… it is often our mightiest projects that most obviously betray the degree of our insecurity.
– W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz
Paradoxically, it is this willed closure or neatness of finish that the true artist needs to resist, fending off the urge to smooth out the rough surfaces of pain, necessity, and accident.
– Mary Kinzie, Introduction to Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea
You are writing behind a screen. Two screens. Some call them eyeballs. Somewhere behind them electrical charges speak in a silent voice that churns thought into word transferred to letter and back to word on paper or screen. Another screen. There is always something going on in the background. Some of it you control, most of it you don’t. And none of it is seen or understood, but we trust that the outcome will mostly speak to others. Does it speak in tongues? Will it slip in through their eyes and proceed through the reverse electrical transformation. Stored. Saved. A memory of what you said/wrote. Some say the world will end in fire. But really it will be noise. The endless cacophony of a billion voices and all those words scrambling to get a foothold over one another, desperate to find a friendly eye or a considerate ear to enter. Desperate to rest.
I had this idea in the middle of the night that maybe I could stop working for the almost astronaut and get a job writing fortune cookies instead. I could try to write really American ones. Already, I’ve jotted down a few of them. Objects create happiness. The animals are pleased to be of use. Your cities will shine forever. Death will not touch you.
– Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation
DATE DESCRIPTION/PAYEE COST
October 5th | Kit Kat Gentleman’s Club $57.89
October 6th | Jezabelle’s Floral Emporium–anniversary arrangement $45.00
October 7th | Kit Kat Gentleman’s Club $104.37
October 8th | Joe’s Swedish Massage Warehouse $300.00
November 4th | Institute for Couple’s Counseling $50.00
November 11th | Institute for Couple’s Counseling $50.00
November 18th | Institute for Couple’s Counseling $50.00
November 25th | Kit Kat Gentleman’s Club $450.00
December 2nd | S. OWE DOTES Divorce Attorneys $350.00
December 25th | Hilltop Motel–week’s deposit $500.00
January 1st | Morning Heights Apartments, Inc. $2,400.00
January 15th | Child Support Payment #1 $675.00
January 16th | Kit Kat Gentleman’s Club $150.00
January 19th | Morning Heights Clinic–STD screening $50.00
January 21st | Gurn’s Pharmacy–prescription ointment $68.19
February 10th | Gurn’s Pharmacy–prescription refill Insufficient funds
Note: I wondered whether one could tell a story using someone’s checkbook or credit card statements. It would be akin to turning the reader into a kind of investigator piecing together the clues… filling in the blanks. Could you create a sense of character? If so, to what degree? This was my initial draft above and while it was an interesting experiment to attempt, I don’t think I’ll be doing so again.
I might have known better, nothing is what everybody wants, the world runs on that law. Personally, if I could, I would instigate Meat-Axe Day, and out of the goodness of my heart I would whack your head off with a couple of others. Every man should be allowed one day and a hatchet just to ease his heart.
– Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
I would like to make a book out of crumpled-up pieces of paper: you start a sentence, it doesn’t work, and you throw the page away. I’m collecting a few, I would have the pages printed just as they are, crumpled, so the random pattern of the creases is interwoven with the tentative, broken-off sentences. Maybe this is, in fact, the only literature possible today.
–Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name