The book festival yesterday was thought provoking. Lots of thoughts were provoked. Here are a few of them. As a young person (and today as well) I read a lot – I was inspired by great storytelling from the likes of Tolkien, Verne, Piers Anthony, Robert Heinlein, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, and London. I am inspired by well written history, thought provoking philosophy and spirituality, and approachable, practical how-to books. I like books that allow me to learn. I love books that allow me to visit far off destinations and exotic cultures and landscapes.
As a younger adult – I was also dazzled by the reckless and dangerous lifestyles of many writers. Hard drinking, hard drugging, hard loving, emotional roller coasters – like Hank Moody from Californication – I wanted to live like that.
I was never inspired by popular fiction like detective novels, thrillers or best sellers. I never wanted to be some boring baby boomer slaving away over a word processor and sitting in empty halls filled with tables behind which boring baby boomers sit eyeing potential readers with hunger.Yesterday, I found myself right there. Best selling author Philip Margolin was there too, sitting behind a table, trying to smile, signing books. I had no desire to be him. I had no desire to read his books.
I’ve not wanted to be Hank Moody or Jack Kerouac or Hemingway for quite a while now. The desire has passed. The idea of being an older Jack London type, building a ranch, hosting friends, fighting for good political ends…that appeals to me. I’d still love to write compelling stories…but they need to be stories with a purpose, stories that have more substance than a Moody-esque “I drank, I got fucked up, I got fucked, it was awful, I survived, I did it again, something awesome happened, I was miserable, I did it again”
My books previously have been a combination of how-to, travel to exotic places, introduction to exotic ideas, and fucked-upness with an over-exaggerated desire to attract attention by offending. I was using offense as a hook…which was (perhaps) novel in the 80s and 90s but now, in the age of the internet, is just boring.
I’ve changed a lot. I admit it. Enough that I can see foolishness where before I thought there was brilliance. Enough to see problems where before I thought there was quality. I was in love with my title “Douchebags, Fags, and Hags” I thought it was hilarious…yesterday, honestly, I was embarrassed by it and while I still love the novel – am pretty sure I would have sold a lot more if I had called it “The Sultanate of Baboob” or “Pig and the Sexy Nun” or even just “Pig”. There were other things I noticed and was shocked by, such as my putting of an ancient pre-Columbian artifact showing two dogs fucking on the back of my rather serious “Liminal Travel” – I remember thinking it was funny – an artifact from the MET referencing an off-color joke on the back of my book – but it has nothing to do with my book. Why did I put it there? Probably the same reason I put the horrible back cover on Smooth Living – enough to see that Slackville Road is a good idea with bad execution…and an ugly cover. I was blinded with love for my own creations…and I think the time I’ve taken off from writing has been a good thing.
The money and time I spent yesterday did not yield a financial return, but even so, I think it was well spent.