Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Monday, April 25, 2005

Failure of the Day: Priorities

My insomnia is still as brutal as ever so I make an effort to go to bed and wake up around the same time on weekends as I do on workdays, which is considered good “sleep hygiene.” That means I’m up well before Chris, who stays up late into the night playing video games and generally getting in some quality alone time.

Weekend mornings I make coffee, eat a little something, and often watch a movie in my room while Chris sleeps. (I saw I’m Not Scared on cable during a recent early weekend morn and loved loved loved it, by the way.) Around 10 or so I head back to bed to read until Chris wakes up and then he reads for a while too. It’s all very domestic and sweet.

Sometimes, though, Chris wakes up earlier than he should, eager as he is to hit that ever-growing stack of comic books under the bed. So he reads a little and then slips off back to sleep and then wakes up, reads a little more, and slips back into sleep. That’s what happened this last Saturday morning; I was in bed reading and Chris had dozed off, his soft, warm head nestled against the crook of my arm.

It’s a good book; the protagonist is helpfully a neurosurgeon, although that has little to do with the actual book. Nevertheless, it sparked some ideas in my head about my own novel and I wanted to jot them down. Pen and paper were a few feet away though, on the bottom shelf of the nightstand. I couldn’t reach it without leaning my whole body away from, and thereby disturbing, Chris.

I thought about it, but decided against moving to reach the pen. It wouldn’t have bothered him; it probably wouldn’t even have woken him up, but I loved his head right where it was and right then, that was more important than the ideas for my novel. I tried like hell to keep the ideas rolling around in my mind, but I eventually forgot all but one of them. And it turns out I don’t so much mind. I have lots of ideas, after all. But only one soft, warm head.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Failure of the Day: Lack of Focus

I’m still pretty deep into my swoon for David Mitchell; I just finished his debut novel and have now read everything he’s written. He’s a Brit, but almost all of his fiction is set in Asia, where he lived for the last decade. He tells a good story but rarely bothers with any kind of traditional plot. He’s non-local. He’s only slightly causal.

Wow. Unrelated.

We watched the Air America startup documentary, Left of the Dial, recently. (Seriously, no one gives Paul Westerberg nearly enough credit.) It was surprisingly riveting considering that we already knew the outcome of the network’s financial struggles and that I know all too well that people who work in radio are by and large as ugly as they are stupid. It also did wonders to help Chris understand why I stopped dating comics. Don’t get me wrong—Marc Maron’s show is the best damn thing on Air America, no question—but you could actually see morale droop when he walked into a room. Those guys are miserable, and miserable to be around, without exception in my experience.

This appeals to me only slightly more than it disturbs me.

There is a new category of worker here in ye olde Converted Potrero Hill Warehouse, that of the European Manager Too Important to Talk To Me. It comes in two varieties: short and tall. (They can’t Dooce me just for saying that, can they?)


Things at ye olde Converted Potrero Hill Warehouse are actually going pretty well. I just finagled my way into the Marketing department as their copy editor, a position that didn’t exist this morning. The first step of my Master Plan is in place! I covered my tracks nicely though—to keep them from suspecting that I am actually a sleek genius, I spilled water all down the front of my shirt just after lunch. Ha HA! I am wily!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Failure of the Day: The Citizen Kane of Torture Porn

It took me 15 hours to come up with that headline, so someone beat me to the blog review punch. It’s only fair I suppose, since he’s been a fan of the comic book for so long that he immediately recognized the frame by frame mise-en-scéne parallels, and long enough for me to finally understand why the Death Row Marv action figure, long of our living room, who giggles and coughs epithets as he is electrocuted, is so charming.

Sin City is mind-bogglingly great; easily the best comic book adaptation I’ve ever seen, easily. I sat in the theatre praying that George Lucas and Kevin Smith brought steno pads to their viewings and had taken detailed notes on the proper way to write stylized dialogue. And if Brittany Murphy’s lines fell out of her mouth like thumbtacks (and they did), the fault was not the writer’s. She is the only clunker in this otherwise stunning film.

Now, to be fair, I am a violence wuss of a sort. I can watch shootings and stabbings and people getting blown to smithereens without blinking an eye; it’s not that. There are several beheadings and other dismemberment scenes that gave me not one moment’s pause. A guy getting the top of his skull sliced clean off by a samurai sword? No problemo. But you know what I can’t stomach at all? Punching. The wet crunch of a fist and a face. And there is plenty of that to be had here too, plenty. I watched a fair bit of the Bruce Willis vignette through the stripes of my fingers.

But my god, even that was gorgeous. I knew about the black and white with only a bit of color here and there, and I fully expected that to be cheesey and over-wrought. It wasn’t. Instead it made the whole enterprise tolerable, the thing that prevented the theatre from becoming a popcorn and gummi bear vomitorium. And that’s the thing: you go in just like every movie, with your disbelief dangling from a string, happily suspended. And the film toys with it, your disbelief, swatting it like a cat by showing you things that must be disbelieved to be endured. Where other movies make you work to keep your disbelief suspended, Sin City makes you beg for disbelief, and you’re grateful for it, for white blood and yellow monsters and impossible shadows. If you believed in this even a little, it would be unbearable.

And OK, it’s a little long and a little repetitious. Whatever. It’s also glorious and horrifying and righteous. And it made Chris say “It is a negative-space of saturated bliss” and he never talks like that. I mean NEVER. He gives me the stink eye when I talk like that, and it made him say that. That’s some powerful mojo. No kidding: go see it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Failure of the Day: Lesson

You know what’s hard? Re-writing your novel. You know what’s impossible? Re-writing your novel in a rush. While you have your period and are so hormonal that you are moved to tears by how much you love diet orange soda.

Such was my state last week, leading up to the reading on Friday night. By 7 PM Thursday, I had edited the chapter I was planning to read down to pretty much one single sentence, and I suspected that one had to go, too. I was in trouble.

Chris had Thursday off work and had spent the whole day happily cleaning, so I felt bad about interrupting the ritual of the Dusting of the Action Figures. But it had to be done. I dragged him into my room and sat him down in front of what was left of chapter 18. “Tell me how to fix it!” I shouted.

He read it and told me gently that he thought it was very good but that it seemed not quite done and so maybe not the best choice, and anyway, maybe trying to edit in my, uh, fragile state was not the best idea in the world, and he recalled that chapter 1 was good so why didn’t I just read that one? I rejected that idea out of hand. I mentioned chapter 12—the best-written chapter, I think—and chapter 15 is my current favorite. 12 is the spinal tap and 15 is the emotional core of the book. He suggested that maybe those are not the most appropriate for a room full of people happily munching on all-you-can-eat pizza.

This was turning into a disaster. The chapters I wanted to read were wrong for the venue and the chapters that were good for the venue were not ready to be read. Chris pulled up chapter 1 on my computer, read it, and said I should read that one. Totally defeated, I said fine, whatever.

I had a really good time at the reading. It was awfully nice to see everyone again, and about 60 people came out so it was quite a good little fund-raiser. People seemed to like chapter 1; I got compliments from strangers and those are the only ones I tend to believe so that’s always nice. To top it all off, Jenny offered to publish the book on Manic D when I’m done with it. Holy Majoley! I’m a novelist.

The lesson of the week is: Don’t argue with Chris. When he says chapter 1, read chapter 1.