ads without products

format change

with 8 comments

From Spurious yesterday:

I’ve never gone through that, have I?, W. says. I’ve never really experienced failure. In fact I hardly regard myself as a failure at all, W. is sure of that. All that writing on the net, for example. would Kafka ever write on the net? Of course not. W. doubts I’ve ever really read Kafka. If I had, then doubtless I wouldn’t be writing on the net. You want to be loved, says W., that’s your weakness. The net is your delusion. If I had really known my own failure, I would know that. W. has been to the bottom, he says, but he doubts I have. In truth, I’ve never really known failure, despite everything I write, says W. It’s all play-acting.

It’s actually a good question, about Kafka. Completely unanswerable of course. I think, though, it’s a bit tougher than Spurious’s W makes it out to be.

I happen to share something with FK. Lots of people, though maybe not more than you’d think, it’s hard to say, are like us. I’ve written thousands of pages of fiction and poetry over the past, oh, sixteen years. (Half my life, as of a few months, actually). Thousands and thousands of pages. A novel, a half of a novel, countless starts at novels, abandoned twenty pages in. They are all terrible, and if it mattered at all, I’d ask a friend to wipe them from the hard drive upon my demise. Hundreds and hundreds of poems, which, unfortunately, though they might be OK, are almost all exact facsimiles of each other in all the ways that matter. So I could maybe publish one of them, two at most. And that would be that.

To date, I have sent out exactly one poem for publication. Zero fiction, certainly none of the novels. In sixteen years of writing. It wasn’t very good, though it was a little less a facsimile than all of the others. It was published in an on-line journal. This was back in the heady days of the web, so I was actually paid for the effort – a $15 gift certificate for Barnes and Noble. Not bad, though I made more in royalties from people downloading my dissertation, a dollar or two more during the first year of its availability.

When I went back on the job market, while I was at my first job, I wrote the owner of the site and asked him to take it down, the poem. He was very nice and did it the same day. I asked him if he wanted the money for the gift certificate back, and he said, no, no, that’s fine. Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t very good, the poem, and it haunted me that it was out there for all to see.

It is a diffficult question, whether Kafka would have blogged. Impossible question, and a bit silly. But it fascinates all the same. I’m not sure I understand fully the relationship between my, well, addiction to this, the need to fill in this webform everyday, every other day, twice or three times a day. I think I used to believe it would get me some writing work of some sort, which it almost did, but it didn’t work out in the end. I’m certainly not self-marketting, as the people who read this – most of them – are friends, even if I don’t know their names, rather than, what? What else could they be?

I’ve often tried to keep a diary, a journal. I wish that I could – I wish that I had a set of notebooks sitting above my desk that covered 1999 – 2008. I cannot write, it seems, without an anticipated recipient, so the blog works in a way that the little notebooks do not. And so I have this – I wish the archives were all in one place, instead of here and then split into all the little text files for all the dead old blogs. I’ve been doing this for a long time now.

So now I am working on something new. Another novel. Every day, Monday through Friday, you can find me at the Starbucks on XXXXX,* from 3 to 5 PM. After the day job, which is, you know, in the summer about doing my academic writing, finishing something that will earn me lots of money in the form of raises, permanent raises that come with promotion. I’m not hurting, but you know, I could use the extra cash. So, in the afternoons, I am a Starbucks laptop typer, yes. Obviously, the venue suits the subject matter, as you might be able to guess from the contents of this blog, which are not entirely dissimilar to what’s going down in this book. While living in NYC, and working on the first in this string of attempts at novels, I became so infected with what we might call anticipatory marketing sensibility that it fucked the writing, caused the things to grow stunted in the artificial light of the B&N front table. This continued when I left NYC but spent every waking minute pining for it, scheming to return to it. It’s better here – neither being in or needing to return immediately to NYC has done wonders for my willingness to step (ever so slightly, perhaps) outside of pitch anticipation. My wife says I should just forget about what would work and do what I want to do. Living here has been good for us in this way. Expatriation makes a lot of sense for certain people, I think. And, in general, I’m not sure that city, NYC, is all that great for writing. It’s too, dunno. You know what it is. It helps to live where there’s just the right mix of splendor and shit, a mix of the right sort of splendor and shit. There, for me, before the thought’s even a thought it comes out $$$$$$$$$$$$$.

If I finish this thing (I think I will, and by the end of the summer), and if I, you know, do the things you do to try to publish it (god, we’ll see, my track record ist nicht so gut at getting these things into envelopes with stamps and cover letter) and that doesn’t work, I’ll set it down in pdf for you guys to have, on me. And I’ll try not to think of it as my own personal In Rainbows move, especially since there’s no back catalogue for me to sell you. Maybe, soon, I’ll make up a little representative section for you and you can tell me what you think if you want.

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 8, 2008 at 10:09 am

Posted in me

Tagged with

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Well, that’s quite interesting as confessional and otherwise-wise, as was once briefly said. So you think the light at Starbuck’s is less stunting than that at Barnes & Noble? I can’t write anywhere else but in NYC, but I also write everything in pencil on paper before typing it in. I never think of the marketing aspect until I’ve finished the work. But–you get what you pay for: I may not have the same temptations you have, but I also am much-despised for frequenting blogs and not having one. Further, I recently thought I’d have one, but that would be after I finished the book and would be purely promotion, I wouldn’t even pretend it was anything else. Sounds like your at an in-between place in which you can almost write as you’d really like but not quite–but also cannot do hack writing just for the money (I think I could do certain types of hack writing, and still hope to be offered it–I know that some of the critics in the Arts are vastly low, but I also am fully aware that they’re connected in such a way that they get the jobs, just as with everything else. Why else hire Stephen Holden or Ben Brantley or that godawful dance writer Toni Bentley?) I think liking to write as I do, IN New York, may be fairly rare, though, as many New Yorkers want to go to the country or any numbers of retreats like MacDowell or Yaddo. Anyway, good luck on it. Also good on the ‘need to blog’, which I guess is prevalent. I always think I can hear it as a bunch of electronic sounds and sometimes greasy ones, but I don’t notice it when I write if I type it on Word after handwriting it first. The machine does a lot of the writing for you, I think Baudrillard was right about that. Anyway, I think the better bloggers tend to take a good amount of care with their posts. I usually just throw them off without even proofreading–which doesn’t mean I want to be a slob so much as I just think of it more as discussion on television or something, but that just happens to be in the form of typing words to somebody.

    Patrick J. Mullins

    July 8, 2008 at 5:07 pm

  2. Hmm —- is it better to not have written anything at all than to have sprawling unfinished piles of prose lumped about? Or to only daydream about writing but never actually do it? (or daydream about reaping the fame and adulation of some mysterious vague piece of writing never actually specified — that’s my specialty).

    Maybe you think too much. There’s all those thousands of people pumping out their Buffy slash fanfic that’s absolute shite with immense satisfaction and no attention to remuneration, or quality. Of course, this is coming from a girl who hasn’t written anything Serious in ten years.


    July 9, 2008 at 2:35 am

  3. The other thing to consider is that ‘would Kafka have written on the net?’ is not automatically answered with ‘of course he wouldn’t’. And finally, that film was totally disparaged at the beginning as being a totally low form, with nickelodeons and bits with Sarah Bernhardt on them at the Paris Exposition of 1889 or 1890 or whenever it was. And I’m not talking about Benjamin’s much later loathing of film from his lofty perch–that was well after the Industry had established its headquarters in Hollywood. I don’t know whether blog writing such as Lars does is comparable to early creativity in the films, but what you have primarily informed me of here is that most bloggers are very attached to doing it, while not thinking it is undefiled. But that attachment explains a lot to me, because the active bloggers therefore must be getting a lot of pleasure from it. Now I can see that I wouldn’t in the same way, so can give up my guilt about my pariah status. Very interesting point we’ve found ourselves circling around here.

    Patrick J. Mullins

    July 9, 2008 at 3:36 am

  4. There is something profound going on in this post, though it’s not about Kafka. If I had to pare it down to a single question, I’d say it was this: You collected double-digit dollars in royalties on your dissertation?


    July 9, 2008 at 5:23 am

  5. Patrick,

    Thanks for all that – you’ve been a great commenter of late and I think if you want to keep contributing free content to my blog rather than having your own, then that’s good by me.

    Did you happen to work at the Union Square B&N? I always though that one in particular had the look of some sort of pomo British Library from the era of Marx and the like. Huge, huge cafe by bookstore standards, all just there for laptop typing. The time has passed, by someone should have written an article about it. The glaciers of magazines that would accumulate on the tables as people left etc.

    Sounds like your at an in-between place in which you can almost write as you’d really like but not quite

    Exactly, exactly. I really shouldn’t complain, and actually I’m not lately, even if I spend more time than I like on other things. But even the academic work is feeling a little better lately as it feels like, sure, I am working out something that I’d like to know. But yes, the Kafka / point of net writing / Lars question is what I was trying to get at here.


    I know, I know. I’m trying to feel that way about it. My life is just one grinding battle beween political / personal idealism and some rooted nasty tendencies to think, you know, about commodifying every single thing that I do.

    But even beyond the market, it’s nice to be published, read. And and and it would be nice to have more time to do it, and to feel less guilty about wasting time on it.


    (I owe you a message, coming, coming…) Hahaha. How terrible is it that you see the number (like 12 copies or something) and you think, “Shit, there’s half the people that might have bought the finished product – gone!”


    July 9, 2008 at 10:20 am

  6. “Did you happen to work at the Union Square B&N? ”

    No, but extraordinary coincidence you should ask. Not only was I given a B & N gift card for my birthday by one of my friends, but last week someone else and I went to the old venerable textbook one at 18th Street, because a girl had overheard us and told us the huge one up at 21st and 6th had recently closed (that surprised me, because it was the fashionable one for the coffee, etc.) There they had no CD section, and I wanted to use this card for my brother’s birthday, who had introduced me to Nina Simone as a child. We were told to go to the Union Square branch, and there I found a CD that had the two songs I remember from the ancient LP he gave me: ‘Forbidden Fruit’ and ‘Memphis in June’. My brother will absolutely love this. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve really inspected the premises as closely as you have–have been to two author readings there, Rushdie in 2002 and Didion in 2005.

    Thanks for kind words and gracious gesture and attitude, and of course, I’ll be looking here. It occurs that you may have also a difficulty in moving from the rigors of academic writing to those of fiction. Sometimes essays can effect some sort of modulation. But the matter of ‘inferiority complex of new media’ is still important, I think it’s a possibility that in time, blogging (especially when it’s not discussion like Lars’s) a kind of diary will become reified to the degree that writers who consider that they cannot write will be forced to leave the internet because they can no longer enjoy the sensation of inferiority on it. Or something like that. In other words, my guess is that the idea of being able to ‘scribble personal thoughts’ in public is one of the appeals of that kind of blog. Otherwise, why pick Kafka, even if I don’t even necessarily think he’d be the one who would stand tall and always ‘refuse the net’? But I do agree he would be one of those least likely to do it. In between Kafka and you and Lars there are many published novelists who, if they were younger and not already famous as book writers, would be writing on the net. As it is, there are numerous good writers on the net with their novels or excerpts as well, and one of them, at my request, has finally printed out one and is sending it to me! He had written a whole novel without ever printing it out–and printing out immediately makes it more readable, makes it seem more lasting. At least, I find long tracts of text very taxing to read on the screen, and when it’s materialized onto paper, it seems to have more existence. The e-book is definitely not yet made into a comfortable enough form, and I won’t read one.

    Patrick J. Mullins

    July 9, 2008 at 3:45 pm

  7. Patrick —- Kafka’s story is such a temptation for a writer — that he produced all this material, held it unpublished, asked a friend to destroy it, and instead it was discovered that all this writing has such incredible quality and value. At least I find it seductive. But I always worry that my literary friend would actually do as I say and burn the manuscripts, or perhaps worse, everyone would read them and find them of no intrinsic worth at all.

    This push and pull between promoting and hiding, publishing and destroying, I think it’s huge for writers. Now blogging I think provides different pleasures and satisfactions, but I’m still trying to figure out what they are.


    July 10, 2008 at 6:38 am

  8. Sisyphus–and you’ve surely been following the developments with Nabokov’s novel he ordered burned. It looks as if his son will publish it, but I was for the writer’s wishes in this case, nevermind the quality. Shows ain’t nobody gonna look after you, so burn your own manuscripts if you must.

    “Now blogging I think provides different pleasures and satisfactions, but I’m still trying to figure out what they are.”

    Yes, it surely does, but I’ve found that some bloggers find it invigorating and rewarding most of the time, and others are drained by it and think it distracting. It’s really according to all the usual things–personal termperament, scheduling, laissez-faire when things get out of control with controversy, etc. Spurious’s is interesting, though, because it could be possible that he has written something which is predicated largely on his self-proclaimed inability to write, and if he found out that he’d come up with a form that someone thought had quality–why, he might not be able to continue writing, which he indisputable does do, while also not being able to.

    Patrick J. Mullins

    July 10, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: