Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Writer Envy

So, a small break from all the decorating talk to say a few words about the book currently on my nightstand. (Actually, there are 3 books on my nightstand, but this is supposed to be a somewhat quick little post.) Even though I've got my Hot New Writer radar cranked down pretty low these days, I still noticed a lot of press and attention given to Miranda July's story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. I always feel that little bit of....frisson when I see that a new story collection is out by some hip young thing. Frisson, which you know, is actually more like a little shiver of unadulterated jealousy.

I wanted to read the book, and yet I didn't, especially after seeing how cute and ingenue-ish looking Ms. July is. Cute, waifish girls with adorable haircuts are not supposed to be good writers, too. That's specifically one of the rules made by the just and honorable Writing Gods. Right? Oh, and then add in that she also made a movie that won special jury awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Really, how good could she be?

Well, turns out the answer is: Pretty Good Indeed. (Dammit.) I'm enjoying the book very much, and as always, when I enjoy a book very much and lay there admiring the writer's wit and graceful turns, I get that old, biting sense that I need to be writing, too. Really, really need to get on that.

If you look over there at my "About Me" square, it says that I'm blogging to tear down a massive Great Wall of China-sized writer's block that's been lodged in my face since.....since a long time. Maybe the blogging is doing it's work, because the writing voice, that little echo in my deepest inner ear, is making itself heard these days, and I'm listening.

In the meantime, I'm glad that I picked up this collection of stories. July's stories are on the short side, and quirky enough to remind me a little of Aimee Bender's work, but without what I consider Bender's love of the gimmicky hook. She has some great lines that resonate and reveal in all the best ways that the short story form is supposed to do. Like this, from a story about two young girls who have run away to Portland together and gotten jobs:

"Everything we had thought of as The World was actually the result of someone's job. Each line on the sidewalk, each saltine. Everyone had rotting carpet and a door to pay for. Aghast, we quit. There had to be a more dignified way to live. We needed time to consider ourselves, to come up with a theory about who we were and set it to music."
Lovely. So much for the just ways of the Writing Gods, not that I had any real faith in them, anyhow. (July's website for the book is also super-duper cute without being cutesy, and the "About" entry on her other site is enough to arouse envy and grudging admiration from any soul with creative aspirations.)

As for me, I spent the day daydreaming of and being nostalgic for college campuses I have belonged to and visited, like UCLA and my alma mater, CSULB. I've had some serious longings lately for my county of birth, L.A. County, and for college campuses in general. I realize lately that if I want to get there, to get back to them, then I'm gonna have to play like a salmon and swim terribly hard upstream to escape these suburban, exurban sticks and find my way home. And the only real way to do that, it's becoming more clear, is to become myself, somehow, and buckle down to listening to those narrative- and metaphor- and sentence-lovin' voices in my head, and not be afraid of what they have to say.

Jeez. No wonder it's easier for me to just take pictures of and talk about the john.


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