Hello, Failure

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

Friday, June 24, 2005

Failure of the Day: Funny, The Things You Notice

This occurred to me tonight. Charlie Bucket grew up to be Paul Westerberg.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Failure of the Day: 220

It should come as no surprise that the best part of the bajillion cable channels streaming digitally into our apartment is the astonishing level of specialization that the sheer number of channels entails. And as the poster girl for the varieties of pathology, it should be even less of a surprise that my favorite channel is 220: The Discovery Health Network.

Over the months, I have watched shows called Face-Eating Tumor and 160 Pound Tumor and I Am My Own Twin and the refusing-to-be-outdone 200 Pound Tumor. I flirted with the notion of being slightly ashamed at how much I enjoyed these shows but fell back on my trusty ole, my all purpose rationalization: I am not a tourist in these people’s pain. I am not a freak gawker; oh, no. These are my people—I am we and you are me and we are all together. When you have five incurable diseases, you watch who you are calling a freak, sister.

That’s a lie of course, and fairly heinous one—I walk easily through the world, unstared at save my hair these days. I pass. I have the great luxury of being largely anonymous in my infirmities. I am the boy/ who can enjoy/ invisibility. 160 pound tumor lady? Not so much. But in my own pathetic defense, I am most at ease in the presence of the super-ill. I am Tom Cruise in a Keanu Reeves movie: I look so frickin’ good in comparison! Who’s the healthiest person in the room? ME!

Plus the shows really are completely fascinating. I mean, c’mon…a woman who has TWO sets of DNA and who gave birth to children who do not match their mother’s DNA but are a genetic combination of their father and their mother’s brother? Who could resist that? No one! It’s irresistible!

Maybe there’ll be a show about me someday called The Girl With Everything Wrong With Her and the little circle of exploitation will be complete.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Failure of the Day: Studies in Mediocrity

On Saturday for my regular Dawn Movie Ritual I watched Collateral on OnDemand cable. It was OK: predictable, but a reasonable passing of 2 hours. Jamie Foxx may or may not be a good actor—it’s hard to tell from just one movie—but he is riveting. It’s hard to stop looking at him. I don’t know why that is, I only know that when he’s onscreen, I’m looking at him and not at anything else. Charisma is kind of a wondrous thing.

Tom Cruise is also mesmerizing, but for completely different reasons. I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of it for some time now. Separate and apart from the spectacular train wreck he seems to be in his personal life, in his movies, he has, as near as I can figure, some sort of depth threshold that he just cannot cross. His acting is OK, it’ll do. He is occasionally pretty darn good, and I have enjoyed him in a few of his films, especially those in which he is expressly not heroic, but I think he is prime evidence of just how far you can go on good looks, training, and ambition. Which is to say; how far you can go with everything except talent. Turns out it’s pretty damn far.

I’m making a distinction here between mediocre and bad, by the way. I don’t think TC is a bad actor. One of the lessons of Tom Cruise is that a lack of talent doesn't necessarily make you a bad actor. But you do need to make some kind of effort, as became clear on Sunday morning when I watched Keanu Reeves in The Devil’s Advocate. That’s a crap movie from the word Go but it has to make TC weep with gratitude for the miracle of relativity.

But there’s that damn line. And I swear, I can see it when I am watching TC onscreen. The character he’s playing exists on the top layer of his skin and goes down an inch or two and then stops. You can still see the Tom Cruise underneath. No matter how hard he tries, no matter how much he studies his craft and develops his character, you can still see it. And that fascinates me.

I tell myself that I am suddenly so interested in this because I would like to avoid being mediocre myself, and so I am looking the enemy in the face, knowing it, learning to recognize it. Chris thinks it might be just that I like to watch dumb movies, though.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Failure of the Day: Who’s The Mark?

I’ve been crap lately at updating here; sorry. I’m a little distracted by things going on in my, y’know, life, and now that this draft of my novel is done, I’m taking the summer off from it and declared this the Summer! Of! Pilates!

I’m grooving on the pilates, by the way; I can’t believe it took so long for someone to invent an exercise that you can do lying down. It’s so obvious! I’m actually good at it too, since it’s all about strength and flexibility, which I have oodles of, but not about balance and grace, of which I am of course entirely bereft. Plus I really enjoy imagining the mean things I would say to the skinny white bitch in the leotard on the video who tells me that being overweight is just an outward sign that the mind and the body are out of balance. Really? I would say. “Out of balance” you say? Well that explains everything! I thought it was because of my INCURABLE NEUROLOGICAL DISEASE compounded by 6 years of paralysis and atrophy but if you say that’s not it…

Of course now that I am expressly not writing and especially not working on plugging the enormous holes in my novel’s narrative structure, my head is chock-a-block full of text, and not just things to make new age bitches cry, either. Between the novel I’m reading and my newly beloved Mountain Goats CDs, the valves are open and the lines are coming, no waiting. I jot them down longhand but do not open a Word doc, I do not open a Word doc, I do not open a Word doc. Because this is the Summer of Pilates, not the Summer of Starting Draft 3. And as long as I believe that it, seems clear that this little intellectual bait and switch will keep paying off.

From a Martin Amis interview: “I believe that everyone has a novel in them. The difference between the writer and the nonwriter is that the writer finishes the thing.”

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Failure of the Day: Obligation

So, remember 1994? Yeah, me too. It sucked. I was fat, crippled, deeply impoverished, and very, very moody. I was also writing my head off, though, and some of those poems were pretty good.

And what do you know, an anthology just came out to commemorate those times. It’s called New Underground Writing or something like that, and yes, it is in fact so NEW that one of the book’s editors has been dead since the mid-90s (I would say that it’s so underground that one of the editors is dead but that would be tasteless), and it’s got poems of mine that are so old that there’s one even I don’t have a copy of anymore.

The book does include some awfully good writers though, and nice big samplings of each one, and I recall that when the weird guy who I had never met called me in the middle of the night to solicit my poems for it, I was pleased once I figured out that he wasn’t stalking me.

Now there’s a reading for it at a bookstore in (GlenGarry) Glen Park called Bird & Beckett this Saturday at 7 PM. I’ve never been to that store or even, I don’t think, to Glen Park so it will be an adventure. I wasn’t going to go…but then one of the still-living editors called me at my house to invite me, as opposed to the usual passive aggressive tactics, so it seemed like they must be serious about wanting me to show up. And then I remembered that that very same still-living editor had nominated me for a pushcart prize some years ago, and I still kinda owe her for that, so I’m going. If nothing else, it will be a reunion of a bunch of people who remember ourselves as being much cooler than we were. And what could be more fun than that? So if you miss the days when you could go to a poetry reading and hear me read tight little stanzas about brain tumors and fucking, come on down!