Monday, February 16, 2015

February 16, 2015
Often I may come across as a bit of a book elitist. I frequently talk about the inferiority of certain genres. To be fair, there is artistic merit in every written word, but I just have this feeling that we are dumbing down our world one book at a time.

A unit is only as strong as their weakest link. That was a key lesson of Marine Corps Boot Camp. The point wasn't to denigrate the weakest link, but to get the stronger links to encourage and prop up those weaker links; to strengthen the group by not cutting out those weak links, but instead by making those links stronger.

The truth is that there is a reason "pop" music is popular on a general scale. It is the least offensive form of the art to the largest portion of the society. But that does not mean that we have to dumb down the music. Sometimes a form of rebellious art can become popular because it embraces the flaws of its own artist and becomes something beautiful. In the case of music, Nirvana became popular not by trying to be like everyone else, but by challenging the establishment and forcing it to recognize a very large and disenfranchised customer base who had grown weary of formulaic music.

Will the same happen in the book world? Sadly, it is less likely so. The truth is, it is difficult to get music executives to change their thoughts, but it is even more difficult to get book executives to change. In music, there is always a place where musicians can go to be heard. There is always a bar that will embrace the change. Where do writers go? Book stores don't take on independent authors who are not yet established. Sure, poets may get to go places and get read, but novelists have nowhere to go to be heard.

With that we have to make a decision, do we want to be read, or do we want to speak. If we want to be read, we pander to what the market dictates lessening our art into some formulaic nonsense that offends the fewest people possible. If we want to speak, we write what we feel and let the words be what they are; words. Words can be powerful, but only if they are your heart.

I see people ask on multiple blogs "can I write this, can I write that?" as if there is some sort of arbiter of what can and cannot be done when you write.

When James Joyce wrote Ulysses, did he ask "permission" to use stream of consciousness? Of course not. When Virginia Woolf used the same technique, or later when Faulkner first used this narrative technique, do you think he went around saying "golly, do you think it is okay if I do this?" To be frank, fuck no he didn't.

The best works of fiction come from the flaws in our souls and the flaws in our art. The best art, is the kind that no one sought permission to perform. Kurt Cobain did not ask permission from critics to write "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Why should you ask permission?

If you are to read my novels, you will see that I do not feel it necessary to follow the same form and function that some former English major who happens to write for some little newspaper thinks I should follow. I expose my soul by digging into my own fears and weaknesses. My dreams, my thoughts, my nightmares. Those all go into my characters. The best art is that which comes from truth.

Don't let yourself think you have to fit the mold of someone else; be your own writer. Write your story. If we are good enough, it might just get some attention. If not, at least you will have been true to yourself.

Take those flaws that make you and turn them into bits and pieces of your characters. As a man who has struggled with sexual compulsions for most of my adult life, I embrace that and take it to fictional levels to tell a bigger story. Class, sex, greed, anger and frustration. Those are all things which make up part of who I am and those things become parts of my characters.

Notice too that I do not feel it necessary to follow convention when it comes to sentence or paragraph structure? Where some like to use commas or conjunctions, I will often use short sentences to replace commas. I will use a period or semi-colon to replace a conjunction. That is part of my narrative style.

Who gives a flying flippity flop if some reviewer for the New York Times likes my style?


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