Professional Outsiders

14 April 2002

Yesterday Edward (one of my main characters) wandered around in a haze of grief and discovery. Today will probably be even more fun as he comes out of the haze and into the clarity of both and stirs a healthy dollop of guilt into the middle. (It's not unhealthy for him to feel guilty, given that he's responsible.)

Also, Timprov saved enough of the cereal with dried blueberries in it for me to have a bowl for breakfast. So really, it's good all around.

And if you wanted something nice to read with your cereal -- as I did -- you should go check out Neverworlds, where Lori has a story, "Flights of Angels." Lori's coming over with the rest of the group tonight to discuss the first third of her novel (and a short story from Alec). (My main reaction to Lori's novel: give me the second third! C'mon, pleeeeease? Luckily, this was not my main reaction to Alec's story.)

My mom wants it known that there is a time-tested family method for getting rid of songs in one's head. Actually there are two. The first is to sing the theme song from Disney's "Robin Hood," you know, "Robin Hood and Little John, walkin' through the forest, listenin' back and forth to what the other one had to say...." The other is to sing our madrigal of choice like Elmer Fudd: "Wose, Wose, Wose, Wose, shaw I evew see thee wed?" The latter has worked a bit.

The other thing that worked was Joni Mitchell. Timprov was flipping to VH-1 in commercials from the baseball game, and I got enough of a taste of "Big Yellow Taxi" that I've been wandering around singing (under my breath), "charge all the people dollar-fifty each just to see 'em." Which got me on a few other folk songs with similar sounds, so I'm all right now. Fear not. I have been delivered from Sir Mix-A-Lot.

One of the things that drove me absolutely nuts about the VH-1 show was that someone was going on again about how almost all of the rock musicians came from "the outside of society." Well, first of all, I think that while there is such a thing as coming from the outside of society, almost anyone can lay some claim to it. Any of us with reasonable skills in (ahem) elaboration can talk about how our family was "different" for this or that or the other reason. And some of us will even be talking about something meaningful. Some.

But we're very culturally hung up on artists who have Overcome Great Odds. Evidently the odds against having talent and something that you want/need to do with it aren't enough. We have to throw in "and I bought my first pair of shoes with the money from my recording contract" one-upsmanship.

I believe that if you're going to be a successful rock musician (or science fiction writer, for that matter), some of it is going to rest on professionally casting yourself as The Outsider. (Or at least it has so far.) But there's more than a handful of ways to be outside society, and you can choose to go there yourself. You don't have to rely on mom and dad to do it for you. Really. It's all right. I don't think your work will be any better or any worse if your "Outsider" perspective is one you've chosen or one that you had thrust upon you in various ways. The socioeconomic ways of being outside are often the least interesting, especially since you go ruining them when you get a decent sum of money.

So, for the record, I don't consider that my parents' economic history, personal outlook, or religious/ethnic background in any socioeconomic way make me the outsider, and I had shoes long before I had a word in print. And I don't think those facts make my work any less interesting or worthwhile. I also think that you all should feel free to pay me exorbitant amounts of money for my fiction without worrying that it will corrupt my outsider's vision.

It's pure classism, is what it is: the "working" classes are superior, so even if you're not "working" class, you have to stretch and pretend. (I don't think it makes any sense to call them working classes when a lot of people work their butts off to stay out of them. But evidently we can't say "poor," or if we do, we have to tack "working" on the front of it to make sure that we're not implying some lazy flavor of poor people.)

Ah well. Classism is nothing new.

In other news, I got two rejections yesterday. That was quite a relief. I hadn't gotten any rejections all week, and I was starting to think nobody cared about me any more. (Insert piteous sniffle here.) You can't win with me, can you? I get an avalanche of rejections while I'm gone, and it makes me mope. I get none, and it makes me nervous. If I just got one a day, that would be decent. Six a week. I'd even take the average.

Of course, a few acceptances in there would go a long way, too. I'm just sayin'.

I read Jonathan Carroll's Bones of the Moon yesterday. Enjoyed it, but...well, I didn't feel it was up to the best of his work. He hadn't seemed to hit his stride yet. On the other hand, the main character didn't spend much time running around going "So weird! So weird!" So that was good. I also read a bit more of The Red and the Black and started Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever. I think the problem with The Red and the Black is twofold. The first is that I want to have read it more than I want to read it. The second is that I have a stack of library books that really, really, really interest me. So. I'm enjoying Ship Fever, but I fear that all of these stories are saying something gentle and great and true about life. I get the sense that Barrett is quite caught up in her own use of words, which is not always a good thing. Reminds me of my Intro Creative Writing prof, though, and I did like Joyce a good deal. She was just...fluttery, is all.

Right, then. So. I'm going to read the paper and finish Ship Fever and go back to last week's church and make fudge and generally deal with my "to do" list in various pleasant ways. It'll be a good Sunday. I hope you have one, too.

Back to Morphism.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.