Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Story in one paragraph?

I need my mind to take some things off...No, I need to take my mind off some things. As usual, my own foolishness. I read short stories--as usual. My heroin. But it didn't work this time.

I'm building up a tolerance. No, I built it up long ago. I can mainline 12 short stories in a row. Or even more. If only someone would take them off the market. They are everywhere. They may ruin my life.

Like any addicted person, I prowl and search for what I want. I become elated when I think I've found it. I stay up all night feeding my habit. My health suffers, my work suffers, I withdraw from society. I even consider not having children--they may interfere with my reading.

How did I get hooked, you might wonder? The library....college...supposed to write my honors thesis. There they were: The Best American Short Story Collections. Why did I ever sit in that section? It seemed like the perfect solution. I'd sworn off novels (my addiction to them is also powerful.) How long could it take? A short story. It seemed like nothing, so easy, so quick. I'd be done before you know it. I could take a 'break' and go back to writing.

I did finally turn in that honors thesis. A year after it was due. And it's been downhill ever since. It may sound like I'm exagerrating. I'm not.

I wasn't even an English major. I started out as one and switched to Government. The problem with being an English major was that it destroyed the fun. Sort of the way doctors can't smoke usually. They vividly imagine what is happening in their lungs and it destroys the pleasure.

Oh, stories are so good...so very, very good.

I think...maybe if I write a story this will work and give me a bit of a high? I wonder if it is possible to write a complete story in one paragraph? Writing stories doesn't give me the same high as reading stories. It is more like methadone. I don't care if my stories are good--not really. I only care for their mind-scraping effects. It is like literature for me generally--I hardly remember what I read and I never read for any edifyin' purpose. I read only to escape. The reason that Anthony Trollope works better than Michael Crichton (sp?). I can't say for sure. Merely that if I find out the premise of a strong genre based novel I will read the first 10 pages, 10 pages from the middle and the last 10 pages. I am impatient and hate suspense. The 30 page method doesn't work for Trollope or Dostoevsky and that is really the only reason I read them--they work better for my escapist purposes since they last longer.

I think the idea that reading is enlightening or that great books are more than great stories is probably false. For me, anyway. What I care about is a good story and the writers I most admire tell stories and tangle them with some sorts of complexities that make you forget they are only stories. Some mysterious complexities for me--the person who switched majors (not that it mattered since Derrida or Lacan really didn't bear any close relation to literature that I could see). The power a book has on me is unanalyzable and I don't bother to analyze it. For my addict purposes contemporary novels usually suck...horribly. I am afraid to read those which are the most celebrated since they fill me with outrage that lasts for many days. That book Cold Mountain is the last of those 'books of the year' that I dared to read. I hate Jane Smiley, I hate all the Janes. I can't stand any book that has been sponsored by Oprah's book club. Maybe things like The Correctionsare good? I'll never know since I can't bring myself to read books like that anymore. And I hate Thomas Pynchon. A lot.

The addict fears bad dope almost as much as withdrawal. So now I'm off to try...to forget. It doesn't last since you have to come down sometime but if you are lucky and hit the jackpot in what you read the haze will stay with you for at least a day and sometimes several. When it clears, of course, you have to start all over again.


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