I've signed up (figuratively) to participate the Thirty Days of Truth project. Today's truth stuff: Something I Love About Myself.
Ah hell. Ah well. Talking myself up goes completely against my nature. There are a host of things I like about myself or from which I take some satisfaction, but precious few that I love. Loving seems like an act better devoted to other people, or Pavement albums, or hot sauce. But I'll turn my Searchlight O' Love inward to find something worth the illumination.
Yes, here it is. I love my writing. I get all twitterpated and clammy handed when I read over a paragraph that works. And most of my paragraphs work, at least to some degree. They're like these little self-contained rhetorical machines that, on occasion, seem to hum from an invisible source. That's when my heart rate accelerates and I feel the sudden need to steal around the corner for a post-graph smoke.
Some fairly obvious dangers lurk around corners when your chief skill is bolting sentences together. Sometimes I'll write charming and ornamental prose that ends up remarkably free of content. I always think of Martin Amis when I contemplate the danger of having a surplus of prose skill and a dearth of material. Shitty houses of prose, that's what you get. This is fine for record reviews but bad for government briefing notes, as I found out at my last performance review. Then they laid me off, so screw them.
My writing skills, such as they are, derive from a book-filled childhood and a habit of mind that looks for connections between odd and incongruous things. For example, yesterday I was alone in the apartment and watching one of the cats poke at a curled-up piece of cardboard on the floor. From where I sat he appeared to be daubing, so I asked the cat: "Cat, are you daubing? Is it in your nature to daub?" The cat didn't answer, obviously, because it's no more in a cat's nature to speak English than it is to daub. After all, daubing is an application of a substance on a surface, and requires a certain practical or aesthetic intent that no cat can possess. We're the daubers of the planet. I considered, then, what is in our nature, and as far as I can know, whatever the limits of our nature may be, it is our nature to get around those limits and muck around in areas where we have no real business. I decided that our nature is promiscuous.
And that, I realized, is a perfect description of my mind. It roams around and bothers all kinds of ideas that it has no business bothering, inviting all sorts of notions to hang out for a while, just to see if we all hit it off. My brain is a roving slut in the realm of pure forms. This doesn't necessarily mean that I'm intelligent - I would describe my intelligence as a narrow stream cutting through a gorge, with ideas running into it - but that my mind is usually rolling over several things at once, turning and turning them until the unexpected connection locks into place. The job of my writing is to select among those connected pieces and pick the best of the bunch. And that's how my writing is a slutty river rock tumbler interior decorator.