Monday, June 4, 2012

A bowl of spaghetti interrupted by a phone call

Last week I finally got around to reading an interview by Sam Anderson of Haruki Murakami from The New York Times Magazine that I've been carrying around in my backpack for what must be months. You should be able to access it here if you like. It's very well-researched and well-written if you're interested in Murakami. I found a lot of it interesting, if not a bit redundant after my reading of Murakami's memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. The article discusses his time owning a jazz club, his huge album collection, his writing, and his running. For me, the article served as an important reminder that writing that is reflective of one's personal life will likely be very unique and strange, and that's okay. Anderson discusses how Murakami's childhood and background probably influenced his strange storylines.

I needed this at the moment because I keep thinking about my recently finished novel and how odd of a book it is. On one hand, I think the oddity comes from my own limitations. I don't think this is a perfect book. It's the best book I could write at the time, but it has some weaknesses I wish weren't there. I think it's my best work based only on the simple fact that it's probably the most coherent work of long fiction that I've managed to write. Which is just to say that there's a logical story there. But that's not saying much. I'm not sure if it's at all engaging or emotional.

On the other hand, though, however, and possibly, I do think I managed to create some things that were highly long as the mark of success is my own aesthetic preferences. There's a scene with a deck of cards in it that I love. I like the balance of science and life that I struck. I like that the Dalai Lama is in it and that the first scene with him in it involves him just sitting there. I like that it deals with some darker subjects and crimes that I am always fascinated by.

But the wrestlers are in my head. One of them is the muscular and sweaty guy telling me that I should just write what I personally want. Sometimes he even goes so far as to tell me that I couldn't write anything else anyway (before spitting in my face). The other guy, unfortunately, is equally muscular and equally sweaty, and he's telling me that there's really no point in writing a book that no one else will connect with. He calls me a wimp for not considering the rest of the world. He tells me it's like inviting people over for dinner and forcing them to eat food that they hate just because I think it's good. The outcome of this wrestling match is (1) it's making me think harder about what my next novel should be, which I think is a good thing, (2) it's making me explore things like writing essays, which I think is a good thing, and (3) it's making me doubt myself and try to come up with adventures that really aren't reflective of me, which is a stressful thing.

What's Peanut eating? He's not. He's turning his nose up to the food I'm giving him because it isn't supplemented with chicken. I'm currently trying to train him to close the cupboards, which has involved a lot of sitting and staring at one another as we try to understand why the other is being so stubborn.


  1. "writing that is reflective of one's personal life will likely be very unique and strange, and that's okay"

    What I believe is that if you want to write anything that seems important to you, you have to just write it. If you mean it and feel it's truth, some day some reader will connect to it because you're a human being and readers are human beings and that's how communication works. If you write something that you think someone wants to read, which is to say, say something you think someone wants to hear, you're not really communicating, are you?

    I struggle with this a lot because The Astrologer is coming out next spring, but the book is far different from what I wanted it to be, after having gone through all those revisions for agents. Every book I've written since then means something to me, but The Astrologer is like a child I adopted and raised to be a member of a family other than mine and I'm not sure I know who it is. But I think readers will like it.

    Also, as soon as I saw the title of this post, I knew you'd written about Murakami and that made me happy.

  2. Mr. Bailey, how did you read this blog post so fast? you're actually a visitor from the future, maybe even my own son come back to save my life so that I will give birth to you.

    I really like what you have to say about communication. I do think that potential is out there. It's just so friggin' hard to find the people who speak my language. But I'm comforted when I read Cocke & Bull and feel that it's so odd and still connect with it so much. I'm comforted that Murakami, who is a very strange writer, has such a big following. I'm comforted when I go to a Bjork concert in my cardigan and jeans and there is a younger woman swinging a cup of beer around in a cheerleading outfit next to me who is able to sing all of the same lyrics I can.

    And, your comment just reminded me of what I had originally intended to write about when I got on the blog just now. Here's to a new blog post soon!

  3. Your blog is nice written!
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  4. Hmmm... the fight I have with myself all the time. But it's not big, sweaty men in my head, it's these little rat-like bikini-clad demons screaming at me. WRITE WHAT YOU WANT! WRITE FOR THE MASSES. PICK WHAT WILL SELL.

    So I try and find a happy medium and that is working out well. I think. Who knows about any of this!?

    Sorry for my lame comments on your posts lately. I have been so swamped and my brain is mush. :(

  5. Your blog is nice written!

    My personal writing demons aren't big sweaty wrestlers, either. They all look like a Dickensian character: a scrawny old white man in a dirty black suit who shakes his finger disapprovingly.

    I was telling Michelle yesterday that one of the things I like best about The Breakaway is that it's not a stereotypical story, that it's morally unclear, and that the ending seems to point one way (because the narrative stays pretty close to the protagonist's thoughts and emotions) but if you pull back from the protagonist, you see that it points in an entirely different direction. Michelle did this deliberately and some readers, apparently, don't like it because it didn't hand them the cliche they expected. So Michelle has written a quirky, sort of difficult book that got published and is doing well in sales. Which is an object lesson for you, Malasarn.

    And there's the old saw that you should write the books you want to read, etc.

    Your blog is nice written! I am writing to you from the future!

    1. Scott, Please don't make fun of my Samsung sponsors. They are incredibly generous and have helped to support many of my staff members, including the thirty-two computer programmers required to maneuver through the complex Blogger templates. (But, since you are from the future, maybe you know something I don't?)

      I must agree that Michelle is getting far with her morally ambiguous stories. That has indeed been inspiring for me.

    2. Morally ambiguous means excitement and controversy. Who doesn't like that? :)

    3. Scott, I've often thought of writing a sequel from Jesse's POV, but that would be frightening, I'm afraid. I don't think people would like what's going on in his head. :/ Or maybe that would just be a really great story...

    4. Michelle, it scares me how many people think Jesse is an ideal boyfriend. But yeah: ten years later, and Jesse (unchanged but officially reformed) wonders why nobody's there to meet him at the door. That's a good story. I'd read that. Is this a spoiler? Nobody read this comment, okay?

    5. That may or may not be a spoiler...

      And yeah, I'm a little unnerved by those who fall in love with Jesse. It's good in that I wrote the book well enough to draw people in that way from Naomi's POV because SHE fell for him, but I always hope the reader looks outside that construction to see other angles. I once wrote The Breakaway in 10-pages of journal-type entries from Jesse's POV. It kind of scared the crap out of me.

    6. I have one and a half more chapters in my WIP that will be from the POV of a creepy guy. I can't wait to be done with that. It makes me uncomfortable. But that's also how I know it's good stuff!

  6. Ha, Davin! I found your blog without spending all day googling food items.

    I think the two guys fighting are just messing with you. I think someone who sees the world as carefully as you do will always write something that someone else connects with/wants to read. I just do. So let them spit and argue, but you just write.

    Also: When can I read the book you finished? I would really love to see what you do with the longer form.

    1. j a zobair,
      Thank you for saying that. It's something I need to hear! I'd love it if you would read my book. Any feedback would be really helpful to me right now. I'm happy to send it to you.

    2. First of all, I just noticed that this blog is actually called "What's Davin Eating?" I thought that was just Scott's whimsical description on his blog.


      Second, send it! I am waiting for edits so this is a good time.

    3. j a zobair, It was Scott's idea for me to start a blog with that title. Or rather, it was Scott's silly joke that I ended up adopting. I figured I wouldn't feel any pressure to create anything valuable with such a dumb thing!

    4. I think it's actually kind of genius.

      You'll see. It will grow on you until you won't be able to give it up. :)