaceous melodies belted by lustful sirens, and the simple sensibilities of desire. Any casual observer is privy, because they too have fallen victim to the sumptuous taunts of that which is just out of reach.

These magazines stuffed between copies of the New Yorker and the Paris Review, purchased to satisfy us in ways previously unknown. Ostensibly, we are discussing local literature. The little tiny, no-name publications that live near the front counters of your local bookshop, where inside it’s pages, people like you and I, scribble our ideas and theories in the shape of fiction, with the grand design that this will fall into the hands of those who possess the powers that be; into the toilet of Mount Olympus; onto Caesar’s nightstand; or in the front seat of an editor for Simon & Schuster. It used to be that by reading the works of our community we would console our frustration, our grievances with some good, old-fashioned judgement.

I would like to call this, Literary Masturbation. And this term has two meanings, however, there is only one I would like to stick.

The first meaning is what was outlined above; the surly self-satisfaction of condemning others while you sit, feeling left out, and scorning the world. The second is much more pertinent, and constructive than the first.

If you are a writer without the Oxbridge contacts, or the Ivy League network, the gods upon Mt. Olympus have alternative bathroom reading material; Caesar never returns your calls; and, your college roommate’s father is not said editor. Sadly, for most aspiring writers, there are many more steps that need be taken before that big break is within sight. That is not to marginalize the publishing industry (which, to be honest, may need to be called into question, but not here) through the assumption that simply by knowing someone, or whatever Kevin Baconesque degree of separation gets you there, one is assured of selling a million copies and establishing themselves as a prominent literary voice. On the contrary, nothing is assured in art. We are blinded by the possibilities nepotism would offer if afforded the luxury. Talent, believe it or not, is still a factor in maintaining yourself as a literary name. Even Dan Brown. He managed to write a story that hooked people, and as much as it pains me, historical inaccuracy aside, he did what is so often overlooked in the arts: he told a story. Human beings are suckers for a story. That’s why people would sit around a fire and listen to some blind guy tell, The Iliad; same with the Shakespearean canon.

This idea of Literary Masturbation stems from another ignored factor, a form of nepotism granted to people like you, and me; the struggling lot seeming to be endlessly disconnected from the publishing monster that builds dreams out of even it’s foulest dispensations. Who can blame us? We are products of the modern age, demanding that all good things to come at once. Instant gratification is what anyone expects now, despite what you hold in your heart of hearts; it is programmed into us, subconsciously, so that for all of the morals we may cling to, the fact remains, we want to be published by a reputable publisher, now; we want to be discovered now. I, personally, want to be apart of the Four Seasons crew in New York, mingling with the likes of Mailer, Vonnegut, Yates, etc. Forget fame; let me write something that gets me at that table, night after night. But, that was a tangent. To the point–

Publications, recognition, and a forum with which to discuss literature are all around. Most of us are not fortunate enough to be among the literary elite, or know someone who is, but what exists are communities, which, we are all apart of. I do not mean that in some metaphorical splish splash, but rather, literally. Go to the local library, and guaranteed, you will find a poetry society. Granted, this will most definitely be filled with pensioners and senior citizens, but that’s okay. Beggars cannot be choosers. Or, sniff around your local bookshop, and that is a proper bookshop, one that has an identity in the neighbourhood, and they will certainly be filled in with some form of literary scoop. They may even be a venue for readings themselves. Look on Craig’s list. They are there.

We are surrounded by communities of people who think like us, who dream similar dreams to us, and maybe there is no pay check to be had, but if that is what drove you to literature, then good, do not become apart of it. The point is reading and writing; doing what you love, and sharing that with others, because how hard is it to expel all of the things which manifest in the mind, verbally? Nearly impossible for me, but with fiction, I find the words I was once too timid to say, or needed time to arrange. I am no longer an introvert. The point is to seek out the reading groups, the book clubs, the poetry groups, or just a bunch of people sitting in a pub, once a week, to discuss the new story, or latest chapter in their novel. This idea is a simple one, and it fits into a larger picture as well. If the big Houses, or magazines, pass on your work, if the large literary festivals leave you feel alienated and lacking, do it yourself.

Start a magazine. Put out fliers, or craig’s list ads, about writers getting together to talk shop. There is nothing writers love more than talking about their work, except for maybe alcohol, which is why you would meet in a pub. It’s like Spanish fly. Just give it some time, the thing will grow.

But, the wonderful thing is, there are great, small publications out there now, looking for support, while you, out there in internet land, are looking to be supported. These people are lovers of art, or else they would not have signed up for creating a magazine. Look up, content magazine if you are in the San Jose area; or this website for a list of small independent magazines in San Francisco that urge new voices on (I had trouble finding a couple of these, but they are just examples); Or Pen Pusher if you are in London. The list is endless, but they are there, coaxing the people outside of the great artistic sphere into understanding that literature lives and breathes in all places; it is just a matter of taking the initiative to find it, or create it, to give aide to those new voices struggling to be heard. Just as in war, revolutions, and protests, there is strength in numbers. A great rolling wave of voices will carry great sway, and the last thing anyone will consider if it is done with force, is where this wave berths.

So, I ask of you: no longer feel ashamed; no longer hide from desire and the clamour for what is absent in yours and mines, day-to-day life. I, like you, have needs, wants, and hopes for what will become of my misadventures behind the keyboard, and the blood, sweat, and toil that is poured into these ideas. Small, tiny publications are our friends. We love them. We need them, because we feel connected to them. Ignore the little black bags, the sneaking, and the shame. Sure, it is not quality literature at times, and it is not what you considered for yourself, but we are connected because they, like you, and me, write because there is no other way.




Blogging With Spite

The days of filling books with great, insightful prose has given way to a different form of book: the notebook. The rough-edged touch of paper; the gentle whoosh of pages being turned; the smell of ink or aged paper trailing with the doting follower to park or beach or between home and work, has all but been cast away and the new medium is no longer assigned only to the privileged, but to all.

It would be easy to find joy in this new accessibility of a fledgeling art, but in truth, I find it difficult to gather the wind in my lungs to offer a triumphant whoop; instead, I offer only a magnificent yawn.

That is said, or meant to be said, without pretension, however, I gather the image of me is already pinging around the walls of your mind, not unlike that cartoon image of Yosemite Sam’s bullets ricocheting off of every available tree. I suppose I’ll take a stab: there is obviously a certain amount of neon, be on the arms of my 80’s  shades, my sneakers, but where ever the neon lives, I can assure you that it accentuates the ashen shade of my acid washed jeans. Toss a fixie in there, and slap on whatever Mission, Williamsburg, Shoreditch hipster trend you want, and sadly…it does not fit. But, what this tangent was intended to do was portray myself, not as some bandwagon traditionalist, dreaming of the fair-weather days of strife and toil of artists so admired; or the hedonistic image of those said artists lounging with cigarette and wine in some sad cafe, capturing the mood of the beholder. But rather, as an individual who holds print media in the highest esteem.

Deep down, I hate the ability for anyone to set up shop in the written world and pass their thoughts around as though they were golden. I was raised on the exclusivity of the medium, it was what initially drew me to it. That beautiful ability to find the words that define my feelings, my personal sentiments towards life and how I fit into it; to hold it in my hands as though my thoughts and feelings had become tangible, and were explained, made me want to live in that world, with that ability, alone.

But, it is exactly that which compels me to hate the art. To hate art in general, a great deal of the time. There is a detrimental perception that only the hyper intelligent may put pen to paper, or even, eye to paper, forgetting that so much of that idea boarders on discrimination. We are conditioned to believe that artists carry great sway in this world, and gaining entrance into their exclusive club is offered to a slim few.

So, what am I trying to say? What is with all of this duplicity, and flip-flopping? Well, I don’t know really. That, I believe is the point. There are so many negatives in the blogosphere, but simultaneously, there are just as many positives to balance the phenomenon. How are we to move with it, while preserving the wonderful tradition of print? I suppose if we were to approach it as though it were a vice, not unlike alcohol or cigarettes, or fast food, and take it all with moderation. For instance, if one were to have an ice cream following lunch, have an apple after dinner. If you are to eat a steak for dinner, eat some greens for lunch. There must be a give and take relationship to print and digital media. But that in itself brings to light a separate issue, it assumes that everything doled out online is a self-indulgent, self-serving falsity and print media is truth. This is not true, but merely the work of the editing process, and social expectations of print media.

So, we are stuck. Or, I am stuck; struggling to understand what it is I want, and how it is I feel. I may never know, but I will always think fondly upon a time when the easy answer was not a click away via the internet…hell, that’s where I am now, and still I am unhappy and confused. Forget it, I just wish I were not a failed author so that I didn’t have to start this machine…

Stay tuned for an attempt at documenting art, and the life of artists living on the fringe; how the modern suburbs and aspiring artists intermingle. Or, more ranting about this or that.