I’m vaguely uncomfortable all the time. I’m vaguely uncomfortable going to the restaurant with my brother, vaguely uncomfortable when he talks to me, vaguely uncomfortable when we park the car and order the drinks, vaguely uncomfortable when the mâitre’d comes to the door and asks us where we would like to sit, vaguely uncomfortable when the mâitre’d corrects me and says she’s just a hostess and anyway women aren’t ever referred to as “mâitre’d.” Okay. Is that true. I’m vaguely uncomfortable when the car hesitates before starting, vaguely uncomfortable when it slips on the road, vaguely uncomfortable when I dig out the lip of the driveway or mop up the water pooling on the floor of the sunroom. I’m vaguely uncomfortable writing a blog entry, vaguely uncomfortable thinking about “prospective audiences,” vaguely uncomfortable responding to e-mails and texts, vaguely uncomfortable drinking sportwater, vaguely uncomfortable looking at menus, vaguely uncomfortable wearing clothes or looking in the mirror, vaguely uncomfortable riding motorcycles or gunning down strangers, vaguely uncomfortable reading The New Yorker or knifing Christian Louboutin in the stomach while lights shake in the distance and he encourages me to cut even deeper. I’m vaguely uncomfortable looking at images of graveyards, vaguely uncomfortable eating sushi while feeling disoriented, vaguely uncomfortable singing carols on the front steps of depressed parapalegics’. That’s all.
I wrote poetry yesterday. Poetry. I felt sad and instead of writing a blog post I wrote poetry. Poetry of the depraved. No, I don’t know what that means: it wasn’t depraved, or if it was depraved it wasn’t depraved morally but emotionally. Poetry and sadness go well together.
I felt vulnerable and I fell asleep at 11 o’clock with my radio and all of my clothes on, including a sweater and a dragon onesie that I had pulled over my clothes. When I woke up I went on the internet and watched a monkfish being eviscerated. No, I went on Facebook and I continued feeling vaguely sad, although I felt better than I had earlier in the day.
My brother is here and I am not sure if that’s good for me, but if it’s not good for me it’s not his fault but mine. I would like to hide myself underneath a woollen blanket and wander through the woods in a near-crouching position, blindly tearing through the frozen underbrush like a demented spirit seeking someone to haunt. Yesterday when my coworker saw my house she said that it fit my personality perfectly and that she and another coworker had been speculating on what my life was like, writing fables alone in my cabin. I said “Thank you,” for the ride, several times, and stepped out of the car, and when I shut the door I said “Thank you,” again: eager to dismiss or interrupt or prevent. Prevent what? She told me to say hello to my brother but she does not know my brother, so I didn’t bother.
I had an idea for a post and then my brother asked me how to spell “Rudy Gay” and I forgot my idea for a post. That’s not strictly true: I had an idea for a post and then I started to leave the room in order to write my idea and then I looked at my brother’s computer and saw he was looking at the results for the NHL game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins which the Bruins won by a score of 5-2 and I wanted my brother to look up the information about the Rudy Gay trade (which I’d already read over several times and privately determined was “mostly non-compelling”) and so I asked him why he wasn’t already reading about Rudy Gay and he asked me how to spell Rudy Gay and I made a pretty bad joke and continued walking out of the room and by that time I had completely forgotten what I was going to write.
I think it was something like “publicly writing about my actual life, which for various reasons I have been largely afraid to do, for a period in excess of one year, is a good exercise and has stimulated every other kind of writing I do.” But I’m not sure if that was it exactly.
Rudy Gay played for the Memphis Grizzlies, then the Toronto Raptors, and now the Sacramento Kings. He was drafted in the same year as Andrea Bargnani, Bargnani who was drafted first overall by the Toronto Raptors. Now Andrea Bargnani plays with Metta World Peace and Carmelo Anthony on the New York Knicks. Amar’e Stoudamire, who also plays for the Knicks, is injured (I think).
I might have also wanted to write about Roberto Bolaño, because I just made my brother read a story, “The Colonel’s Son,” that one of Bolaño’s translators or maybe his heirs, or more likely a translator on behalf of his heirs, had published in Granta in the fall of 2011. My brother read the story and liked it but asked me what is it about Roberto Bolaño’s writing that makes him so good, because he honestly didn’t know, because he didn’t think the story was all that special, and I said something like “No one writes about those things the same way he does, no one else could write that story about a ‘B’ movie and make it both more and less than a ‘B’ movie…” which seemed to satisfy him but didn’t satisfy me. If I continued in that vein I would have said something more about the ‘B’ movie Bolaño invented for that story, which was more elaborate and depraved and better than probably any ‘B’ movie I’ve ever seen or will ever see. A ‘B’ movie that somehow seems to question not only the reality of the character narrating the events of the ‘B’ movie but also reality itself. Why? I don’t know, it has something to do with the nature of love as portrayed in the movie, the way it all ends in fire and violence, and, probably, the boredom of the narrator, who, though transfixed by the movie he watched, relates its events in a provisional or half-remembered style. As if despite the violence that love engenders, and its real effect on him, it’s just as commonplace or mundane as everything else. Which makes everything either full of meaning or devoid of meaning, depending on how you see it.
Thinking about it later, on the couch before I got up and started talking about Rudy Gay, I realized I should have said something about the way that Bolaño’s writing seems to revoke itself constantly, as if Bolaño realizes that nothing can truly be said because everything written always contains its opposite, and maybe not only its opposite but its true negation: everything that could possibly be written but wasn’t. That’s what makes Bolaño so good, that he knows what he’s writing is maybe a little bit bullshit, because all writing is performance, but he’s got to say it anyway, or it has to speak itself. Somehow, because of this, he doesn’t pull any punches. Even the most vacant Bolaño story is never boring.
There’s more that I could say about Bolaño, but I’m not going to write it all down now, because this is just an exercise and even though I don’t want to treat like an exercise—ie, as something I can just brush off—I’m done for the moment, long out of the room where I left my brother with the copy of Granta and his open computer and Rudy Gay, and I’m ready to move on.
I told myself I would, beginning today, write a blog post every day. Not always inspired. As if by forcing myself to recognize the instrumentality of language I could somehow institute some kind of style or process which will transcend that instrumentality even as it makes use of it.
Lots of times I’ve “produced something every day” and fallen well short of that goal. Once I paid someone money to anticipate my failure ($20). Usually I continue until I feel like I’ve exhausted the medium, finished whatever it is I was working on, or accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. Or become bored, just plain bored. Because of the interior action that those mantras are meant to stimulate, there’s no value in putting something “up” that I did not write that day. So you wouldn’t think that I would do that, but I do. And weirdly, often, at that advanced stage of moribundity, it does count, in the quickly atrophying organ that I will by then be calling my brain.
Anyway, I had a post like that in my head earlier this afternoon, while I was taking a shower. Then I drove to Orangeville and then I put up a post on The Town Crier and then I surfed the internet (mainly The Classical). Then I forgot whatever it is I was going to write (it was going to be pretty good, believe me). Now my brain feels vaguely “stretched” and “stunted.” I have to write something about The Hunger Games (books and movies) before I forget to (I have lots of notes). But before that I think I need to read. It is usually the antidote to feeling like I cannot write. When Hemingway talks about always needing to “recharge,” via reading, I think that is what he meant.
(An aside: I feel like there is too much writing, not enough reading “in the culture generally.” This is probably an idiotic statement. But if writing is a way of understanding what you think, as it is often said, reading is where you go to learn how to think. It is how you attain the raw materials that you will assemble when writing. Isn’t that the real failure of the current literary economy? There are so few paying jobs, especially well paying jobs, that reading must take a backseat to writing, endless writing. I don’t make a lot of money from my writing. From “journalism” and “criticism” I have made exactly nothing. So I’m not the best person to ask about, let alone speak to, this. But what has stopped me, to this point, from making more concerted efforts to earn money from my writing is the weird feeling that I will have to give up reading.
((Aside number two: Give up reading? There’s so much else in my life that I could give up before reading. Reading is something that you make time for, that you absolutely have to make time for, if you have any interest in writing. Right? Right?
(((Aside number three: What the fuck do I know? Why even digress?
((((Aside number four: Maybe it is precisely the lapses in confidence represented by these asides that working steadily is meant to combat. (Yes.) ))))
I am the Maritius Kestrel. My genetic code contains a trait that turns off inbreeding depression, allowing me to recover from populations of less than five individuals. I am the Andean Condor. My feathers are affixed to junk and sold to tourists in large quantities. No, I hate those things and I’m neither of those things.
I’ve spent all day walking up and down the streets of your neighbourhood: where you used to live, I mean. My legs are exhausted and I’m cold inside and out. When I close my eyes I can hear the rhythm of my footsteps, my footsteps on the pavement and the sound of the wind rushing past my ears. Did you get any of my postcards? No, right? When I look up I can still see the grey haze that has settled over this entire city, the dim grey light that haunts my dreams.
Now, I’m the last one to give a shit about birds. Every day when I was gone I thought about birds and I’m tired of thinking about birds. Far from deepening my appreciation of birds my year with birds has given me only knowledge of their weaknesses and limitations. I mean the weaknesses and limitations of a life with birds. I have no more stomach for birds. They are vile creatures and I’ve come back to say that to you; I meant to clarify a few of the cryptic points I made in my postcards.
I’m sorry about leaving you for the birds: really, truly, sorry.
I dreamed about you every night, or maybe not of you exactly but of the city we lived in, our city rising out of the ground like a Transformer and slowly doing battle with a pulsing grey light rising like an atom bomb out of the horizon.
I wish I’d confirmed your address before I left. I wish I’d done a lot of things, I guess.
I have no faith you’ll get this letter. Maybe you’ll come back to the old neighbourhood and meet me on a street one night. Maybe your dreams are the same as mine and that is where we’ll meet.