Activity Being Avoided: bookkeeping
Music In My Head: Above the Clouds of Pompeii — Bear’s Den
Tea Being Drunk: peppermint
Book Being Read: Trigger Warning–Neil Gaiman; Sweet Thursday–John Steinbeck
An ideal reader reads to find questions. – Alberto Manguel
This whole train of thought started because I was reading Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? and I had a hard time swallowing it—not just because her writing was rather sloppy, and not just because it was non-fiction—because I find it difficult to trust a fiction writer to give me an unembellished story. I’d much rather—just because of the good writing style, and just because it’s fiction—read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and be content that it’s as close to Winterson’s reality as I’m ever gonna (hafta) get.
Doesn’t the human race get more than enough of that reality shite?
On the weekend, someone was relating some personal account (nothing at all juicy; entirely run-of-the-mill human activity), and announced that they were sharing too much and they should stop. I said something to the effect of, “Or else I’ll take interest in it and you’ll end up in one of my stories.”
Why do these things fly out of my mouth?
I was treated to exhortations to not use this in my stories. It was personal, they did not give permission for me to use it, and it would be a terrible thing to see it in a story.
Eventually, I did break in enough to make it clear I wouldn’t use the information. I promised.
I consequently promised myself that I was going to shut up around people who can’t understand sarcasm. Shall let you know how that goes.
I started wondering how non-writers view writers. Do readers really think that we merely jot down scenes from mundane life? Do they stop to look at their day in 15-minute increments and consider how interesting it would be to read? Do they actually read the novels they claim to have read, and therefore understand that stories are possibly conceived in reality but are gestated in a far, far better place?
I went home, feeling very proud of myself that my brain is able to come up with things extraordinary. I’m off work this week, and the stories up on the editing block are the six Psychopathia Sexualis stories:
- A teenage girl suddenly abandoned in upper-class society
- A man who finds his soulmate despite a dress
- A woman who can only find release sexual release through blood
- A girl caught between state and church, society and family
- A sexually-insatiable man
- A prostitute and a jar of soot
Does the quotidian fit into one of these? Probably not: that’s why we’re not all in the news or medical case-studies.
That night, when I fell into bed, I picked up Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday—the latest from my father’s pile. I was at that humanising chapter entitled There’s a Hole in Reality:
The seer said, “I saw a mermaid last night… There was a color in the night, not like the black and gray and white of an ordinary night. Down at the end of the beach a shelf of rock reaches out, and the tide was low so that there was a smooth bed of kelp. She swam to the edge and then churned her tail, like a salmon leaping a rapid. And then she lay on the kelp bed and made dancing figures with her white arms and hands…
“Was she a dream? Did you imagine her?”
“I don’t know. But if I did I’m proud that I could imagine anything so beautiful….”
(John Steinbeck, Viking Press, 1954)
I’d like to think that my stories are more remarkable than the information told to people one doesn’t know very well and doesn’t care about.
I hope that I write mermaids–because this reader reads to find questions and mermaids.