OBSCURE AT 30.
Been busy. I guess we need to catch up.
I spent the holiday contemplating my own obscurity. If you're
a terribly self-absorbed person with very little sense of perspective,
this is an exercise I cannot recommend enough. It's the perfect
way to spend a long weekend and, if you've already got some liquor
handy, it doesn't cost a thing.
I started early, on Friday afternoon, by staring at a copy of
Sarah Vowell's Take
I didn't crack the spine; I just stared with angry, jealous intent
until my eyes grew weak and I blacked out. I don't know what happened
during that period but when I came to, the room smelled of urine,
and dried tears had crusted my eyes shut. I still haven't recovered
my copy of that book but each morning I routinely inspect my stool,
just in case.
On Saturday I sat down to make a list. Making a list is kind
of like shorthand for having a nervous breakdown. My list was
titled, "EVERY ROUTE POSSIBLE TO GETTING (SUBSTANTIALLY)
PUBLISHED AND BUILDING AN AUDIENCE." I mapped the list out
and annotated it, in an effort to find the most expedient, and
most accessible routes. For example:
- Befriend David Eggers (too embarrassing; plus, Neal Pollack
sort of owns this one.)
- Insinuate myself into Monday night "Eating It"
series at Luna lounge in NYC (requires low self-esteem - check!
- and a lot of blind self-promotion - ouch.)
- Moth? An excellent reading series in NYC (great way to meet
other disappointed writers but not really a great way to change
my state of being a disappointed write.r)
- Submit story/stories to This American Life (a.k.a. "The
David Sedaris Trajectory." and i'm sure i'm the first person
to have this idea.)
- Submit story/stories to David Sedaris (i can get his phone
number and address in Paris from a friend. however, i'm already
afraid if he reads my submission he'll think i steal from him.
i have developled this particular twitchy paranoia because Sedaris
seems to be the writer that most people push on me once they've
read my words. well, him and Syd Hoff- but i think Hoff is dead
or, if not dead, sleeping. i would also like to state for the
record that i didn't read Sedaris until i heard his name mentioned
in reference to my writing quite a few times and, while i enjoy
his stories, it's almost difficult to talk about him without
feeling somewhat self-conscious. his writing feels so target
audience-ready. declaring my affection for the humor and wit
of Sedaris is like a 70 year-old man going on and on about the
excellent prose style of Louis L'amour or the sweet taste of
prune candy. it's so obvious it doesn't even need to be stated.)
- Submit stories to the southern writer, Padgett Powell (he
once paid my writing a nice compliment, which i still hold very
dear, but i understand he's always drunk and short of memory.
in the end, this route could be more damaging than anything
- Submit stories to Readers Digest's "campus crack-ups"
(a bit too depressing.)
bomb? (far too depressing. besides,
i already tried that.)
- Actually finish my book proposal and submit it to the
literary agent who actually requested it a million months ago,
and submit additional copies to the other agents I know (that
means doing real work, though. forget it.)
- Marry rich king and live my days in a gilded castle, occasionally
self-publishing collections of my more droll correspondence
(now we're talking!)
Creating the list leeched an enormous amount of energy from me,
so I took another nap. When I awoke the next day, I was already
angry. And hungry. I ate a box of fish sticks and, as I dipped
them in ketchup, I decided that my site should be considered a
"humor" site instead of a "web log" or "personal
site" or even "zine", and this point of semantics
is exactly what has been holding me back artistically. (my honesty
no doubt reveals a special kind of insanity.) Then I read my site
thoroughly, pausing thoughtfully at every single poop and pee
joke, and concluded I had been mistaken all along, and that maybe
tremble.com should be considered a "cry for help." Unfortunately,
despite all my research efforts, there are no award categories
for that. Drat.
Finally, I started looking at other people's web sites and wondering
why I wasn't linked to many of the sites I read. This actually
happened, and I've no sense of pride about it. I catalogued sites,
looked at the people they consider unconditionally funny or interesting
- people like Radiohead and Wes Anderson and Dave Eggers and Mahir
- and wondered, out loud, why I didn't make that list. Was I too
angry? Too insipid? Too irregular? Not foxy enough? Not black
enough? The stunning silence that followed my desperate query
was the only answer I needed.
It was at this point I decided I hated the Web. I drank some lager
from one of my shoes, fell off my chair on to the floor, and accidentally
kicked the cord from my modem on my way down. And I've been down
here ever since.