George Saunders – Highlight Reel

I make no distinction between what pleases me and what might please a reader. That is, if I feel the reader will be pleased by a thing, I simply want to do that thing. Period. I don’t care much about anything but being entertaining – with entertainment, I hope, being defined as “ultimately interesting.” Everything matters. Suffering is real. Death is imminent. On the other hand, if he wants to go deeply into himself, subjugate his own pettiness, discover some big truths about life – there’s no way he can lose.

Realism is nonsense, when you think of it. As soon as I start writing, things start to unfold around some central moral vector, and that’s that. If you’re going to have some really crazy things happening, you have a better chance of being believed if you jump off from some believable ground.

We are walking corpses. Murderers walk. The dead don’t really die.

We’re not slaves any more to ideas of “the real” or, for that matter, to ideas of “the experiment” – we’re just trying to make something happen to the reader in his or her deepest places. There’s something about the normal approach that makes me scared and sick. Just put everything together that feels like it came out of the same aesthetic suite of ideas.

That’s the theory, anyway.

All good fiction is moral, in that it is imbued with the world, and powered by our real concerns. It is instructive, it feels that way, but instructive in a deep way, and in a way that does not flow from a writer’s desire to instruct. Rather, it flows from the writer’s confusion. Our approach is preventing us from reaching into the more profound aspects of our experience, especially as we get older and less jaded and the checks start rolling in and the grandkids have grandkids and we see that life is not so angry after all, at least not all the time. Life came brutally knocking at our door, and now we are reconsidering the venture.

Of course you are the most important thing, of course you exist separate from the rest of the world. The Cross Old Man has at last admitted that writing can be taught. You don’t do what we usually do, which is convince with language. So it changes the nature of the challenge.

How much of the brooding cynical nature of our art-fiction is meaningful and how much of it is just limited technical ability and/or sloth? I think there are deep truths about our time that are dark and scary. That, to me, is art’s highest aspiration: to show that nothing is true and everything is true. To work as a kind of ritual humility and ritual celebration, of all that is. So I say, anything that gets us going. There is no Real Life – there is no objective reality. There is just your version of it, and it has to be in your language.

Hence the constant necessity for new voices.

___________________________________________

Observation/Reflection: George Saunders is unique – very creative. A simple reading of his work left me perplexed, but intrigued. “My Flamboyant Grandson” is just strange enough to keep me interested and wondering – it poses just the right amount of questions into its validity. It is, as Saunders himself later tells Ben Marcus, a fantastic story delivered in a believable way. There is no fantastic opera – the story is cast demurely, and so, is swallowed with a tad more ease. His storytelling isn’t cliché, and he isn’t afraid to plunge into dark and scary worlds, portraying them with enough whimsy to bring them out into the light. The world Teddy lives in is severely oppressed – depressing even – and yet, Saunders is so ingenious at displaying the glory of Teddy’s survival and his grandfather’s efforts that the oppression isn’t as dreary and all-encompassing as it otherwise would have been. He writes without unnecessary flaunts of his style, and so, his writing is just naturally ‘likeable.’ I am no exception to this rule, and loved his work immensely.

Advertisements

Driving home, on a rainy night

Well, if, by home, I mean “dorm,” then my title stands correct. And lately, the dorm has certainly started to feel more and more like home. I guess some people are just meant to get along better with friends than they are with family. And this rainy Sunday night’s no exception. I can’t wait to get back to NYU, finish my homework, and catch up with friends. I have class at 2PM tomorrow, but still, the mornings seem to fly by, especially because I have internet in my room.

Such a distraction!

My life seems to be fairly neutral for now – I know how much you all love being updated on my love life. Well, right now, its going stable. It’s consistently nonexistent, you see. The second semester has just begun, and with it, I have a (manageable) workload that seems rather fun to complete.

Especially the Creative Writing.

That class is most definitely my favorite so far. I enjoy every bit of it, and the stories we all read and write are amazing. The class is tiny – just 15 people – so there’s a lot of one-on-one attention. We read our stories aloud, which is otherwise a very intimate part of my life, and we help each other learn how to be even better. And I have to say, I’m surrounded by many brilliant writers there. But everybody seems very nice, creative, and truly inspired by this course so far, and I can only hope it’ll stay this way. And the best part – each week we explore a different style of writing. The blog post before this one was fashioned to be a short-short, a story of only 1-2 paragraphs. And I’ve never actually written one of those before, so I felt quite accomplished once I’d finished it. Creative writing has opened my eyes to more than just “typical” writing.

Literary Interpretation seems really interesting to me as well, in that its full of very very smart people. I have only 2 other freshmen with me in this class; all the rest are juniors, essentially. It feels very weird to be with people so much more experienced with college than I, but at the same time, I’m hoping I can learn from them. Their perspective on literary analysis is doubtlessly more refined than mine, and since I’ll be participating and actively interpreting texts along with them, the class will force me to pick my game up.

Moving on, I have my “World Cultures: Africa” class! This is one I’m taking with one of my closest friends at college, so we enjoy it, or well, we’ve enjoyed the 3 days of it that we’ve had so far last week. The professor is a hilarious (white) guy, and the all of the precepts seem very nice.

But I have yet to meet mine. He was actually IN Haiti at the time of the devastating earthquake and its equally as tragic aftershocks. As a result, he won’t be teaching our recitation for this week either, but we should be able to meet him the week after that. I’m guessing he’ll have quite a fresh perspective on the pertinence of what we’re learning. He’s been in the thick of it, after all.

The view from the window right now is quite gorgeous. I’m almost mesmerized by it – I can see the beautiful skyline of the city already from here. We should be back at my dorm soon, and I can put up this entry then as well. And let my poor roommate in – she’s locked herself out, and my other roommate (I’m in a triple, remember) isn’t back yet.

Once I get back, I’m going to read Dante’s Inferno. Seriously, I’m looking forward to it – I’ve always wanted to read it, but never actually had a chance to. Or well, I was lazy because it was never required, and extra literary readings weren’t really useful in high school. Now,, they just help me feel like more of an intellectual. It sounds nice to be able to say that the last book I’ve read was Dante’s Inferno.

I’m pleased. And happy. And home.

Storm.

The storm raged for hours. The ship rocked, and the tumultuous waves threatened to knock it over, but still, the boat pressed on. Lightning cracked, and thunder crackled overhead, and still, the crew pressed on. There was no food left, and not nearly enough warm blankets. But the crew persevered, and continued rowing. The heavy rain came pouring down, and so did the sweat from the men’s bodies. But then the sweat and the water mixed, and one could not even know the men were tired. But if you looked at their lethargy, then perhaps it was apparent. They were ready to give up now, these men. The crew struggled to gain inches on the sea, and were threatened every second to be pulled under. Such cruel torture they had to survive, but still, the crew pressed on. Toil and toil, row and row, they continued into the wee hours of the night, when suddenly, the rain stopped and the clouds broke apart. A few hours later, the sun rose, and the men wiped their now visible sweat and relaxed.

They did not congratulate each other. Storms were part of their job description. Storms were necessary, a break from the monotony of their routine. Perhaps they had gone a little insane, because they had once been afraid of storms but now they only wondered if anybody had died. Dying in a storm was a brave enough thing – it did not have to be mourned. If one died in a storm, for if one died bravely, it was an end to a life well-spent. If the storm was the taker, then the man’s soul went in peace. He fought as hard as he could, but was swept away by the wind, or swallowed up by the water. But he did not drown, he passed on. The storm never truly ended, you see, so the men were content. They would all die happy, because the storm never ended. The rain and the wind and the lightning and the thunder may have ceased to rage around their boat, but the storm was never over.

Writer’s Block: Snark, who goes there?

So today, I happened across a Writer’s Block question. Now although I’m fairly sure I don’t have writers block, the question posed is still quite a relevant one, sO I’m going to try and answer it.

I’ve been in an entirely online relationship before.

Now this doesn’t make me a guru in the subject, but it does give me a slight bit of authority to speak about how my personal experience has affected me, both then and now.

We broke up.

We broke up two years ago, actually, but we’ve still managed to remain friends. I think the distance has something to do with that, because had he been here with me, not only would the course of our entire relationship have been different, but upon its end, I would most likely not have wanted to speak to him again. Or see him again.

In this case, I’d never even seen him in the first place. In person, at least. Pictures and webcam don’t count!

At any rate, for me, an online friend is easier to trust. I can tell them my deepest darkest secrets and they may not understand, but they won’t judge me either. Sometimes, friends in the “real world” can’t help but do that. I have friends in other countries, and if we ever lose touch, that’ll be the end of it. Online friendships are temporary respites, and to develop them more fully, some sort of physical connection is necessary. Now whether that be progressing to the next level (ie. exchanging phone numbers) or actually meeting up (provided you live relatively nearby and the opportunity presents itself), then that online friendship can develop into something more real. And if it does, then that person, I would say, is more reliable than other friends you may not have known solely online.

Why? The answer is simple.

The person I’ve known online first learned to accept me for who I was, not for what I appeared to be physically. I may not be a fat slob, but even if I was, and this online friend trusted me and considered me worthy of their confidence, then that’s already made them a better person than some of the people I may interact with – the people who’ll do nothing but make fun of me.

So an online friendship, when founded, needs that level of trust. You need to, first and foremost, trust the person not to judge you. And if they don’t, and you give them the same courtesy, then I think the friendship that develops is precious.

I won’t lie – I’ve told an online friend things I couldn’t dream of telling my high school or college friends.

As for the second part, about online relationships, I can tell you how difficult it is. Just take a look at my other post, about forgotten feelings rushing back. He was my online relationship. But more than that, he was still my boyfriend. Whether society may judge him otherwise, I still liked him. A lot.

And after we broke up, I struggled with those feelings for months and months – there was no respite in the fact that he was a boy I knew online, and online only. The connection that develops is still there.

There IS another person behind the other computer screen. And I fell in love with that person, not the devoid-of-emotion computer screen. So I find it ridiculous when people tell me that because it’s an online relationship, it’s not real. It doesn’t mean anything.

Of course it does! It means a lot if you’ll let it.

If you trust your partner, and your partner trusts you, and you both are faithful to one another…that’s stronger than any “in-real-life” relationship I’ve seen. Because there’s no effective way to catch an online boyfriend or girlfriend cheating. If they kiss another girl at a party, you won’t know about it unless they tell you.

So a relationship that can overcome these limitations and still survive – that takes real skill. Real skill and real devotion. Feelings like that in a functional online relationship can never be discounted.

The above, for the most part, answers the third part of the writer’s block question. I don’t think that there should be an emotional disconnect in an online relationship. If you truly love the boy, as I did, then you will be just as upset and heartbroken over the break-up as you would were you physically dating somebody.

And if you aren’t, then the online relationship was a farce. If it cannot elicit some sort of emotion, be it happiness or anger, then you don’t believe in it. If you hold it at a distance from your own self, then of course, the emotional disconnect will be there. But then again, if you don’t truly FEEL your relationship, how can you righteously say you’re in one?

An indifferent relationship is no relationship at all.

Recurring Emotions

I’m at an awkward stance – the feelings I had for an ex-boyfriend are starting to rush back, rather wildly. We dated long ago, before I even took my AP Biology exam. I remember that vividly, because he used to stay up late with me, keeping me awake as I answered question upon question in the lengthy practice examinations.

I really liked him, and one can never fully forget one’s first crush, I suppose. At any rate, that’s a problem I seem to have. I can’t forget you, no matter how hard I try. Not that you’ll ever chance upon my livejournal, but in the event that you do, this isn’t something you haven’t guessed at, if you don’t already know. I enjoyed your company immensely two years ago, and our recent exchanges have only heightened that feeling.

I miss you.

There, I’ve said it. That’s what it is – I miss the ease with which we used to talk. I miss our intimacy, and I miss the fact that I could trust him with all of my frustrations. He was always a great listener, and all of that hasn’t changed one bit.

But still, we broke up. We ended our relationship, and that has to count for something, right?
How can I expect him to like me again, and to like me enough to overcome the reasons that broke us up in the first place. Especially when it’s been two long years since, although if you were to look at our recent conversations, you would never be able to guess at that. I love it when you’re a flirt.

But why should I define my feelings. I think I’m just going to stop doing what I usually do – it’s never ended well up until now, doing it my way. So although a part of me is craving his touch, and yearns to hear him say those three words to me again, another part of me knows that I should wait.

Wait it out. I’ve known him since I was 15 years old. We’ve grown up together – if we can persevere through these years, a few more months will only strengthen our friendship…I hope.

I’m scared though, I don’t want to lose him again. It was devastating enough the first time…do I really want to be heartbroken again? So if I just think of him as a good friend until things are definitely headed in a certain direction, I’m not getting my hopes up.

And now i’m talking to him, and sufficiently distracted, so I’m just going to post this!

Freestyle Writing #1 – Just for fun

The midnight moon was beautiful. It was shiny, and it even sparkled. It reminded Heather of fairy dust. Not the moon itself of course, but the beautiful hazy clouds that attempted to veil its beauty.

It is as though the moon leads us to its own magical kingdom, a kingdom where we can defy gravity over and over again without help from technology. On our own, we are able to make of this world what we will.

This world is dreamy, and heavenly. In my mind’s eye, I can see it now. The office dissolves into a serene garden, and immigration is a thing of the past. I walk over to the swing, climb on, and swing away my years.

The midnight moon was beautiful even then, as an eight year old child in school. Well, I wouldn’t be at school at midnight of course, but the moon held its allure even then. I imagined I was a werewolf, or a vampire, or even a moth – so long as I had the capabilities and beauty of a nighttime object, I was safe and secure in my own little haven.

This world is heaven. I glean from it all the happiness I need. It is devoid of relationships, for the very word entails complications. The world is more free, more open, and societal norms are all broken.

I can be a lazy bum if I want to.

Or a hot mess. That’s what society calls it these days.

When I’m on this swing, I can think again. I can feel alive, breathe freely. My thoughts can be heard, just as the sky can be seen. I see the stars, a generous sprinkling of them on the nighttime blanket. The sky doesn’t enshroud me, but it envelops my soul. I am filled with this expansive presence – the presence of the entire world is within me.

I can do whatever, be whatever, and go wherever in this world 0 time and location no longer have any restraints. I can leap across a body of water, leap across a mountain, or simply be content nestling within a valley.

My heaven is full of bright colors; full of different experiences. I want the grass to be green, and the sky to be blue. My heaven is "normal", but better. I do not need the security of wild imagination – if my grass was blue, I’d be bewildered. I do not need change to be happy. I only need freedom. That is the one and only exception – freedom and whatever changes it entails.

I want darkness – without it, my midnight moon would not be relevant, and that’s the basis of my heaven. My foundations lie not within the molten magma but the open skies. I want my core to be orbiting above me, always out of reach.

If I can not touch it, I can not taint it.

Working – Day 1

Working with my father has its perks. A strict 9 to 5 schedule is not one of them.

My day started off early in the morning, far too early for my taste. I’ve gotten used to sleeping in I suppose, and waking up before noon was torturous, to say the least. But at any rate, I woke up at around 7:20 when my mom refused to stop shaking me until I got up (because the alarm set for 6:20 failed to dent my sound barrier), and was ready for work by 8:15 (ish), which is when my father had instructed I be ready by.

Lo and behold, he was late. We didn’t leave for work until 8:45 (ish).

But time schedules aside, working in a law firm is definitely cool. It’s not the first time I’ve been here of course, but the prestige of being the ‘boss’s daughter’ makes me smile everytime I come in. It’s especially fun when there’s a new staff member. At the risk of sounding snobby, the new secretary attempted to "teach me how the office works" by telling me to man the reception and get used to things, and I gave her this look and told her I was here to finish up my cases, not take care of the reception.

That’s right, finish up  my cases. I had a few pending ones from this summer, and my job at work isn’t that of a secretary’s assistant, but rather a lawyer’s assistant, so to speak. And since the lawyer is my dad, that essentially means he’s given me a few cases of my own, and I’m responsible for handling all the affidavits, statements, approvals, and appeals. With my dad overseeing me, of course, but still, it makes me feel quite accomplished.

Today, we undertake a fairly big project. What started off as clearing up some office filing space has turned into a massive rehaul of the filing and storage system. There are a few hundred files lying around in filing cabinets that are what they refer to as closed cases, and once a file is closed, it can be moved to storage to clear up space for new files. Simple enough, but dad wants a new labeling system for the files in storage so we can find them quickly if needed.

I’m in charge of handling that project. Go me!

So once I run the new system through the approvals I need, it’ll be something fun to do when I’m not working on affidavits and such for cases – another fun thing to do, but extremely tedious, dreary, and depressing if done for too long a stretch.

But back to the perks. I get paid a LOT more than my measly $8.50/hour work-study at college. Tons and tons more!

And with that ginormous amount I just paid in Spring tuition, fees, housing, and meal plans…..I need it. The money, that is.

On an off note….perks always reminds me of Galvin.

That, and pork-barrel spending.

Yum!

PS: Today, while waiting for my ride to pick me up, I had a conversation with the person next to me. I don’t know who he is, but we both enjoy frolicking through meadows. MLIA

That’s a funny MLIA. I wanted to savor it.