Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Beats

I'm listening to my lastfm library right now. I will write each song that comes on while I prepare this blog post. Right now, Best Coast's "Happy". On March 30th I read with my fellow graduating writers at our Word. World. celebration. My family came from out of town. B was there. Two of my closest friends showed up. Three of my other closest friends showed up right when I was wrapping up my reading. I tried to dress like a priest for my reading because I thought my story was like a sermon. Before the reading began I ran into my dad and his girlfriend. I was really out of it and nervous but glad to see them. I flashed back to this memory of my dad coming out of his room (our room) at our Cottage Way house. I was about 9 or 10. He was getting dressed to go out dancing or something. He came out into the living room and threw his arms out and said, "Do I look sharp?" He smelled nice and he looked really cool, I remember thinking. So now every time I dress nice I think of my dad then and I either say "do I look sharp?" or I think it in my head. When I ran into my dad before the reading I wanted to ask him if I looked sharp, but I was so nervous and out of it, I forgot. B was also down the hall and I didn't want to keep her waiting for me. I don't know why I worried about that. My dad sat me down and pulled out a gift: a powered messenger bag with all sorts of bells and whistles that only recently have I figured out how to use. My dad's voice became sort of solemn and serious. He said he was giving me the bag as a way to say congratulations for graduating (though I haven't actually graduated yet) and just to say 'good job'. I flashed back to another time when I was a sophomore in high school. It was in the fall, at the cross country section championships. It was raining. (Ride's "Leave Them All Behind") My dad and I stood beneath a hallway near the race course. He pulled out a white envelope and inside there was a small necklace with a gold medallion of some saint, I forget now, and a letter my dad had written. It said something like he was really proud of me and that the medal belonged to my (deceased) grandpa. Then my dad pinned the medal to my running shorts and said that when I ran my grandpa would be with me. I ended up winning that race and the sophomore championship. I'm pretty sure this is the only race I've won.

All of us readers sat in a row off to the side of the audience so I got to stare at my family and friends as they listened to the other readers. When I took the stage I was still very nervous. The lights were very bright; I could only see the very far left side of the audience which was only 3 or 4 people... all former peers incidentally. But, that was good I could see them because I felt like I was speaking to my friends, though because of my story I mostly had to read from my pages. I read my story in a way that I've never read before and I think it was much different than the other readers. I didn't know at the time if the audience would pick up on this or not, or if it was just something I sensed. This particular story cannot be read so much as performed. After I was finished I talked to Kevin Killian (one of the teachers here that I haven't worked with yet... or ever will since the year is over, but maybe some day) about the performative aspect of my reading. He liked all the hand motions I made and even suggested I turn it into a type of dance. We were speaking mostly in jest, I think. Kevin brought over Dodie (Bellamy) and we all shared a laugh about the little dance Kevin and I made up for my story. It seemed that most people liked my reading and they really enjoyed the hand motions that I made while reading. (Cut Copy's "Where I'm Going") Some people thought what I was doing was funny and some thought it was serious. Thankfully, B knew that I am mostly always serious and earnest in my writing and understood, later, my frustration that people laughed while I read - though I guess I have to admit I did throw in some 'funny' parts. On the other hand, people laughed at parts which I don't think are funny. The biggest surprise was that here I thought I was explaining this extremely complicated concept and I was really worried people would not understand me, but it seemed as if people did understand what I was reading and that made me feel good because part of the project of this story is to be understood, what it means to understand others, to be understood by others. And then all of the sudden, here I was, after the reading, and it turns out I made sense to people! In classes, a few days after the reading, classmates even reference some of the language from my story in class - like I had introduced this whole new way of talking about things. Obviously, I didn't, but it feels good when people talk about what you have written, especially when they don't have to or aren't forced to by the workshop environment. (Jonsi's "Animal Arithmetic" - my favorite song of 2010)

Earlier today, M Kitchell (a writer who posts on HTMLGiant often) posted a question about Marie Calloway's new story "Jeremy Lin". So I read the new story and actually enjoyed it more than "Adrien Brody"... though it essentially isn't a "story" so much as a blog post. I thought, this is just a blog post, then I thought about how my mentor here, Dodie, her latest book came from a blog, and everything Dodie was trying to do with "blogging" and being female (I'm grossly over-simplifying Dodie's aims, but please forgive me!). I thought, maybe I shouldn't deride Calloway for publishing a blog post because then that would just be like discriminating against Dodie's book, which I absolutely love. Maybe, then, I'm just being biased and since Calloway is younger than me, and more popular, and hangs out with Tao Lin, and gives readings in New York, and isn't Dodie, I just don't like her. But, then, Calloway, in her new story, doesn't even seem to be aware of what she's doing or how she's doing it, and it all seems so contrived (in a bad way). So I guess I don't know. I like Calloway's new story more than the previous, but still don't understand, again still, why everyone's talking about her writing. This all comes, also, from being part of the 'intellectual n+1-loving' writers who find value in discovering good/bad writing... which apparently Tao Lin hates or dislikes... (Health's "USA Boys"), but Calloway, I'm assuming, doesn't mind. Whatever.

So, now, my thesis has been turned in, and I meet in early May with my committee and then they will tell me if I earned my MFA or not. Barring some anti-miracle, they will say I earned it. (Mirrors' "Lights and Offering") Then, what? The book becomes a book and not a thesis or something else. My other mentor Miranda Mellis challenged me to write a cover letter which I will then, conceivably, send out to agents or houses. When Miranda issued the challenge we talked about what my book is about and it was very enlightening to me. Also, it was the first time I expressed to someone other than B what I was really aiming at in the writing, at least in any cohesive way. I will have to explain it again when I meet with my committee. It was great to hear from Miranda that what I thought I had done was not the complete opposite of what she understood about my book. (El Guincho's "Lycra Mistral")

B took the picture above in my room. (I Break Horses' "Winter Beats")