I think I will write a dirty novel.
No really. Think about it.
I could spend my time studying the great novelists and poets, which I have. Dissecting poems, comparing translations, reading thousands upon thousands of pages, all in the quest to write something worth reading. I spent years of my life doing so. What I have learned all boils down to one quotable phrase… (🔆 👀)
“The secret of popular writing is never to put more on a given page than the common reader can lap off it with no strain whatsoever on his habitually slack attention.” – Ezra Pound
Like, I get that he was being an elitist twat (this coming from the guy that says if you don’t speak three languages you’re illiterate) and this quote wasn’t writing advice, but maybe it should be. Why spend a lifetime struggling to write the next masterpiece when you could write some trash that makes money? Legacy? Who gives a fuck about legacy? No really. What does being known and respected and lauded after death do for anyone?
When I was young, I thought living life in such a way that I could write about it later was everything. I chose boyfriends, flats, and jobs on that approach to life. Why live in a house when I could rent a room above a bluegrass record store in San Francisco? Why date a nice guy when I could date the long-haired musician in cords who drove a biodiesel car and emotionally abused me? I took drugs, and I had sex, I went to gigs and parties and art shows in pursuit of this life to write home about. I thought if I lived enough I could write that great novel. I figured if I read enough… And god have I read. I read everything I was ever supposed to read. The Russians. The French. The beatniks. The modernists. The Romantics. The Parisian expats. Dante too. I read all the mythologies, the fairy tales, the entire fucking Bible twice. I thought that somewhere I’d find… I don’t know. The voice. The truth. The great enlightenment that would enable me to open myself up to become a vessel of the Muse.
Maybe writing a dirty novel IS enlightenment. Look at the fifty shades of gray/twilight phenomenon. Apparently getting middle-aged women moist is the key to a comfortable life. Why strive for great art when great art won’t fill the pantry or pay the chiropractor to fix the spine you bent reading. No seriously. I’m nearsighted because I spent my entire youth reading books. I have circulation issues in my legs because of sitting for hours on end just reading reading reading. Great art caused those problems and won’t fix them. But erotica could.
Anyway, I am just late night rambling because I am an insomniac. My little family is sleeping either side of me, both of them snoring gently. I had too many jumbled thoughts to sleep, so here I am. Hello. 👋
Speaking of reading and great art and all that, I have a story. A brief bitter tale that I might as well air here, as I have done so many other bitter stories.
I grew up in a small village in the woods. Guerneville, California population 1700ish. My family life was unhappy at best, but my surroundings were idyllic. Ancient groves of giant redwoods… Wide lazy rivers… Clear mountain streams where I’d wade in the hot hot heat of July. That sort of thing. I can’t bring myself to tell you much about my family other than to say I was continually trying to escape. Books and those idyllic outdoors provided my means. I have a mother who attempted to control every move I made… Sure every goddamn thought I had really. So the former was more frequent than the latter. OK like, I have to mention the religion at least. I grew up in a fundamentalist evangelical household. Like if you have ever heard of the documentary Jesus Camp.That. My mind had outgrown the confines of that bullshit by the time I was 9, and my mother saw it happening. As I grew, her grip tightened. She wanted me to be a good Christian who never questioned God’s word (the Bible), who married a pastor, or at very least a worship leader. I wasn’t meant to think. I was expected to obey.
Apparently, that didn’t work out.
Anyway so back to the story, because that was just the backdrop. Oppressive religious household, avid little reader, and Guerneville, California.
There was a second-hand bookstore in town called twice told books where I spent many happy hours as a teenager. My mother homeschooled me until the fifth grade, which meant my access to literature was limited. My sister provided me with quite a bit when she could, but my mom monitored everything (you should have seen the shit storm when she found out I had read all the Greek mythology). In my public school years, I managed to read loads that she wouldn’t have approved of thanks to libraries and silent reading hour. 😂 Then in high-school, (which oh my god you guys, I can’t even begin to tell you how botched high-school was because of the evangelical regime), I was exposed to like, the real stuff.
This post is getting long, and I’m still on backstory. This rambling is why I’ll never actually write a book, dirty or otherwise. I’d spend three hundred pages explaining the backstory behind why the protagonist decided to have a sandwich on that particular Tuesday. 😂
Anyway. Twice told books. Literature. Oh right. So I used to browse the shop looking for authors that had been recommended by other authors in other books. One summer day after finishing Islands in the Stream, I went looking for Tolstoy. I’m sure there had been a reference in the novel, and several books I had read previously also referenced him, so I went hunting. I found and bought a paperback Anna Karenina, but the shopkeeper gave me side eye for doing so. Weird. After I paid, I walked out to the seating area of the cafe attached to the bookstore. Oh, well, I suppose the bookstore is inside the cafe. Whatever. Anyway. I met two boys from school out there, and they both also gave me the side eye when they saw the book I was holding. WTF?? Apparently, they didn’t have me pegged as the type who could sustain attention through a Tolstoy translation (look it isn’t Tolstoy proper unless it is in Russian, I think we can all agree.) I read the goddamn Bible twice, Tolstoy is cake. 😂
I never forgot that moment though. Three males in a row were looking at me as if I were a poser with my worn paperback. That side eye said so much about how they perceived me, and it wasn’t flattering. I devoured the book anyway. One of those boys pranced around town with a copy of Pride and Prejudice that summer as if he was the most important and sophisticated mind of our generation for approaching such heights of literature. 😂
Writing about reading is strange. It also feels moderately pretentious but sure look. It is what is on my mind at 2:40 am, and I have to expel it some way or other. Anyway, I think I will try to sleep now. I’ll write that dirty novel tomorrow.