Drawbacks and Data Points
6 March 2002
Well, it looks like me and Tom are just going to form ourselves a little mutual admiration society. He was saying he liked my journal. I've been reading his, too, and he had such a fabulous line today: "Not everything is profound, and most especially not the big things." Yes, yes, yes. If you approach the Big Questions of Life at all, you can't do it in a way that says to your listener or reader, "Shhhh, Big Questions of Life ahead. Treat with great reverence. This is very, very profound. Listen to the hush and the tremor in my voice." You're allowed to say, "Everybody shut up, I'm about to be deep," but only if you play it for a laugh.
It may be really tacky to quote myself, but I'm going to do it anyway, because it's apropos. In Reprogramming, my narrator said, "It's the things that just aren't funny that are really damned funny." Funny isn't the only way to handle those things. It's just that Very Very Deep is not, especially not for a professional. The profundity stick is a particularly damaging precursor to the message stick.
I did want to talk about selling vulnerability, because I think there's more than one way to do it, and one of them is okay with me, and the other is not. John Popper's "Girl Inside My Head" is the first way. Girly girls dressed up in schoolgirl slut costumes are the second. The vulnerability in the first is, as far as I can tell, genuine and emotional. Importantly, it's not an invitation for sexual predators. Popper's vulnerability in no way sexualizes or trivializes other people who are that vulnerable. And that's what bothers me about the schoolgirl slut costumes and the golly-giggly-girly singers: they sexualize a type of vulnerable that some people genuinely are. I have cousins who are fast approaching the age that these girly singers are feigning, and I don't want them leered at by a bunch of folks who have been shown that Lolita is the order of the day. I don't want their genuine vulnerability to come out as a come-on. "I look 12" should scream "so leave me alone," not "treat me like a 'naughty girl.'"
Well. I finished the draft of "Small Talk" yesterday. Mark has read through it and commented, and Timprov is going to finish doing so. Timprov liked what I'd done with "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Boy (With Aliens)," so we're now talking over the edits to the first scene. Pretty close to ready to send this out. That feels pretty cool. We've worked on stuff together before, but much of it has gone on the back burners, so this is the first one going out to see the light of day, and I think we'll both be proud of it.
It has not escaped my notice that I've finished two drafts in the last two days, in addition to working on the Not The Moose Book. But I am not going to be obsessive about this. No no no no no. Not me. Not obsessive. Okay. I'm going to force myself not to behave as though I'm obsessive about this, which is really what seems important. I have decided that I can try to finish another story today, but if I can't, it is officially No Big Deal, and if I finish one I should not go for two. Really. I need to get some stuff drafted, but not to the point of being ridiculous about it, especially with my back giving me fits.
The problem with "Small Talk" is that it gets a Roxette song in my head. Yes. Roxette. Timprov had never heard of Roxette (I didn't bother asking Mark -- he doesn't like most rock music, much less Swedish '80s bands). But I remember Mandy playing the "Joyride" album over and over, and I remember being willing to go along with it because at least she was not repeat-playing the Mr. Big single. When we were in England for French Club right after high school, we had an Italian bus driver who liked Swedish music, so my memories of the drive to Stratford-upon-Avon mostly involve "The Big Love" and other Roxette hits. Such a world.
I try not to get frustrated with my rejections, because it's part of the business and all that. But yesterday's -- oh, yesterday's was bad. The editor didn't understand what had happened with the ending. I thought I had come perilously close to spelling it out in all caps: "P.S. THEY FLEW AWAY IN A FLYING SAUCER WITH THE ALIENS!" It's kind of depressing when I think I'm being obvious and an editor thinks I'm being subtle. It's a data point for what not to send that editor, though.
Well, I've started my packing list. The major drawback to my travel plan is that it involves being in the Midwest in March. Which is fine except that I have no clue how to pack. When I said this to Timprov, he said, "Versatilely?" Well, yes. That's kind of key, since it might be 70 degrees or it might be snowing on any given day I'll be gone. (Okay, 70 is unlikely in mid-March in Minnesota, and snow is unlikely in late March in Nebraska. But still.) But these clothes have to carry me through two and a half weeks of variable Midwestern spring.
This is such a great major drawback. I mean, Mark isn't going to be able to come for most of it, so that's not so good. I'm going to copy all of my important files into my e-mail account so that I can send stuff out again when it gets rejected, overcoming that problem. Other than that, the runner up for major drawback is that there's never enough time to do everything and see everybody I want to. (However. There appears to be enough time to do the science museum with some small cousin-people, which is pretty darn cool.)
You can tell The Centurion's Age isn't holding me, because I haven't been reading it, given the chance. I've been picking at household chores or reading periodicals (Analog and GQ yesterday -- GQ is Gustavian Quarterly, not the famous one) when I could be reading it. So the moral of the story is: boring book. Blah blah blah, immortality, blah blah blah, Roman empire, blah blah. I'm more than 100 pages in, and I haven't cared about a single character. I also haven't been compelled by any plot arc, so back it goes to the library unfinished, and good riddance. I'm going to read The History of Danish Dreams on the train up to David's today instead and hope that's better. Peter Høeg hasn't let me down yet.
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