The Obvious

portrait of the author as a writer

Posted in writing by theobvious on January 12, 2011

You should write a book, my mother says. She likes my blog. That’s the same thing. I just have to expand what I’m writing already. I make our family seem more interesting than it really is, so that means I should make it into a book. Are you writing a book, my friend asks. She thinks I should be. Because writing a book is exactly what I should be doing, and everyone knows that but me.

Expanding on my blog, I’d write a caustic novel about the family, which would be larger and funnier than life. It would represent the life of the whole clan as a series of humorous mishaps, with typical amusing character traits, language quirks, and habits. Everyone would be portrayed grotesquely Jewish, but, it would be emphasized time and time again, not religious at all. The only religious character would be A., whose commitment to God and Judaism would be blown so far out of proportion you’d think he was the next incarnation of the Baal Shem Tov or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, only hilarious. My superior position would be self-evident from each page.

My wonderful work, under its clever title with a pun referencing three different cultural notions and understandable to seven people in the world, including me and the six others I’d have the patience to explain it to, would go straight from the New Arrivals shelf to the Half Off shelf, bypassing the Top Sellers and the Staff Picks. There would be no critical acclaim, nor negative reviews, nor any professional notice at all. There would, however, be talk all over town: in my parents’ house, my grandparents’ house, and that of my close friend who has a ridiculously high esteem of everything I do. I would be proclaimed a promising young author both by my grandfather and all three of the family cats.

I’d spend several months to a year writing the thing. At the end of the year, I’d have grown to hate the entire enterprise, and would be typing with a permanent scowl and maybe a cigarette in my teeth (not that I smoke, but it would only be fitting that I should start). There would be an immovable mug of stale cold coffee installed by my side, and to complete the cliché, I’d have unkempt hair which I’d stick my fingers into every time a sentence would refuse to form – and growl.

This would be the only book I’d ever write. Disillusioned after the huge flop that the thing would have been, I’d stick to reading other people’s work, mumbling derogatory comments and imagining that I look jaded. My friends and family would own copies of my slim oeuvre in uncracked covers, proudly telling the guests browsing through their bookcases that his one was by someone they knew. When I’d die, my tombstone would read “Author of [Title]”. Or maybe, “The Grumpus”.

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almost forgot to post

Posted in nablopomo, writing by theobvious on November 29, 2009

Would have been stupid to just forget two days before the end of the game.

It was raining today. I got stains of dirty water on both my trouser legs, but more on the left one. Do I have an uneven gait? Is my left calf more prominent than the right one? Was there more dirt on the left side of the path to the trolleybus station? It is all a mystery. To think I could have avoided those ugly stains (and laundry later) by not going out. Thirty minutes in it turned out I was in no mood to be hanging out, so I went home, and the same two friends I’d gone out to see came over several hours later to play Alias and drink Cinzano.

See if you can spot several subtle hints in the previous paragraph:
a) I have Alias, come play
b) dear husband, I am drinking away my sorrow, return home quick
c) I hate doing laundry

This is how true prose is composed. Seriously though, a guy I know once sent me some short stories to read, and when I wrote an unconvincing review, he spluttered angrily about me being very poorly trained as a philologist because I was unable to spot his cunning use of the motif of the color yellow. Or was it red? Anyway, now I know that contrived prose is smart prose. No idea what reminded me of that episode now.

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a penny for my thoughts won’t be enough

Posted in emotions, home, important, language, me myself, people, photos, places, thoughts, travel, valuable lesson, writing by theobvious on June 23, 2008

This trip turned out to be a learning trip. It was so rich with revelations there was practically no room left for much else.

I learned once again about real friendship, which doesn’t always need to involve personal presence, but is all the more exciting when it does. A friendship I value is a lucky, tricky, strange, full, and happy convergence of two people who couldn’t be more different or more alike. I am lucky to have several of these.

I learned about being the object of the emotions other people usually evoke in myself: concern, kindness, incomprehension, puzzlement, impatience, endless patience, affection, and a desire to share. I haven’t thought much about the way I react to these, and it is probably time to give it more consideration.

I learned a very important lesson about coping with loneliness. I was by myself a lot on the trip, however this was not the self-sufficient solitude of choice, but rather the desolate loneliness of choicelessness. The hours I spent this way left me despairing, with nothing to apply myself to, scared. I want to avoid these.

Finally, I learned something about writing. Someone gave me ‘Lost in Translation’ by Eva Hoffman to read, and the slow, soft, reflective style of someone who went through assimilating a whole new language as their main means of self-expression is an epiphany for me. There is much food for thought in this.

looking up

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romeo and not-so-much

Posted in i don't know, random, writing by theobvious on May 23, 2008

So I tell you I hate poetry.
I tell everyone that. And it’s true.
The things I do for you.
You see, poetry is entirely untrustworthy, there is not
a word in it usually that couldn’t be said in prose,
so why bother.
Still I do, I bother again and again,
bother you and myself to distraction.
I print with trepidation and send with trembling fingers
(exclusively by post, never email)
claiming all the while that poetry –
not my thing.
Then I sit, my teeth chattering,
and wait for your reply.
And if you don’t reply, further living loses its purpose.
More so if you do.
Again and again and again and a gain – no gain, actually –
I proclaim my mistrust for all things poetic,
including for the sake of it sunrises and sunsets,
and Florence, and spiders, and baby feet, and trochee, and and
suddenly, an epiphany.
Just as suddenly, all gone.
Aren’t you in the least bit romantic,
you sometimes ask.
No, is my steady answer,
as my fingers cross shakily behind my shivering back.
The things I do for you
– are, in fact, not that many.

several conversations

Posted in rant, thoughts, writing by theobvious on May 10, 2008

Just now, my mother handed me, having found it in a book, a chunk of my past. I feel winded. So here’s a text I wrote in Jerusalem, following some of the same past creeping up on me on the one hand, and, on the other, several conversations with friends.

Why do things need to be so goddamn complicated? We look at each other and see, in effect, complications. How can I sleep with her, she’s my best friend – how can I buy this, I earn too little money – how will I graduate, I have no motivation to study – how how how does the world not end when everything is so hard on me – and how, not unsimilarly, do things end so quickly when I want them to go on forever?

Quoth Rufus Wainwright ‘everything I like is just a little bit harmful, a little bit deadly for me’. The human race is inclined to self-mutilate by contemplation. We reflect, and deliberate, and consider, and binge-think – all to our own and everyone else’s damage. Each and every one of us is at some point prepared to hurt another, to hunt them down and eat their fucking heart out (instead of heart, I subconsciously type ‘hurt’), all in the metaphorical sense which, of course, is always worse than the physical.

I, too, have a destructive purpose in life. There can be no happiness, no stability whatsoever, for fear of unbalancing my whole loose rickety construction which holds my life as together as possible ever on the brink of falling apart. This is why I am always so scared; so angry. For this reason I exclude myself from exciting things that could easily determine the rest of my life: I am not ready for the rest of my life to be determined. In fact, I am determined to prevent it at all cost.

Missed calls. Have you ever thought about them in the sense of karma and the noosphere? How every missed call is actually an un-happened conversation; un-happied too. They aggregate just above the space that we humans occupy with our houses and our phones, and eat on our bestial id like everything else that hasn’t happened to us, but could have. Visits count as well. I wonder why we keep calling.

Consider also our promises. How is it that we always promise each other only material, futile things? Gifts and stuff and items and love eternal and fruitful co-operation are all pointless. We never promise each other that we shall speak before we think and say hurtful things and this is going to be the main way we ever express our love and respect for each other, and to be ready. Whereas this is about the only promise we could make with all honesty and respect.

Some people take pride in their truthfulness. They take pictures of themselves without make-up (I never wear any, does that make me especially honest?), and don’t eat meat, and obey orders, and raise their children to be good citizens. Watch me now insult every single person in the whole Western civilization: all this is not honesty. Honesty is admitting that you think your morning face cute; you never liked meat in the first place; you hate initiative – but your children are all your own merit. Honesty is indeed saying it like it is, and not the correct way you think it ought to sound.

God, I hate myself so much now I should go on and kick myself in the nuts. Consider preachers if you will. Their main job is to tell people what to do while they sit in their own shabby fucking hermitage and have no chance whatsoever of committing any wrongdoings. Because they don’t do anything. All they occupy themselves with is talking to people without even the chance to hurt their feelings as everyone could care less what they’re saying.

I am a preacher. I’ll go sit in my hermitage and kick myself in the nuts with such a vengeance that I just might kick myself out into the open. See what I do then, the git.

almost closing time

Posted in film, i don't know, writing by theobvious on January 10, 2008

If I ever make a movie, it will be about this girl who lives in my head. Her job is to sit in a clean white space and make announcements over a microphone. In a museum. She’s the girl you hear when you linger too long and the lights start to dim, and she says in a very pleasant voice: ‘Dear visitors, our museum will be closing in half – an – hour. Please come back tomorrow. We will be closing in half – an – hour.’

The first takes of the movie will be her feet. I want her to sit behind a sheet of white cloth – it’s a modern museum, with an innovative view on exhibit design. The cloth doesn’t quite reach the ground, and she is rocking on her chair a bit, stretching her foot, kicking her ballet flat off and wiggling her toes, playing catch with her shoe and both her feet. All while she repeats in this cool nice tone: ‘…in thirty minutes.’

She makes other announcements too, but this one is the one following her around. Everything in her life is a little bit like that museum – not yet closed, but soon to be, with a fascinating secret life already beginning to swarm in the rooms visitors are not allowed to: excited preparations for the next day, private little birthday parties, jokes you wouldn’t get if you heard them. You won’t, of course, but she will.

Parts of this movie would be so perfectly normal that the viewers would relate to them just by sitting on their couch. Other parts, however, would be like having someone else’s fever hallucinations, with the kind of dialogue I love in a movie: people speak in unnatural speeds and tones of voice, and it doesn’t quite make sense, but almost does, and when it’s all over I feel giddy and hungover on words at the same time.

One day I will make that film. Or maybe not, but at least it’s already made in my head. I also might write a book about the creator who only worked on one subject his whole life: made a film, a sculpture, a book, a dance – all on one character, someone he saw one late night on the tube and the light reflected on their face just so. When I think about my movie, I feel like that guy sometimes. That’s probably good.

What would you want to write, make a film, or dance about?

day 22, anything is blog-worthy

Posted in random, valuable lesson, writing by theobvious on November 22, 2007

[Here was a paragraph on my suffering, but I erased it. Marvel at my restraint.]

Anyway, I wanted to be brief today, but then I remembered this post by Rachel of the many talents and the new Yorkie (which, oh my god, squee!). She mentions that for her to enjoy a short post, its author needs to have a decent vocabulary.

Which makes perfect sense, but it also causes self-consciousness in people like me. Do I have the right to post short? Is my vocabulary decent or does it need to put on more clothes? Am I articulate enough for Rachel and the rest of you to like me?

So I performed a simple experiment, where I visited ten ‘Word of the Day’ pages to see if I knew the words. Observe:

1) deipnosophist – someone skilled in table talk. I didn’t know this word before. I’m not likely to remember it, either. Nor am I skilled in table talk.

2) victual – food usable by people. This one I knew, but its pronunciation befuddled me. It’s one of the words I recognize in writing, but have never heard pronounced.

3) titian – a bright reddish or golden auburn colour. Didn’t know this one, would probably have understood it in a sentence from context. It’s rather straightforward really.

4) ardent – showing or having warmth of feeling, passionate. Well, duh.

5) pumpkin – do we really need a definition? Hee hee hee!

6) disparity – difference in quality or kind. Understand it well. Haven’t used it in a sentence.

7) poultrarian – a person who eats vegetarian food and select cuts of chicken and turkey. I know several people like that. Didn’t know the word. I also encourage you to check out yesterday’s word on that website. Unless you’re my mom. Then stay away from there!

8) assiduous – diligent, unceasing, persistent. Uh-huh.

9) Molotov cocktail – a type of petrol bomb. I’d rather I didn’t know what this meant.

10) monument – something that stands to keep something in remembrance. Har har at the definition. Yes, I knew the word.

Okay, result: seven out of ten, including ‘pumpkin’. (Does that compromise the purity of my experiment?) Here’s a challenge: could you use all ten in one sentence? I guess today’s lesson is that I’m okay, but just to be safe I should make my posts longer to compensate for the lack of interesting words.

Best not done while I’m on painkillers.

i… love… writing… wha?

Posted in weird, writing by theobvious on November 17, 2007

Okay. They told me this would happen, so I was kind of prepared. It’s called the mid-month crisis. Well, maybe it’s not called that. I made that up to make it sound cooler. But you know what I’m on about. Well, it’s here. I have it. No surprises there.

The strange thing is the way it manifests itself. I seem to have too many things I want to blog about. I’ve started three posts already, erasing each at an early stage, adding it to my ‘blog ideas.doc’ and thinking screw this, I’ve got something better for today.

Doctor, should I be worried? This feels a bit like when you’re so in love with something or someone and you try to talk about it, and all that comes out is this excited gushing noise, as though the flow of words is choking you from the inside.

KING LEAR
/…/ Now, our joy,
Although the last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess’d; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

CORDELIA
Nothing, my lord.

KING LEAR
Nothing!

CORDELIA
Nothing.

KING LEAR
Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.

CORDELIA
Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.

I think I am in love with writing. So much in love I can’t actually write anything. I hope the day will come when I’ll be as good at it as I am obsessed with it. Meanwhile – oh.