February 16th, 2007


A Paper Memory Of Things That Had Happened

I finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius today. There's something about me and reading books. I start and finish amazingly strong, but the middle generally takes me about two months to get through. Unless I'm truly dedicated to reading, which I'm usually not. Like, this book is 437 pages and, when I finally started reading it in earnest at the beginning of January, I whipped through the first 40 or 50 pages in a day or two. And, since Sunday, I've probably finished about 200 pages. But, MAN, what happened the 4 or 5 weeks in between? Was I too busy flicking my wiener back and forth?

I have no further outlets to my friends outside of person-by-person solicitation, so I'll say it here for the third time. If anyone's interested in submitting something for the first issue of my online literary magazine thingy - I'm comprising the first issue using works from people I know - send me a line.

I'm still trying to figure out how much I want to be personally involved, as far as inclusion of my own writing is concerned. I imagine I'll have a lot of trouble filling issues out on a monthly basis, so at first I'm sure I'll have to throw something on there (or two or three things, though hopefully it's not so dire). Eventually, I'd like to make it where my role is solely as administrator, because that's when I'm planning on throwing up a SpinOff site that's much more Me-centric. I'm waiting on that one because I think it's fucking retarded to make a website about yourself unless you've actually done something.

Says the guy who's on LiveJournal, MySpace, Facebook, and a slice of Devin's RagingFury web space.

There's one thing you begin to notice after you've written a few novels and read a few dozen more: author to author, writing styles begin to grow repetitive. Generally, I enjoyed how Dave Eggers related to the reader; he made it easy to enjoy this book. That being said, he had the tendency to overuse a device. At the beginning of a chapter, he'll drop you into a scene as it's happening, then he'll carefully lead that to a flashback of what'd just happened prior; cut, bring you back into the present, before slowly leading you back to the parts from before that you missed; cut, back to present, like this repeatedly until both the present scene had finished playing out and the flashback had sufficiently been described. I'm not saying that it doesn't work or that it bothered me, I'm just saying that I noticed it quite a bit. When you see a writer using the same device over and over, it either means one of two things: he's run into a pattern he doesn't know how to get out of, or that's just the way he writes and you just have to deal with it. I can understand the part about being stuck. You're writing a book, it's a lengthy process, maybe you've been at it for a while and you need to get this seventh chapter rolling, so you fall back on the writing style you're most comfortable with. I guess I'll know more if I ever get around to reading any of his other books.

AHWOSG, I thought, would be sadder, more depressing than it was. Honestly, I didn't know what I wanted out of this book, if I wanted a good reason to cry or if I wanted to laugh along with/at the narrator/Eggers. He does a good job of making it just sad enough to have you on the cusp of utter annihilation, but with a writing style and a wit and a sense of humor to tug you back into the safety zone before you fall off the cliff. There were so many moments in this book where I wanted that catharsis, where I wanted to put myself in his shoes and imagine all of these tragedies and calamities happening to me and how I'd react were I him, and that's when the self deprication would set in. Oftentimes, the chapter would conclude right there, right there at the brink, and I'd be snapped right back into reality where I realize that, no, that's not me going home to Chicago to find my mother's ashes in an urn in a box. I'm here, on the toilet, and it's time to wipe my ass because I'm done.

Even though he didn't live the life I necessarily would've wanted, Dave Eggers lived in the time. I've always said I was born 10 years too late. If I'd been in my 20s in the late 80s and early 90s, I imagine I would've been in Xanadu. This is the thing, I'll always contend that there were only two decades in which it was worth being 20-something: 1965-1974 and 1986-1995. In both cases, you can really give or take a year or two, but that all depends on where you're living.

If you're in New York City, you'd probably go with 1962-1971, where you're hitting the Beats in stride, catching Dylan early, and still riding the wave of free love and hippiedom. If you're on the West Coast, in San Francisco or L.A., you might go something like 1966 to 1975 (but, anything after that and you're chartering into Disco territory's ultimate prime, bad news all around).

For the second half of that statement, if you're in Seattle, you wanted to be here early, maybe 1985 through 1994. That gets you in on the ground floor for all those great underground Seattle punk bands, lets you see Nirvana and Soundgarden and Alice In Chains blossom, finds you smack dab into the heart of Pearl Jam's heyday, and runs you through to the end of Kurt Cobain's life. Anything past that and you really want to get the fuck out of Dodge because all that post-grunge bullshit was too much to stomach. However, if you're down in Cali, maybe you want a little later, 1987 - 1996: you get Jane's Addiction early, Red Hot Chili Peppers as they're starting to progress, Guns N' Roses for the whole damn trip, and L.A.'s own burgeoning punk and hard rock scenes.

The point is, from 86 to 95 I was 5 to 14 years old; I had to witness all this great action from afar. From whatever the television would allow me to see. Without Internet, I was at MTV's beckon call. The Week In Rock, MTV News, and any other snippets I could derive from newspapers. While I was at home trying to soak it all in as best I could, Dave Eggers was out there, living in San Francisco, starting a magazine with his friends and witnessing firsthand the changing of a generation. While I may be on the very outer edge, the last of a dying breed of Generation Xers, he was right there in the middle. Trying out for Real World San Francisco; growing up with Vince Vaughn; living in a small suburban Chicago town where Mr. T moved to and cut down all the trees on his property (I still remember this story for some reason ... I'm telling you, this book brought back more memories than I thought I had left). He got to see the Berlin wall come down and know what the hell was going on. He got to hear all the groovy new music that was coming out of Seattle and know what it meant to the industry and rock n' roll fans all over the world. He got to hear about Kurt Cobain's suicide and knew how to keep it in perspective while a distraught 13 year old fan in Tacoma, Washington holed himself up inside his bedroom, unable to read the cover story to that morning's News Tribune, unable to fathom what would make someone so popular, so beloved, do such a tragic thing.

In my early teenage years, I always felt a little more mature than my peers. While everyone else wasted away playing video games for hours on end, I was keeping track of the latest trends in music and entertainment, watching Saturday Night Live at the tail end of the Dennis Miller years and knowing who in the fuck John Kiester was when many people probably still couldn't tell you what show he hosted. But, I never had that freedom that I have now. That freedom of being Of Age. And, now that I DO have it, I'm living in a time where there's no great musical revolution. In the earlier decade they had the Monterey International Pop Festival in '67 and Woodstock in '69. In the later decade they had Woodstock '94 - which paled in comparison to the 60s original, but still comprised a generous bulk of MY music, MY bands, MY generation. I've been mired in this period of stale music; music hasn't been exciting since 1990-1994. And, when something like music is as important as it is to me, that's a tremendous letdown.