It seems my story has already been told, not once, not twice, but countless times by innumberable lips. I keep wishing to write a book, but everything i want to say has already been said. Trying to repeat these same ideas in new ways is both difficult and pointless, and incredibly disheartening. I think if i wrote an autobiography, it would cantain very little of my own writing. I've spent too little time looking for myself in my own words and a great deal finding myself in the words of others. It's only just occurred to me that this could be a bad thing. Should I let Dickens, Ginsberg, and Bukowski tell my story? All we control is ourselves. Have I somehow lost that by not being the author of my own biography? True, appreciating the cultural, political, and social implications of a work in relation to both their time as well as ours isn't really a bad thing, but... a synonym is a poor substitute for a definition. The words these people have written, they weren't penned for me. Sure, they were written most likely with all intention of being read, and beyond that, felt. They were meant to speal for the author. His words, his time, his life. I don't want to live vicariously. I just want to live.
It's true, many men live out their lives without writing of their experience. It's not really important to be published, per say, except that I want it badly and always have. I'm not really talking about published though. I'm just talking about writing. Some people have to read, some only read for information, like news and political ideas, some read to satisfy curiosity, or for entertainment, to relax or distract themselves. Some just do it because they want to. I do it because i have to. True, there are times where weeks pass and nothing gets marked of my reading list, but it never lasts. Reading a book is like trying someone elses gumbo. You might have had a taste of something similar, but a new recipe is a new recip, and you might be suprised by some new spice. I feel like the world is much too big to see and feel and experience in my lifetime, so i have to read. I went to a poetry reading at the local art museum several years back, and the title given to the evening was, "if a picture is worth a thousand words, then can we, with a thousand words, paint a picture?" Since then i've puzzled over that phrase. A good story does, infact, turn into a film in my head. The clarity of the work determining the graininess of the image. It occursto me as i write that, in my experience, the books i love most are the ones which, in painting a picture, manage also to construct a mirror. I should have come to that conclusion much sooner. Only last week, I had a telling conversation with a friend named Zach. The previous evening, we had watched the wes anderson film "Darjeeling Limited" which is an independant film with an allstar cast (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrian Brody) about three brothers, all addicted to painkillers, all keeping secrets, and all unhappy, who haven't seen one another in a year (since their fathers death) and are now on a train in India looking for their runaway mother. It's my favortite film. Zach didn't like it. He said something along the lines of, "it was funny, but i wasn't entertained." He also argued that the things that happen aren't things people normally do. I tried to persuade him that therein lies the beauty. If you accept some of these actions as plausible, you have to reconsider yourself. Movies and books are similar forms of media. Cinema has turned into an exit route, a way for people to escape from our world and into one where, by the time 126 minutes have passed, all questions have been answered, peace restored, and a sequel set up. No one quite knows what to do with themselves when everything we run to theatres to escape follows us in, and doesn't just sit in the next row noisly munching popcorn and talking loudly, but stars in the feature presentation. People hate feeling ugly, and so often the movies and books which hide mirrors tend to reflect our ugliest parts. It makes sense, really, that Zach would hate the movie. I don't mean this in a bad way. He understood the film, and aknowledged that it made him think, but that he simply wasn't entertained. His attitude is prevalent in our society in relation to all forms of creativity. People tend to look to books, movies, art, music, even news/politics for comfort. In the news, it's comforthing to see that "hey, at least my house didn't burn down." We like feeling better off. I'm not implying that people wish ill on others, but find some peace in videographic evidence that we could have it worse, we could be that guy. In other ways, it's comfortable to be up to speed on blockbusters, bestsellers, and any band with a song in the top 40. It gives you something to discuss with others, something to share in common, and save you the discomfort of having to talk about something real.
That having been said, it's little wonder less people read and watch the kinds of media which interest me. Books that paint pictures allow you an escape, but those with mirrors, they bring with them the worst kind of confrontation, and that's confronting yourself. I must be insane, or a glutton for punishment, or both, to want to feel as ugly and flawed as the books i read make me feel. In a world where even airport bookstores have a self-help section, and talk-show therapists extolling the value of confidence, and 19 new diet pills hitting the market each month to help you shrink down small enough to fit back into your self esteem, what kind of person would take delight in splitting open all her carefully built up fronts? The right kind, I think.
All these ideas I'm writing are new to me, or at least as new to my pen. This is why I should write. I know these things have been said before, but not by my tongue, in my hand, as proof of my own experience.
Ray Bradbury once wrote, "we are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing when to tip ourselves over, and let the beautiful stuff out." In highschool, i was a member of the school's annual lit mag staff. Each year we chose a quote to preceed our anthology, it's goal to prep the reader for what he/she was about to encounter (which, to be honest, wasn't much. There are only so many mediocre love poems you can read before growing bored, and our staff was bored long before our pages were fulled, so it's safe to assume our readers were a little unhappy as well. Through, in our defense, no one really ever complained, we were just never commended either.) Anyway, point is, I wanted that bradbury quote to be the quote. It came down to three, and we took a vote. Life is full of small disappointments, and I wasn't as upset that my choice didn't make it as I was in which one beat mine out. It went something like, "some of the most beautiful things in life are also the most useless - peacocks and lillies for example." See? Lame, I know, especially when you're trying to send a positive message about our student writers to their peer readers. I felt like we were saying, "hey, even the pretty poems, even the well done art, it's all useless. A for effort but really, you shouldn't have bothered."
I've quoted that bradbury line on several occasions since all this happened, and every time i also remember about teh peacocks. Each time, i find myself a little miffed, not only that it won out over a better quote, but that it has also mananged to bind itsself (probably permanently) to said quote.
This probably seems all incredibly unrelated, and in some ways, it is. It wasn't until I started writing that all these strings untangled and retied themselves in nice bows, but the important thing is that their tied.
The first short story I ever read that shook me was "The Sound of Thunder," by Bradbury. Did you know he wrote like, 1000 words every day? Even if all of it was rubbish, be wrote. I've always admired that, I who cannot write (really write) worth a damn on any day, let alone everyday. I've been struggling lately with characters and stories and ideas. I feel ready to tip myself over, and "let the beautiful stuff out." I also feel as though my line about being cups and the one about peacocks were meant for one another. It's true, I do think my attitide towards myself is heathy, and when i said "the right kind" i mean the person who delights in knowing how terrible they are. True, i can no longer pretned i'm not manipulative, selfish, awkward, immature, whatever. However, I no longer ahve to prentend. I read to see myself clearly. If it's true, and I am a cup, I want to know everything I'm filled with.
That's what's amazing about these two lines. Most beautiful things in life are useless. Sunsets dont test us, pretty poems dont challenge us, and boquets dont give a damn about what we're made of. This type of beauty really is useless, at least in terms of function. The beautiful stuff, the stuff we need to pour into the world, is really some of the ugliest. I dont mean we need to unleash violence or inflict heartache or suffering. I'm saying that when i read Bukowski, it stirs something in me that i didn't know how to reach, or had been afraid to touch intil then. We don't read to know how different we are, but how much we share. Sure Mr. Bigtime CEO man never know what it's like to be sold into prostitution at the age of 11, the average housewife will nener experience even the more tame sexcapades of women like pamela and jenna, but the basic human emotion we share in common is there. We all understand fear, lust, pain, joy, anticipation, adoration, and defeat. When reading, we experience the life of another, and relate it back to ourselves. We read in hopes of finding words to describe those things which we are incapable of vocalizing. If I'm going to write, then i want to write something worth reading.