Where I am, right now, it’s all sunshine and it’s all heat and it’s all just fine.
Two days ago, I wrote something bad, and I sent it to a publication I sometimes look at, and for a few seconds I felt like an idiot, but now I don’t really care.
Last night, I sat around a grill eating hot dogs with people I enjoy, out in some country hills, wondering what’s in the woods surrounding our heads, and they talked about farming internships and famous farmers and not showering and enemas and the sizes dogs can grow into, and I listened.
Before that, I drank beers shirtless out back of my parent’s house while a stereo played songs I picked. I caught a sunburn and remembered the beach.
The previous night, I ate steak sandwiches and sipped quality bourbons, the types of bourbons bourbon-people like and search for, in a bar — a real, open, operational, crowded bar — while an employee, off-the-clock, talked about different distilleries and American history as it relates to liquor and sweetness, and I’d normally dislike this experience, I’d normally find it annoying or pretentious or wasteful, but at that time I appreciated the enthusiasm and the want to share and that someone who makes $9 an hour has found a way to indulge the finer things, so I spent $100 and didn’t mind.
Alec: So let’s get this straight. This is a real work email from a lawyer at the law firm where you’re employed, yeah?
Alec: And he’s actually trying to be considerate here?
Alec: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think it’s a joke. There’s no way, right?
Alec: Yeah, no. There’s no way.
Alec: But they sent this at 11:18 p.m. Like, that’s joking hour, yeah? You joke around in work emails at that point because it’s after hours.
Alec: Yeah, man, but where are the “haha”s?
Alec: You’re right.
Alec: This guy is for real.
Alec: I mean, I complain about my job, and I do this a lot, and I do this thoroughly. Like, I’ve covered every angle of it, and I’m tired of hearing myself say the same few things over and over and over again, but the whole act blows off steam.
Alec: Maybe you do something similar?
Alec: Yeah, yeah. It’s all bad news. It’s all bad times.
Alec: But emails like this one justify talking shit.
Alec: Absolutely. Say any negative thing you feel. It’s your blog.
Alec: Yeah, yeah. Thanks. —
The sense of nobility in it is the worst part.
That, and that it was sent so late, and that I had to read it so late.
Alec: Well, he’s on the west coast.
Alec: Still, man, come on.
It reminds me of those dudes who want everybody to throw out all their stuff.
Alec: The minimalists?
Like, I get it, and they’re not totally off-base, but the whole identity created from it is annoying, and it’s become this way for dudes with money to act self-righteous and write books.
Alec: Yeah, man, you tell ‘em. ; )
Alec: I know, I know. Just fucking with you.
Alec: But, like, who is he being noble for? The private equity firm that’ll hire him? I mean, fuck. Charge that thing all the money you can get. He doesn’t work for the little guy.
Alec: Yeah. But that’s lawyers. Being a lawyer is a way to harbor respect and appear beneficial while pulling cash and being a fuck.
Alec: So you think he’s just doing it for himself?
Alec: I think he’s just doing it for himself.
Alec: Yeah. —
I guess we all are.
Alec: Hey, hey, bud. Don’t compare us to this fucking guy. We are not this guy.
This guy sits somewhere out in Silicon Valley and pats himself on the back for being apart of something “disruptive” or “innovative.” He’s out there everyday in California working his time away for another big business, to lead the way, to get the bones moving, thinking he’ll help remodel history, pocketing more green, selling another smile, thinking he’s so conscious of the world surrounding him, but he doesn’t know anything. I mean, he doesn’t know anything, and maybe he knows he knows nothing, but he won’t admit it, especially not to himself. You know?
We can admit that. He can’t.
The dude’s a wash. He’s another suit and tie thinking he really matters.
Alec: But can’t an argument be made that he really does? Like, considering the shape and play of our day-to-day life, driven by business, the dude is able to navigate all this much more than we can.
He’s probably got connections.
Alec: Fuck his connections. You’re not listening. This guy sucks. The email makes that clear.
Alec: But how can we say that if we, admittedly, don’t know anything?
Alec: Also, this format is getting old. It’s done its thing.
Alec: Look: Yeah, we don’t know what this guy’s childhood was like. We don’t know his beliefs, or what sad things have happened to him that have defined his perspective, or what his mom made him do, or what his frat made him do, or what America has made him do. It’s entirely possible the guy doesn’t actually suck but is just existing how he knows best to, just like so many of us, trying and trying and trying. And, yes, it’s simplistic to sit here and say tired things about wealth inequality or capitalism or corporate greed or recite the typical criticisms of the typical narrative of the typical individual in this country. I get you, man. I do. I hesitate to be that way, too. I like to consider things with some nuance.
But, look, you sat up late some Tuesday night and read this email and you had a reaction. A “fuck this guy, he sucks” reaction. You felt that, yes?
Alec: Yeah. But —
Alec: Own it. Just own it. That’s your perspective. And it isn’t even permanent. It was momentary, specific to an event. Let yourself have it.
Alec: Why is this about me now?
Alec: You know what else?
Alec: I want to get this on the record now. —
In six months everybody will be wearing big rain jackets all the time. Like, that’ll be the look. I guarantee it. Hot girls in rain jackets.
Alec: Alright, yeah. Hot girls in rain jackets. Let’s go.
Stephen Dixon, man. I don’t revere the guy, but I appreciate from a limited perspective (some of) what he did. His Wife Leaves Him, his novel published in 2013, approaches story structure and time in a very playful way that’s also ambitious and serious and respectable for a “writer’s writer.” All of that is thought provoking and invigorating, but it’s a book that will annoy you (intentionally, I think, but still) in many instances because it’s literally about one guy thinking for 400 pages.
And not only that, but thinking to himself. As if in conversation. He spends the night after his wife’s funeral lying in bed, wide awake, reconsidering much of their marriage. Sometimes, he stands up to visit the bathroom and pee, and it’s in these spare instances that his train of thought halts, and the actual present tense of the novel exists. Much of the action is in the recollection. It’s in there that people walk around and pick up coffee cups and hail cabs. It’s in there that about a quarter of the book is dedicated to the narrator reconstructing – or trying to reconstruct – what it was like to call his now dead wife decades ago to ask her out for the first time.
It’s one of those books. It narrows in on small moments and blows them out into their own universes, and it really demands you take a seat in them. There’s a lot of stops and starts, trying to get the memories correct, tangents, weird dialogue that makes every character sound like a telephone receptionist, old people sex, and gooey, gooey love eyes, but above all that are these long, very long paragraphs (pages and pages and pages of the same paragraph) until those paragraphs grow short and the variety of the text expands. That’s the good stuff. All those paragraphs, I should say. That attention to framing the story in such a way is why it’s worth reading.
The paragraphs are (in a structural sense) divisions of time. They mark a particular moment in which the narrator’s thoughts turn to a certain subject or remembrance. Like, the longest paragraph in the book (I think?) is the one dedicated to the first date phone call. But there are layers to this. While the main focus of this particular paragraph is the first date phone call some decades ago, it also features a time when he and his wife made sandwiches or a time when they hugged or a time the narrator slept with someone else or whatever. The narrator jumps around his personal timeline and at times maintains the present tense to really pull the reader into those events, so much so you forget the first or second focal point of the paragraph, such as the first date phone call. It cycles through these layers blending them together, in essence creating this representation of time that is all present, everything at present, all happening at once.
That tells you something about how your brain works. It says memory isn’t imagery or a sensation but proof of a multiverse. It says the novel, or at least the written word, can do this. It can conjure all these moments at once.
Big concepts, you know? But what makes it impressive is that Dixon does all this through action that is, on its surface, basic. His sentences are brief, and they rely on small diction. They are about driving to Maine or classical music or wondering whether the dead wife liked pasta. There’s a lot of repetition and stammering because every word in this book is from the mind of one old guy who can’t fucking sleep. It appears simple, but it contains a lot.
Which is just good storytelling. And the use of paragraphs in this way is very effective because it’s easy to understand, and it utilizes the fundamental form of written words on a page. It resembles the formalism of panels within a comic book (sensible for Fantagraphics to publish this, yeah?). Dixon reminds you that paragraphs are units, and they can be dispensed to achieve a story structure and desired momentum.
But, many times, I almost gave up on His Wife Leaves Him. It’s a frustrating book because of who the characters are and what they do and how they entertain themselves. This is purely subjective. I can’t handle Upper West Side intellectuals who talk about Camus and dissertations and classical music, and the way the narrator and his wife speak to one another, depending on the timeline of the book (and maybe this is generational) is either so, so rigid or very overcooked, and I wanted them to shut up a lot, and I didn’t care about their relationship in the slightest.
That said, Dixon can write prose because every time I would pick it up, twenty, thirty pages would pass by like nothing. That dude knew how to sink a reader into a rhythm and take them. So you end up at the close of the novel, the narrator getting out of bed, 7 a.m., making breakfast on the first day of his new life, and you realize, though the book spanned so many different years and moods and images and conversations, that all of it only happened last night, and it will likely continue to happen. Maybe every night. Maybe all the time. Living all those different times. Until time is up for the narrator. It’s all macro in the micro. It’s all how you frame life.
I’ve got to get off Twitter, man. It’s bad. I’m going to try. Some people just can’t handle a few beers, and I can’t handle that website. It isn’t at all as dire as that analogy implies, but I spend a lot of time on there looking for validation, like please, Profile Man, tell me my existence holds purpose, and the whole act is pathetic, and it’s getting to me, and it’s getting old. I just scroll and scroll and think of things to say, and it all comes out as bad, unfunny, embarrassing, ironic/kind-of genuine ramble that’s designed to please whoever comes into contact with it, especially someone (hopefully) cool (and yet, despite the self-tear down there, I do sometimes nail a tweet to the fucking wall, dead-ringer). And, I don’t know, that isn’t so fulfilling. It’s weird performance art for no one at all, and its simultaneously compared to all the other performances (tweets) around it, and it doesn’t do the thing I like writing to do, which is facilitate some conversation with the self, as it’s entirely aimed outward for the favorites and retweets. So, anyway, I’m on the toilet right now, and welcome to the blog. I want to come back to the blog.
I want to do this somewhat often, but I’m not setting a schedule. I want to write on this blog from my phone and treat the whole thing like a text message to myself. I’ll likely tweet a link to a new post, but I will log off right after that has occurred. I used to write about comic books on here. I’ll probably do that again. And while it may skew the focus of “alec reads comics” to post entries like this post, I feel it makes sense to revisit this space as it’s been sitting here for about a decade, all mine.
Now that I’ve said all that, who knows if it will actually materialize, but it could and it can. We’ll give it a shot. I’ll give it a shot.
Two more things:
I wrote more about self-image stuff (very happy shit, man) at Neutral Spaces. The post is called Hi, Stranger. Very short. Give it a look. It’s related to the Twitter thing.
I also tweeted something about Twitter (wow, yeah, I know) the other night. I still like this line of thought, so I’m including it here since we’re on the subject. See below.