The fox must provide for himself but god provides for the lion, said william blake. couldn’t have said it better myself. when you stop trying too hard, things get super-fantastically GROOVY…
Archive for the 'Amita’s Blog' Category
The Guardian, in a transparent effort to promote Elmore Leonard has got some writers to put down their ten rules for writing. Some of them, like Richard Ford (whom I worked for years ago when I was an interpreter) and Geoff Dyer (whom I met at a dinner party back in his Paris writing days) (yes, pointless details writers are supposed to leave out) are marginally funny and well, at least they’re honest and somewhat free of soapy porno-ish self-love. But the rest, especially the ones from the established (read, bore you clean to death) writers, are unbelievable, dripping as they are with pomposity, unabashed self-celebration and the kind of total lack of irony that I thought never got you published with the big guys. Moral of the story, be modest and ironic only when you’re in a classroom, when you’re teaching ambiguity, irony and subtlety to the worshipful gits taking your writer’s workshop. But once you are yourself a published writer, throw these tense, anally retentive, public-school obsessions right out the window and give yourself over to decadent, stupendously onanistic hogtripe that only the most rule-obsessed pre-teens will read and follow.
Still, since no one asked me, I will here list my ten rules for writing:
- Don’t follow any f*cker’s rules for anything, live and write as thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law.
- If anyone does tell you what to do, tell him or her to piss off (unless it’s me telling you to edit your novel).
- You decide what’s best, that way you will be left alone (bliss).
- Fear nothing, least of all obscurity, poverty ah yes, the ‘consequences.’
- Scrap rule number 5 (sorry, stolen from Monty Python).
- Read Bukowski’s The Captain has is out to Lunch etc… I love that guy, even if you don’t.
- Writing is no big deal, nothing is, people are dying because no one gives a sh*t about anything.
- Throw all mainstream trash into the trash, save yourselves.
- The word ‘writing’ as these folks use it is a crock, putting words on paper is a personal quiet sacred mysterious act and always will be.
10. Misanthropy is good, there are too many lies out there for me to give it up yet.
I know, no one will ever ask me to write down my rules. And even if they asked me, I would refuse. Artists who have rules for other people are self-serving and false, I say it here and feel free to remind me of it in future.
Have a good week.
Sean Penn rocks. I like the man’s face, his films, his politics and above all his utterly reckless disdain for the filthy money-grubber celebrity machine that sucks the blood of any genuinely creative spirit that happens to make its home in the base gutters of Hollywood.
I like the fact that people like him and Charlie Sheen triumph over the small world of American politics and feel-good entertainment (like there’s a difference). I like anyone who’s ready to piss the public off quite honestly, since there’s no worse enslavement than that of an artist to a public that’s been fattened on the belle matière fécale* produced by the rancid world of mass entertainment. What’s hilarious to me is that this public thinks it’s being real original and class-conflictual when it hates celebrities. The real fact is that if your taste has been entirely fabricated by the mass media, you have long since ceased to be an individual and your petty envies, hatreds or judgments directed at celebrities (all part of a cannibalistic desire to consume them in the absence of your own self-worth anyway) are only another aspect of that sordid manufacture. The media uses celebrities to sell you their sh*t, then it brings them down to sell you more of their sh*t. You as the public are eating sh*t one way or the other. You never mattered and you never will.
That’s the real thing about the paparazzi. Your gluttony, the gluttony of most famous idiots, the gluttony of the mass media. I too used to think that a famous person needs to put up with paparazzi. No such thing of course. The real fact is that you can’t be an artist without having to sell your soul one way or another. And it’s a f*cking difficult thing, but if you want to get money to do what you want to do, then you are forced to promote yourself. Tabloids aren’t about this, they are about something else. They aren’t about fame, they are about the need to manufacture and control fame. The media is a monster-offspring of the larger state and bourgeois apparatus that fabricates and controls culture, and celebrities are part of that controlled fabrication. If you act like the media is sh*t, the media will take revenge. If it can’t control you, it will consider you a renegade and do all it can to destroy you. Those who are friendly with the media are those who are ok with this, because they aren’t about art, they are about fame in the basest possible sense. Those who are not ok with it, are probably of the insane opinion that art has absolutely nothing to do with fame, social acceptance or even gratitude. That it has ONLY and EVER to do with freedom. The freedom to create, to disseminate and to have people see your work (not necessarily like it). This is why you’ll never find a true artist saying something despicably trite like ‘I love my fans, I owe it all to my fans.’
Hank Bukowski never said it, no true artist ever will.
Needless to say, neither I nor Revenge Ink are about manufacturing anything. We have all the time in the world as far as I’m concerned. We will sell our books aggressively but we will never pander. If marketing is pandering, I simply won’t do it. I don’t even enjoy the whole social networking thing. I started Facebook but have tired of it, I started tweeting but have had enough of that too. My point is, if you like our books you’ll buy them. If they’re good, they will make their way to you, of course I’m no idiot, I do what I have to promotion-wise, but basically this is my view. Anything beyond what I am prepared to do is invasion, disturbance and deserves a kicking like good old Sean gave that camera-toting sh*thead.
So in case Sean Penn reads this, I dig you man. I dig that you went to Cuba, wrote about Chavez and I dig the movies you make, especially Into the Wild that I still can’t watch because it tears me up so profoundly. And of course you knew Hank. Now if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what the f*ck is. Thank the gods there are some like you around, if not we’d have no one to cheer for!
*beautiful fecal matter, from Rabelais, Gargantua (O belle matière fécale qui devait boursoufler en elle.)
It’s sad, it’s fantastic, I’m writing again. I’m working on a novel, a second one, in case you were confused and hadn’t bought or read my first, UGLY DUCKLING (big crime in my book!). It feels wonderful but the cycles of creativity are hard to bear. A friend of mine used to say to me, oh no wonder you’re in a crap mood, you’re writing again! It was a variant of the ‘oh you have your period’ jibe, but unfortunately true.
My novel-writing isn’t a fun thing. I mean it is when I start, it feels like being in love again, like being with a sacred lover. A sacred, secret, deep and extremely fulfilling lover. But then it starts to go downhill because such a jealous, exhausting lover, I hope you never have! Like I said in my last blog post, writing is a sculpting of the emotions. All art is strictly speaking the same, but writing and music are the most mystical. They don’t use solid materials. They use abstract units of meaning, even if words require paper and books, and music requires a recording medium (now). But in actual terms, writing and music use no materials for their creation. They go straight to the heart, soul, brain, nervous system. Music is perhaps the most mystical of the arts. But words themselves are mystical if you think about it. Why certain sounds to express meaning? A constantly shifting use of sounds among different peoples? Words themselves, in this sense, being formed of sounds, are a subset of music. And therefore profoundly, undeniably, inescapably mystical.
At least that’s how I see it. In today’s shit-bucket world, good writing is all about rules and highly schooled gibberish. But I don’t like that kind of writing. Perfect form doesn’t move me. I like writing that reaches beyond the intellect and the rules of form and literary crapola, and enters the heart in a rapturous, unmediated, gut-munch sort of way. I like it messy, I like words that feel unique, immediate, unrehearsed, and even if they are rehearsed, I like it when they feel they are made of raw human flesh, when they aren’t fantastically perfect and artificial. Such writing has emotional weight as far as I’m concerned, it carries mystical possibilities. Bukowski moves me for this reason. John Updike does not.
The way I write is, if not mystical, definitely mysterious. It builds up, to paraphrase Bukowski, and then gob-smashes down on me like a giant wave. WHOOSH! But unlike Hank for whom it was a pleasure, with me writing is not. Well not entirely. I am deeply happy when I’m writing at long last. It feels like I’m alive again, like I was dead all this time that I wasn’t writing. So it isn’t work either, I don’t mean that. But when I write, I control little of what’s going on. I feel like I’m in a trance or something (although I’m not) and that the book is writing itself (although it isn’t). Of course it isn’t. But it sure feels like it is. I have to run almost, like a child who’s being dragged along the street by a mother who’s too tall and so the kid has to rush and run constantly to keep up. It’s exhausting. Debilitating, depressing. The images arrive, the words, in a rush of blindness, they don’t wait, the mood descends, the movement is there. It must be followed. And followed NOW, relentlessly, without time or space for rest. It’s like a rhythm that must be kept up with, snip snap, clip clap, no time for sitting, reflecting, looking out at the trees. I do not form, set down or create. Gopal, my brother, writes like that. I do not. I write like a bedeviled fool, like I’m possessed by demons, a despicably divine madness. And this is why my emotions do the f*cking shimmy when I start to write a book. It sounds crazy when you put it like that. Write a book. It sounds impossibly huge. Unfeasable. Last year, when I was accepting manuscripts from authors and doing no writing myself, not a word (except something resembling a diary), I marveled that anyone would be fool enough, insane enough, to waste their lives writing a book. It seemed absurdly time-consuming, I admired anyone who could do it. And I wondered how I had been able to do it, me! And why, why on earth! Like other people, I even used the word ‘discipline’ about writing. Man, I thought, these people who stayed home for days on end and sat in front of their computer and wrote this stuff. But how?
When I write, it has nothing to do with discipline. It is a type of enslaved dementia. If I have a sense of clear controled words that I am typing, when I do have a sense of that, the writing is crap, banal, laborious. So over the last few years, I have learned not to write when I’m in that state. When it doesn’t ‘come,’ I don’t write. This can be depressing too. When I’m not writing, and the mood can disappear for days, I feel like I’ve been dumped by that ruthless (but divine) demon lover. And I get wrenchingly depressed. It is good to have a boy around at such times, or booze, friends, restaurant dates, but life doesn’t work that way. I hope not to go through that this time. This time I have Revenge Ink (yeah right). No really, I hope this time, to be good about it all (?!).
For all these reasons, there is the slight wearing thin of my emotional state when I write. I write when I’m in the mood, but I tend to work to exhaustion. Outside of the world of what I’m writing, I become alone and moody. It’s ups and downs all the way. I have to admit, this time, my inner imaginative world has yet to fully come alive. I am too distracted with Revenge Ink. But I am buzzing around it, I write and scratch and carve. Even if the world doesn’t fully show itself and only peeps out dimly from behind the Bodhi bushes, I hack at it because I have no choice. I tell myself it is showing itself gradually and even for that I must be grateful. Because even this feels fantastic. It is an unbelievable act of grace to be able to write. To be bestowed this gift, this inner beautiful world. Even if it is the world of my already lived life.
When I’m not writing, I am equanimous, well ok, not quite, but I am even-keeled. Self-contained. I am pleased to potter about, I pass the time, I watch TV, I do this and that. But when I’m writing, time begins to hang heavy, things go cock-eyed, I feel like I’m hanging off a cliff of some sort. And I don’t like it.
But here I am. Damned bloody grateful for the new book that is installing itself in my soul, and f*cking delighted to accept the shit with the bliss, the beatitude, the sheer incredible honor of writing. I thank the stars. Or my own inner spirit. For having chosen this life.
Well I got over that anger thing. Yes, anger is an energy but for that very reason you want to use it as fuel and no more. Anger can never be an end in itself. Of course I’m often angry. I have no problem with anger. I don’t see it as a negative energy. All energies and emotions must be creative, that’s the cornerstone of the artist’s purpose and action. Turning emotion into vital force which in turns fuels creative work. When I exhaust myself writing, I don’t get tired, I become depressed. Which is to say, I exhaust my emotional energies, depression then being the emotional equivalent of physical or mental fatigue.
But enough about me for a second. I’d like to say a few words about my authors here. They’re f*cking awesome, every single one of them. My authors are brave people, they’re unusual, spirited (each in their own way), massively creative and talented, and are taking a chance publishing with me and I find that absolutely incredible. I feel proud of all of them a bit like a mother would be proud of her offspring, except that I had nothing to do with any of them before this moment and have the luxury of being totally independent of their creative and life processes before and after Revenge Ink. Ironically I feel proud of them because they chose to publish with Revenge Ink. Sounds ridiculous and egotistical I know, but I’ll explain. One of them told me today he was proud to be associated with what I’m trying to do with Revenge Ink. Well, I’d like to say I’m proud to be associated with people like him and in fact all my authors (and readers). I’m proud I have been able to attract this kind of talent and the kind of people who have the same desire as me to provide a counterpoint to the big-guy publishers. The vision contained within Revenge Ink is not uniquely mine, I created Revenge Ink with the hope (and something of a gamble) that this vision would one day be recognized as being universal, that the desire to return to authentic, risky, truly open-ended Art and away from a constant obsession with totally predictable profit-based outcomes would be supported not only by authors but by readers as well.
So a thousand huzzahs to each of my authors. And now to the readers who must do their part.
Reading is not a passive activity. Just like buying, loving or being part of a citizenry should not be passive activities. Life must be an act of war, a vital struggle, which is why the great heroes of all the world’s epics were warriors. Why even the most sacred text of India, the Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between two warriors.
You might laugh, but I don’t see reading as just sitting down with a book. As a writer and the creator of Revenge Ink, I believe reading is, must be, a potent revolutionary act. A nod to the royal ‘I’. To art as subjective experience and discernment, not as consumption of a heavily advertised, totally forgettable product.
Reading is (should be) a potent, subjective, creative act in response to another subjective, creative act, that of writing, daringly undertaken by the author. In ancient artistic traditions, which survive in Europe only among the gypsies and to some degree in India, audiences show their artistic discernment and appreciation through gestures and shouts of approval. The only modern version of this is the rock concert, marred as the phenomenon is by the presence of massive machines of advertising, promotion and the overall manufacture of taste. The traditional Indian musician/poet presents his or art before an informed audience and the latter in an exchange requiring mutual respect, a sense of personal sacrifice (on both sides) and tremendous sophistication, appreciates, approves, understands. Unfortunately, for us, art and reading are such pre-fabricated acts, so closely related to taste as a factor of social class and education, that we cannot truly consider ourselves an ‘audience’ anymore. Just as we can’t be called ‘citizens’ in a climate of opinion-cloning. We are idiots caught up in a phony duel between publisher and critic, art dealer and art appraiser, always someone else, someone ‘qualified’ who deigns to like, dislike, evaluate and judge on our behalf.
There is no space in the Western capitalist non-culture where the audience might be given its due, where it might express its knowledge and approval. The meaning, value and significance of a ‘work’ are pre-digested and ‘taught’ instead to this ‘audience’ by a bunch of tight-assed pedantic gits we call critics. Their political equivalent being the so-called journalist. But critics are to individual subjectivity what the Pope is to a sexual fantasy. A cold shower in other words (unless you’re quite specially sick!).
We think of reading as leisure, pleasure, fun, education, all kinds of crap, but we don’t think of it as an act of vital force. Subjectivity has become inconsequential and distrusted in this shitty modern world we live in, and without subjectivity, reading has no meaning (and becomes no more than the buying of a product). The ancient world is all about individuality. The legendary Celtic warriors who never ‘united’ with each other, the great Chiefs of Native America, they were all members of a culture that put subjectivity above all else. Sure, these warriors may have been eventually defeated by the Romans, the Americans and finally, the modern-day worship of Kapital, but so what? The force of de-individualized objectivity (the horde, the herd, the mob) to me is no proof of the pointlessness or inutility of subjectivity. Subjectivity, no matter how high the price you pay for it, is the only thing that makes us human. Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey says it better than I do. And it is THIS assertion of the power of unique (and universal) subjectivity that more than anything is the fundamental ideal behind the creation of Revenge Ink. I demand that authors be unique individuals. And I demand this of readers as well.
Reading must cease to become consumption. Life, thought, citizenship, all these things must cease to be consumption. We must assert our creative individuality in our lives and reading should be an essential aspect of such an assertion. Reading is a mystical act, and mystical acts are counter-intuitive. While intuitive causality says one plus one makes two, counter-intuitive causality says one plus one equals zero. This is why, to read someone else is to return to yourself, to be alone with a book is to be connected deeply with other beings, absorbing someone else’s thoughts is to learn to think for yourself. Subjectivity as universality: the revolutionary message of Revenge Ink. But only if you do it for yourself, not because some dipshit critic said you had to do it in your local paper (and that includes me!).
So readers, I look to you. You must once again become worthy of being called an audience (as opposed to being a vast sludge-pool of passive, ad-swallowing birdlings). Your tastes and opinions must be your own. Your reading must move me as my authors move you, your strong support acting as counterpoint to their fiercely independent creativity.
Genuine democracy cannot but be built on a prickly but radiant grouping of individuals, thinkers, readers, passionately fired judges of the powerful. In ancient Greece and India, kings were required to dismember themselves every eight years (as part of a ritual sacrifice) in deference to their people. Their power was a literal construct of popular support and as such could be questioned by anybody, from anywhere. Kapitalism requires the dismemberment of our individuality. Democracy is thus a braindead, heartless, soulless pabulum. We have the power to change that.
So read our books and get on it now!
It must mean something right? Day after day I work on this company, I work on new titles, do everything I have to, pay out money for advertising, pay out money endlessly for this that and the other. It never stops. And me? What do I get? What’s in it for me? Well so far, squat, that’s what. So yes, you bet, I’ve decided to whine a little.
Now I know people have it horribly rough. Every year there are massive floods in India, the land of my birth. And every year people there go through horrors I can’t even imagine. How thankless must it be for them? Of course that never helps. Well it does a little, it helps you gain perspective but it doesn’t make you feel better. One person having it rough doesn’t make up for others having it rough. If we could all have it less rough it would be so much finer.
I was at a café this evening and saw all that food. There’s enough I thought. Enough food for everyone. Ah but no, said another voice. You only get it if you pay. And once again, in an instant, it struck me what a despicable world we live in, if just that fact, of having money means you can live like a pasha while not having it, for millions of others, means to live like starving rats. It wouldn’t matter if some ate decently and a few ate richly, I wouldn’t mind that. That would be ok. But this shit is despicable. The rich eating like there’s no tomorrow. And the rest like there’s no point to there being a tomorrow. Especially since those latter folk are the ones digging the natural resources out of the earth with their nails and teeth, the very resources we then buy so blithely at the supermarket for a price that defies all competition (which usually means a whole range of smaller producers were kicked out of business so this supermarket could offer you that price).
Everywhere the big guy, the stiff with the stuff, the hack with the stack, the shit with the bit gets away with murder. And everyday we put up with it. Maybe we feel we have to. I was like that. For years I struggled against this feeling of non-choice. The silent asphyxiating oppression of apathy combined with boredom that gives you nothing but stale air to breathe, the air of your own coffin. Then I quit. I decided to fight. But look where I am. I work like a worm but make no money. NOBODY’S BUYING THE BOOKS PEOPLE, WHERE THE F*CK ARE YOU ALL??? WILL NOBODY PUT THEIR MONEY WHERE THEIR MOUTH IS?
Sorry, I’m calm now.
I tell you it’s how I felt today. I felt nothing but spitting disgust and hatred for the human race. I thought everyday they all just go to work like a bunch of mindless dogs, snails, worms with no courage, no backbone, no desire to save themselves. Now if you don’t even want to, know how to, dare to, save yourself, how on earth can you f*cking save anyone else? Ask me, I know how hard it is to save yourself. Your single lonely self. And here I am fighting for other people, authors no less. I tell you, it is as hard as lava rocks. And yes, I do believe saving yourself will save the world. I absolutely believe that if everyone just stopped serving, working for, slaving for and believing the pigs, the whole system would come crashing down. It’s really that horribly simple.
What if all of us simply quit our jobs and did what we wanted and supported each other somehow? I’m sure it could work. But we’re too nervy, screwed up and disenchanted, downright petrified with lazy apathy to do it. We’re also all too afraid and indoctrinated. We look for mass movements. No let him do it. Let’s wait for a leader, a movement, a clearly identified path. Everything’s got to be a mass thing. Perfectly laid out. It doesn’t work that way. Revenge Ink wasn’t laid out before I did it. Nor was my novel. You show me one single experience in life that works out like you’d planned it, IF you had a plan to begin with. The problem with mass things is, mass things don’t reinforce our faith in ourselves. And we cannot destroy this mass thing called capitalism which isolates, desolates and annihilates the individual, with another massified thing which cancels out our individuality. What we need now is to neutralize the evil by relocating our individuality. This means taking leaps of faith and finding our own paths FIRST. Besides, even if we wanted a mass resistance, there aren’t it would seem, enough bravehearts for the battle!
Still, I have my writing. And this means a great thing. My writing now isn’t the escape it used to be. It is an act of war. An act of love and blood-filled vitality. The great thing about Revenge Ink is that it has turned Art into War and that is utterly groovy as far as I’m concerned. And the truth is, the more I fight, the more fantastically happy I become, the more resilient and radiant I feel, the more I love art and writing, the more I want to fight and watch the whole damn shindig come crashing down as good old Henry Valentine Miller would say. So will you help? Or will you stand by the sidelines and watch? Either way I’m not going to back down, never f*cking ever, I will fight till I win. And that’s a goddam promise!
(And yes, this was a shitty day. How ever did you guess?)
I recently experienced death again. No, not mine, fear not, but that of someone near me, at close quarters again. My life changed originally with the passing of my father, a wonderful sensuous large-hearted softness of a man, and a tremendously important presence in my life. I lost him almost two decades ago, and experienced the various stages of the detachment of his presence in the form of a series of dreams. His passing was of determining value for me, it formed me as I am today, fierce, independent and yet, fundamentally a creature of the blood and heart, essentially other-worldly and uncaring for the dust of materialism.
This time, it’s my uncle, my spiritual and artistic Guru in fundamental ways. He was a grand, lion-spirited musician, Dinkar Kaikini was his name, he lived in Mumbai, India, and no, he wasn’t as famous as he should have, might have been. It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about since he left us last weekend. And he continues to impact me with the meanings of his life. In ways I didn’t realize although I was aware of what he meant to me even when he was alive.
Life limits you ironically, it binds you to the body and its errors. My fears or worries at not performing music as he taught it to me, the idea that art is a physical life-bound achievement, that fame must come to the artist, this is what has been released with his passing. It is as if I am seeing at last, what I have always sensed. That we are spirits first and foremost. That everything we do, feel and become is a long, joyful continuum of consciousness winding through life and what we call death. Death in this vision is not death at all, but in fact a form of spirit-being, unmediated and clear, without the limiting forces of the body. It is profoundest joy but without the delicious sensations of the throbbing, bleeding body. Art needs the body. Creation demands it. Being though, is constant.
So what is the use of the body? None. The body has no use. It is an act of joy, an undertaking of sensual pleasure. To believe it has ‘utility’ is to be as wrong as saying food exists so that toilets can exist. Art has no utility either in this vision. In fact, ironically, the only thing that does have utility is suffering. Sorrow has no real presence in the continuum of being, save as a technique of transcendence, of liberation. And by liberation I don’t mean ‘Nirvana’ which is abstract and inaccessible, I mean the sensation of profound freedom such as we all feel on a Friday evening, and that comes brutally to an end on Monday morning.
I have seen it before but now I see it clearly. Life is a continuity of the spirit-being in what we call death. One plays off the other, a bit like our moments of escape play into our moments of involvement. Friday evening feels fantastic because Monday morning is oppressive. And the Monday morning exists so we may begin to wonder what the hell is the point of all this oppression, am I really doing what feeds my soul? Or is this misery just an act of fearful, imprisoned habit? Can my entire life be a Friday evening?
I say it can. Mine is. No reason yours can’t be.
To believe art can change the world, that it can make you famous, that it can do anything at all, is to see the world as a place of idiotic outcomes and material equations. It is to do away with the sheer thrill of being, of the joy of freedom we all know we feel on that fleeting Friday evening. And until you seek out this freedom, oppression in some form or fashion will be your lot.
Politically too, the world is suffering profound and horrible oppressions. Right now, the US is ‘occupying’ Haiti under the guise of ‘bringing it aid.’ If only the US had left Haiti alone and free over the last 200 years, nobody there would need American help. We know what’s good for you: which is the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the Bourgeois, the West, the Church and the Paternalist Employer, is nothing but oppression. Pure, stinking simple. And the only way for us to rid the world of this oppressive state of affairs politically, is to rid ourselves of capitalist lies about utility personally. It is to fight individually and endlessly for our own freedom. There are no public solutions. The political is the spiritual. The freedom of each spirit is the freedom of all.
So how can you save the world? Can you be a hero? Sure. Simply demand that Friday evening be the prop and stuff of your every living moment. That simple. And that profound.
My uncle escaped into the freedom of his spirit. He understood that fame, recognition, none of it meant as much as freedom. As the engorged plenitude of the sensual living free moment. This was his first and final choice as an artist. To create for pleasure is the artist’s sole activity, to escape oppression his relentless need. There are no other goals beyond this freedom and this pleasure. Life has no use beyond this freedom and this pleasure. If you haven’t got that, start over. I have. Several times. Nothing to it.
The spirit IS being. And being is no philosophical dryness, it is the sheer thrill of a drink, a first love, the first few lines of your new book, it is the thrill of life itself. But only in freedom. You will never experience this thrill (except as a desperate unlived need) on your way to work. Or at the bank. Live only for your freedom, your joy, your own divine and unique self. Everything else is oppression.
The thrill of this, since my uncle died, has engulfed me. So much so, that I have trouble breathing.
See you soon.
No doubt about it. You have to make a choice. You have to choose between the expedient and the true. And the true always feels better. Even if it’s tougher to live with.
It’s strange. Things are starting to go really well for Revenge Ink, but certain people only count success in terms of money and not a little money but a lot. They talk patronizingly to me and tell me but you have to do this and you have to do that. You can’t do this and you can’t do that. All I want to say is WHO DIED AND MADE YOU THE BIG CHEESE, ASSH*LE? Luckily I work with people who are like me, who have got what I’m about. You cannot imagine how lucky I am. And how hard that is to find.
I’ve been reading Joseph Campbell again. After years. And he talks about the Hero and the stages of his life. And he says everything must be given up. I don’t mean I am something extraordinary here as THE hero. We are all heroes and our journeys are always similar in this respect. We have to give sh*t up and at other times, stand firm and give nothing up. Knowing the difference is to work from within, from the heart, not from some dictated outward principle. It’s not intellectual, it’s a thing you get from the blood. The spiritual is nothing abstract. It begins with the raw bare simplicity of the blood. It ends with the simplest things. Kindness. Warmth. Tipping the waiter. But it always starts with something real simple, your desire, which sits in your blood and thumps up your heart when you know what you want is close at hand. Fear of not getting it, of f*cking up, losing everything, this kind of sh*t blocks you and then you’re stuck and unhappy and you have to LEARN how to be spiritual. You have to read books and listen to Gurus and stuff, but the bare-bones naked truth is, YOU KNOW. Fact is you don’t need to learn to be spiritual. You just have to have the balls to look within. To go from your own lies to your own truth, the ease of one, the difficulty of the other, and then, when you’ve tasted from the gutters of hell, from the difficulty to joy. This is the path of evolution, whichever point you start at. It sucks for a while but when it starts to work it really does.
I want to thank all those who’ve been supportive because it feels like we really are making friends, getting through to people and it feels f*cking fantastic. Ironically, people in your personal life tend to get confused and wander off when this happens, I mean men. Men aren’t comfortable with a strong successful woman, even when they know me. Even when they like this about me as it pertains to them. But yeah, I hear you. Screw them. (No kidding!)
But today was a good day. I was out today. Zooming through the city on my Piaggio Zip. Like one of my authors said recently, Zips are cool. They sure are. I zigged and zagged through the cars and man it felt good to speed up on an open road in the unforgiving cold. The freedom was exhilarating. This is the freedom I feel when I think about Revenge Ink. Ecstatic, breathtaking. And some dipsh*t thinks he can tell me that’s no good? Why? Because I’m not buying cars with my profits? Well, do what you want f*ckhead, but stay out of my way. This is sh*t you don’t get it if you’re giving it to the Man. You may think I’m lucky to have it, but luck has nothing to do with it. Persistence and a slight penchant for excess combined with an almost perilous recklessness. That’s what I have. But man, wouldn’t trade it for anything.
So there it is. Have a good one and see you soon!
I’ve started on it. Facebook, Twitter, all that ‘promote-yourself-without-promoting-yourself’ crap. And there’s a risk to it. It’s important for an artist to get back out there, into the world, after being sequestered a long time in the desolation of their own creative space.
It’s important. But it’s also important not to turn into a crowd-pleasing hack. The demands of constant communication mean you’re always performing, always turning out a new nice happy resonant phrase, so that people will like you, comment on you, say nice things. After all, this is also part of the being an artist. Getting an audience, cultivating it, being grateful to it. It’s why all those pop stars keep saying thank you to their fans.
But the thing about being an artist is not only living by what you create, it is also, more importantly, being loyal always and only to your creative space. To remember this space is intellectual, spiritual, moral. Always and only your own: your ideas, your spirit, your morality. The minute it becomes too openly shared, you’re in trouble.
The artist is in this sense fundamentally bound to solidarity while remaining basically asocial. Why? Because you share your private space too much and suddenly it becomes crowded with a hydra-headed monster you struggled to escape in the first place: approval, popularity, fitting in, conforming to other people’s sensibilities. And the minute this happens, your creativity, a jealous mistress, flees! As do your happiness, your reason for living, your love of yourself, all pfft. Gone!
The next step, inevitably, is being nice and kind and trying not to ruffle any feathers. And before you know it, you’re strung up, feet first in that great trap of ‘being liked,’ of constantly getting those folks to say Bravo, calling you the genius, and it’s all very easy to fall into, get stuck in, lose your freedom in. Because if you’re an artist worth the name, you’ll have been out of it for so long, you’ll have been alone so long, you’ll want to be liked quite desperately, you’ll be like an abandoned starving animal that’s finally being fed and petted.
The key is to remain free. Not to be excessively grateful. To be still and always that street dog or alley cat. Never trade in your freedom for that nice free meal and the little avid petting. That’s the key. Not because those people aren’t nice, but because pleasing people isn’t what you do. Your freedom is vital. Will people understand this? If you scratch their face as they try to come too close, will they think badly of you? Or will they have the grace to understand this is who you are, and that respecting your world while leaving you alone is essential to continue getting what they like from you: your art?
Tough gamble. People are more forgiving with alley cats than they are with artists. Niceness is hard to escape once you’ve doled it out too liberally. Even for you the starved alley-cat artist, it’s hard to run away from this modern game of Twitter and Facebook which is all about that drivel of being liked, smart, gorgeous, popular etc. The problem with all this shit is, I’ve figured it out, it’s like being back in an American highschool. A nightmare space of constant tension, where the whole effort, every single day, is to be popular. Where you come home feeling good if you felt popular on that day, if you said and did the right things and got a few hugs, smiles and slaps on the back from the right people. I mean, even if you’re not ‘popular’ you try to be popular among those who are not. The goal being always to find your own element, your people, your posse. Where you rule!
I mean don’t get me wrong. It feels good to have friends again, to feel you’re part of something, to feel like you’re making a difference to people and the way they think and feel and so on. But there are no messiahs, at least I don’t believe in them, so I don’t want to be anybody special. I want you to read me, buy my books so I can live, but I never want to feel (outside of my own head) that I’m saying anything super-fantastically extraordinary. I mean if you think it, great, but remember, I didn’t do it for you. I’m saying the same thing I always did, that I wanted to. That I, ME, MYSELF always wanted to. I didn’t say it because it meant something to you. I didn’t do that then and I shouldn’t have to do it now.
This is what Hollywood misses. And the big publishers. Once an artist does something, writer or actor, he and she are asked to do it over and over again by these brainless big guys. And it would seem most of the ‘fans’ respond to this too. There is such an excess of lonely lovelessness everywhere, we all seem to want to be liked constantly: fans and artists. The fan likes to feel his desires are being satisfied, the artist just wants to be liked.
But you feel like shit when you’re doing it. And it has a name. It’s called pandering. It’s what the media and Hollywood and the big publishers are doing all the time. Not to mention governments. The exceptions, they call art, culture. Ha ha, hilarious. In effect, habitual pandering = entertainment, snobbish stuff the audience won’t get = art.
Bullshit I say. Any artist must have the balls to remain free and independent. It is hard, I don’t even know what it means yet. I mean if they like everything you put up, are you pandering? Yes, if you’re unconsciously trying to come up with things they’ll like. It’s inevitable. Your desire for approval takes over quickly. When you don’t get their happy comments, you figure out what ‘won’t sell.’ There’s a subtle censoring that sets in about stuff you know they won’t like. I know it, I’ve been noticing it in myself on these ‘social networks.’
I even dreamed about being back in college last night. But no. I don’t want to go back to college. I don’t want easy hand-outs (although some money would help!). Even if those happy comments feel good, if you’re getting them all the time, they’ll become a little stale, a trifle poisonous, and quickly. It is, in the end, much more important for your sanity, authenticity and well-being, that you remain yourself.
How? Well if I told you that, hell, if even I knew how, we wouldn’t be individuals now, would we?
(Original blog date: 05/01/10)
Happy new year folks. I hope it’s going to be a good one for you, I know it’s going to be a great one for me, because 2009 was so suckingly horribly miserable. It felt like a prolonged sugarcane crusher, something you’ll be familiar with if you live in a tropical country where people on the street sell sugarcane juice. The kind that tastes good but has loads of gut-killing crawlies in it, bless their hearts.
The key thing is I survived. Not only that, I’m writing again. Ah the bliss of it.
I’ve also understood a few more things about Revenge Ink and the books we plan to publish.
Revenge Ink plans to publish lots of books in 2010. Written by lots of very interesting writers, some professional, others amateur, still others, not writers at all.
And why is Revenge Ink inundating an already glutted market with more books? Well, because Revenge Ink has little to do with publishing as a business or even a mission. Revenge Ink has to do with publishing as a party, a feral, crazy riot of passion, uncommon sense, wild judgment and chaotic thrills. And oh yes, also because the need for books and writing was never more urgent than it is today.
Let me explain. I am reading one of our upcoming books (still in the manuscript phase), written by Simon Kearns (to be published on Sep 11th, check out his blog on http://spiralise.blogspot.com/ …. And in his book, Simon’s lead character says something interesting: he says genuine communication seems to have become impossible in this age of sms’s and fast techno-heavy communication. This made me think. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, bla bla, it’s all about putting yourself out there from an advertising perspective. Always selling yourself, promoting your best parts, making yourself sound generically original, anything but your true, smelly, crappy self. It’s a bit like how sex and love have been hijacked by porn. How everything’s been hijacked by dull, established forms of communication, slogans, bylines, boring sh*t we’ve internalized from TV.
It’s very hard to be authentic these days, sincere, real, heartfelt, because you’re communicating most of the time via alpha-numerics on a screen. So what’s left? How can we still be ourselves and express genuine, honest thoughts and feelings? Can we do so at all? Well yes we can. Ironically, through books.
This doesn’t mean books have to be autobiographical. It means they have to be original. Unique. Words that folks like Nabokov and Yeats would have disliked deeply.
That’s the first thing.
The second thing is books must be spiritual. Not religious or moral, but spiritual. The spirit’s language is chaos. Not rules. The spirit equals individuality. This is why writers like Samuel Beckett wrote as they did. Beckett’s language was chaos for the brain but perfect syntax for the spirit. He wasn’t just playing around when he invented the kind of writing he did. And he didn’t do it to reflect the chaos of the modern age, or whatever crap the soul-killing critics will tell you. That’s not how writers work, that’s the sh*t critics write post facto about writers. They hijack the writer’s purposes.
I’m not saying I know Beckett’s purposes. What I do know is that most writers aren’t like Nabokov who was a manufactured, academic-circle-jerk of a writer. Beckett was not Nabokov. Nabokov never experienced spontaneity. He didn’t like spontaneity. Even his spontaneity was rehearsed. Lolita is his exception, not his rule.
Anyway, whatever Beckett’s purposes were, they are unimportant. It is the effects of his writing that matter. And the effects of the work of any great artist (or lesser artist) are directed at the heart, the spirit and the soul, not the brain. Critics feel with their brains, they probably f*ck with their brains too. But the worst part is they fill their brainy sh*t into you and then we’re all made to feel we have to analyze literary works based on all this brainy sh*ttage. No, if you feel Beckett, you see something else: that his writing evokes a sort of sacred chaos, a blissful holiday for the brain and a profoundly pleasurable call to the spirit.
This is the second reason why we need more books and writers. On the condition that the writers are like you and me, not bred and buttered by the academies. No, soul talk can only happen if writers are real people, expressing something unique, personal, entirely their own.
Strikingly all my writers in 2010 have this in common. They’re all interesting, intelligent people who don’t take themselves seriously. Amazingly, they also all write about the individual in some sort of way. Not in autobiographical stories or standard plots but in highly original, exciting, thought-provoking plots, sometimes no plots at all. And yet, all the stories have this strangely spiritual quality to them. They’re full of bad language, criminals, madness, violence, ratiocination and sex. And yet, they will speak not to your brain but to your fun parts. Your soul parts. That I can guarantee.
This is why Revenge Ink and its writers and books are important. We need genuine communication between people, and we need books that speak to our souls. Not to our brains or our well-bred artistic educations, corroded to conformist nothings in the academies of boredom we all know and love. Remember, two people shot someone after reading Salinger. He spoke to their souls, albeit in a slightly disturbing and tragic way. But ask yourselves. Who’s going to kill someone from reading The Tempest, or Anna Karenina? Or Oliver frigging Twist?
Yep, I know, it sounds fruity. But here is my deepest conviction. Art must be chaotic. Chaos is sacred. Excessively rule-bound ordered crap kills the truthful and genuine. It kills pleasure. If life is universal, chaotic and fundamentally mysterious, no reason art should be any different.
So happy new year again, and saludos till I pontificate next.