— Male Proverb
made us write “process log”s for each of our writings, which I thought were the biggestpieceofshitwasteoftimewhythefuckdoIhavetodothem assignments. For a student taking 18 credits/7 classes/honors program/directing/acting/writing a short film/part time retail job during Holiday Season, it sure as hell was, because I had no idea what I was writing about. How did you write this, how long did it take? But more importantly: Why was it important? Why was what I was writing significant, if at all?
At that point, what I wrote was whatever I could pull together without getting on my knees and praying to God to smite me with such force that I’d be in a coma for the rest of my life (or dead). When I wrote my process logs, each one of them was bullshit. I couldn’t care less about the process—what I wrote just existed, and unlike the beautiful, amazing works of my peers, my writing was the cross-eyed, inbred half-cousin of them. It had no depth, no “bigger picture”. And even if I made the reader shovel a bigger picture down her throat, would that picture mean anything? Would it have transformed my haphazard, ugly duckling works into glorious swans?
Then I get to thinking about the purpose of a novel I’ve been writing since graduation, and I think it’s time that I think about a process log. Why this story, and why now? What is its significance, its bigger picture?
The story is about a teenage girl living with her single father, who has never met or heard about her mother. When her father proposes to his terrible girlfriend (and teenage girl’s best and only friend is preparing for his senior year of high school), the girl decides to go on a journey to find her mother. She hopes that finding her mother will make her whole, and even give her hope for the future.
The bigger picture is the idealized nature of parent-child relationships through the eyes of children who lack a close bond with their parents. When I was a freshman in high school, I was first chair clarinet and had a solo the last concert of the year. I was so excited that my parents would hear me play, just me. And then when my friend drove me back home after the concert, my mom told me she didn’t even go.
"I was too tired," she said.
Except everyone else’s parents who showed up had jobs too. It made no sense that she couldn’t show up to sit in a dark theatre for two hours at a high school ten minutes from our house three times a year. I cried on the bus after telling a friend.
In a lot of ways, the lack of a mother figure in this story is my mother’s failures as a parent. Both mothers act out of their selfish needs — the girl’s mother giving the girl up to cover up her terrible life choices, my mother giving up interactions with her children to watch her soaps. At my last high school performance, all the seniors wore roses on their tuxedo shirts. My mother did not see me in mine. Since then, I’ve stopped playing the clarinet.
When something is absent, we become afraid or infatuated with it. The teenage girl imagines her relationship with her mother will be flawed, of course, but her mother is amazing and strong, beautiful and intelligent. She has to be. And if her mother doesn’t meet the girl’s ideals, the girl will be scarred forever.
— A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
— My mom
Woman: *speaking Chinese*?
Woman: …Are you Chinese?
Woman: Oh, I thought you were—
When people ask me if I’m Chinese, Vietnamese, et cetera, et cetera, I don’t want to answer their question. What does that have to do with me? Why is that your first question?I get it. It’s part of my heritage, it makes me bilingual, but honestly, why does race become a determining factor in interest? It’s not like when I first introduce myself, I say, “Hi, my name is Asian.” This woman wouldn’t have talked to me if I were white, if I were black, or even Hispanic, since she didn’t ask me, or anyone, her question, while we were all waiting for our cars at the dealership. I’m lost when people use race as an excuse to be comfortable.
A.H.W.O.S.G. isn’t my first Dave Eggers book. The very first was his “autobiography” of Valentino Achak Deng, called What Is the What, which was marketed as fiction. I read it for an English class, and when I was sitting with my professor in her office, talking about what I was going to write for my essay on What Is the What, she asked me, “Not a lot of people seem to like it or understand what’s going on. Do you think I should teach it again?”
The thing about Eggers as a writer is that his style doesn’t follow the classical model. It’s the same reason why people are put off by Jonathan Safran Foer — postmodern writing happened, and in classes where Tolstoy and Austen rule the syllabus, people are not going to like what they find. And that’s fine, because the style can be off-putting and strange, but at the same time, can’t it also be seen as a new and improved form of writing?
Unlike What Is the What, A.H.W.O.S.G. is more experimental. Both are written in present tense, but A.H.W.O.S.G. has diagrams, interview format, script format, meta-nonfiction — I could go on for days. It’s different, and for some, it’s a bad different, like the way people are battling about universal healthcare. But, in a lot of ways, this book has opened a lot of doors for writing itself, and the postmodern movement is taking chances with writing that other authors were not willing to take. The formatting, the style, the devices used, they’re all used for a reason and give insight into Eggers’ identity and feelings at the time. It’s a clever way of using show, don’t tell — it’s smart. In a world that revolves around saving time, the way something appears giving an understanding of a situation saves a lot of words. It literally shows us how to feel on the page, and what’s so wrong with that?
If you’re not a fan of postmodern writing, don’t read Dave Eggers. But if you’re interested in the way writing is changing, go read A.H.W.O.S.G. Writing is always evolving, and there is no way of preventing that. And even if you don’t like Eggers’ style, the postmodern style, the least you can do is admire what it does.
She told me she hated me hated my fucking, fucking guts, that I was a piece of shit, how could I do this to her how? How? I was terrible, fucking awful, godfuckingawful, just like our father and how he kicked her out of the house JesusmotherfuckingChrist I should’ve just brought the money, the money she asked for, the money she was going to use for drugs, for heroin, but I couldn’t. She wasn’t my sister, she wasn’t anybody I knew. She no longer belonged to herself.
I’m going to start posting something every day from now on, as best I can. I may not be able to run every day, but the very least I can do is write.
Write every day, because if you believe in the act of writing, that it is an effective form of communication, that it is more than just words, then you will write and write and write. You write because you believe it is important.
Gandalf: We really should leave. We’re in a hurry.
Gimli: No, Gandalf—we still have time! Sit and tell more stories!
Me: NO WHY
She looked at the piece of paper, then at me, then back at the piece of paper, she covered her eyes with her hands and cried, tears seeped between her fingers and collected in the little webs, she cried and cried and cried, there weren’t any napkins nearby, so I ripped the page from the book — ‘I don’t speak. I’m sorry.’ — and used it to dry her cheeks, my explanation and apology ran down her face like mascara, she took my pen from me and wrote on the next blank page of my daybook, the final one:
Please marry me"
— Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
Yea I can rap
Electrode, Diglett, Nidoran, Mankey
Venusaur, Rattata, Fearow, Pidgey
- “People run from rain but
in bathtubs full of
Charles Bukowski (via bittersweetsongs)
Wow bukowski so profound do you also bathe fully...
New favorite film genre: Scarlett Johansson destroying people.