Monday, November 12, 2012

Requiem for a Bad Book

I didn't realize this when I posted it, but yesterday's bit of bad fiction was based on something that happened two years ago tonight. But for some minor details, everything that happened in that story happened in real life, a factor, no doubt, in why the story ultimately fails. Hewing too close to events as they actually occurred will almost invariably make for a poor story. Telling a story is like trying to discern a shape in the dark: if you look directly at it, all you'll see is an indistinguishable hole in the night. But if you look at it obliquely, let the corners of your eyes sort it out, perhaps you won't necessarily see it for what it is, but you're less likely to see it for what it's not. For a small handful of probably not very complicated reasons, I wrote that story, and another twenty-five just like it, gaping through almost total darkness, my eyes fixed hard on their targets, adamantly, stupidly unyielding.

I've posted a few of those stories here at the Bear Cave, not because I thought they were special or worthwhile, but, well, for two reasons, I suppose. The most obvious and true reason is that I know if the girl about whom those stories were written ever got wind of them being out there, it would most likely chap her ass. Everybody wants to be the hero of other people's stories, nobody wants to be the scourge. A woman I used to be quite close to recently asked me why I am so full of spite. I suspect the answer involves a vitamin deficiency, either vitamin D, or whatever the name is for vitamin give-a-fuck -- riboflavin, maybe? Of course, the question is flawed: I wouldn't say I am, generally speaking, full of spite. There is, however, a tipping point to all things, beyond which there is a reckoning of one sort or another: either you swallow it, or you spit it out.

The other reason I've posted some of the stories -- and this is the more meaningful of the two -- is that I'm just sort of done with them. No, not sort of. I am. I wrote all of them -- more than three-hundred pages in total -- in the span of seventy days, starting about a month after I had to go away for my brief stay in the bin. The stories came so relentlessly, I couldn't have stopped writing them if I'd wanted to (and considering what I was writing, there were many days when I did want to stop). Those couple months were the clearest my head has been at any time in the last five years -- in fact, for the most part, more like the last fifteen years. Some small part of me understood that what I had on my hands was nothing more than a book of sad, desperate pleas to a girl who had stopped listening before I even started talking. It was much less an opus than an exorcism. But goddamn did it feel good to write it, and the day I knew I was finished I sobbed like I had only ever done when my daughter was born. But it's a bad book, a pointless, myopic obsession with moments that, after the fact, I was desperate to imbue with more meaning than they'd ever possessed. Don't get me wrong, that is most definitely one way to do it, and when it's right, that's the kind of book I want to read. It's the kind of book I think a lot of people want to read. But this wasn't that book. And in a sense dumping the stories onto the blog was a way for me to bid them adieu. "I printed my name on the back of a leaf, and I watched it float away." Points if you can name that song without looking it up.

So why am I full of spite? Well, because two years ago right now I was sitting in a cold apartment believing alternately that it would still work out and that nothing would ever work out or feel right again. Alone and half-crazy, I spent the evening chucking teacups and saucers against the wall of a narrow room, watching them shatter against the yellow walls, the pieces scattering across the floor. Tonight, two years gone by, I doubt that room is even yellow anymore. And tonight, I have not even a single teacup to call my own.

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