The Bitch is Back

Keith Richards
Keith Richards

WHAT IS IT about a little cubicle with two red chairs and a black computer that makes you feel human? Why do we need such inhuman surroundings to tell us what we really are? After three years alone in my little home-office elbows-deep in the living clutter, it’s good to be here, good to be anywhere (thanks Keith). After years alone with cat, dog and window spiders, it’s good to be back among my fellow species—an individual in an unindividuating world. A blue dot against a blue screen—would it know what it was? That was me tapping away at my fictions—I was becoming a fiction too. I just don’t think I was ready for it. The paradox of being an emerging whatever—writer, artist, songwriter—is that you are preparing to disappear. You’ve made the commitment. You see yourself dissolving into your art. Not waving, drowning, and the sooner the better. But you need to ease your way in. Careful tiger, the water’s cold as hell.
My cubicle, by the way has two red chairs, one at my desk and one for visitors. It has a corner desk in beige with a cupboard overhead. It has a black Microsoft computer with a Diamond monitor. Identical workstations stretch ahead of me and behind me but I can’t see them because we are divided by a partition made of textured pinky-red material in a black steel frame. Across the aisle is a row identical to mine. It is silent except for the dampish grind of the aircon and the disembodied crunch of someone eating crisps. Quietly. I swivel at my desk. My bag is on the other chair. I’m not expecting visitors.

MOVING IS HELL!

Especially when you zap your inbox changing email providers, your gut packs it in due to stress, your kids go into lockdown mode, your from-hell oven gives the Thanksgiving turkey an afro, your home-business and sole source of income stalls due to a packaging snafu that leaves you covered in powdered dextrose, there’s no hot water in the kitchen, there’s no kitchen, your son’s room comes with an ensuite, the rest of you have to use the outhouse, which is just great for your gut-rot, the incumbent cat-lady’s fleas have mutated into Portugese jumping biting THINGS, the flight path has been diverted to directly over your house, and just to get the hell-ball rolling, the removalist is DRUNK and abusive and you have to pay him just to dump your stuff in the back yard and leave.

Then it rains.

Vale David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest, The Broom of the System, Oblivion and other works  committed suicide on September 12, 2008, after a long battle with depression. The NYT’s A.O Scott describes him as an “ally and an influence, a link between the giants who inspired and enraged him and whoever comes next.” I bought Oblivion about two years ago, but didn’t get around to reading it. The day David Foster Wallace died, I read a story calledIncarnations of Burned Children.” When I recovered I read through the collection. One perfect story after another. (For an excellent review of this collection, see Adrienne Martini’s article on Bookslut.) Incarnations blew my mind. It singed my brain. It changed me. Not only because of its subject matter, but also because of its perfection. Like the sky on a clear night. It’s perfection made me feel small and that it was alright to feel that way.

David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace

Songwriters are writers too.

Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson and friendsmeasureformeasure.blogs.nytimes.com/: The song writing process sounds familiar to writers—nine-tenths perspiration and one-tenth inspiration. Too bad more top writers won’t step down from their ivory towers and confab like this. Our profession could use this kind of cool. Maybe the decreasing chances of what we think of as “success” has led to a kind of over-protectiveness. A slyness or shyness about sharing any tiny crumb with our fellow travelers. Continue reading Songwriters are writers too.