Hating the player, not the game.

I tried to write this post a couple months ago.  In fact, I DID write it, but as I clicked “publish”, iWeb froze and I lost the whole post.  It was the final straw that made me switch over to WordPress.  I thought I would give it another whirl.

I have a problem separating a work of literature from its writer.  Not so much if the writer has been dead for a sufficient amount of time, but for contemporary  writers, if I don’t like the writer, it effects my view of the work itself.

One excellent example is Jonathan Franzen.  I have been told by three people, whose opinions on books I trust implicitly, that The Corrections is the best thing since sushi but I happen to have seen Franzen in a couple of interviews before picking up his book and now I can’t get more than a couple of pages into the Corrections before setting it aside because I can’t get the guy’s pretentious, better-than-thou, douchey voice out of my head.  I am sure it is as good as I keep hearing, but I’ve started the thing three times now and I just can’t do it; and remember, I’m not a guy who sets books aside once I start them.  The only book, besides The Corrections, that I can remember not finishing is “Ulysses” and I don’t personally know anyone who can get through that one.

The strange thing is, I don’t have the same reaction to artists that use other mediums.  The fact that Axel Rose is an incredible ass doesn’t stop me from listening to Sweet Child of Mine.  From what I’ve read about him, Dali wasn’t really someone I’d want to buddy-up with but it doesn’t stop me from admiring and enjoying his work.  In fact, visual artists, musicians and performing artists, I somewhat expect to be on the crazy, self-absorbed asshole side of life and it won’t stop me from buying their stuff.

Recently I read Moonlight Mile, by Dennis Lehane.  I am a fan of Lehane.  I read and enjoyed all of his Kenzie/Gennaro books, along with two or three of his stand-alone novels.  I’d say he’s one of my favorite crime writers, because his books are an excellent combination of really good prose and a well-structured mystery.  A lot of times you might get one or the other, but to have both is rare.

About two years ago, I was discussing Lehane with a good friend of mine, and he pointed out an article in Entertainment Weekly entitled Done Baby Done.  You can give the article a read if you want, but basically it talks about how shitty his Kenzie/Gennaro books were at how he’d never write another.  In fact he said,  ”I was never comfortable with them anyway. I’d be writing these friggin’ whodunits,” he laughs, getting excited, ”and I could care less. I wanna tell everybody on page 2, he killed so-and-so, he done it! If you look at my books in that regard — and I’ll be 100 percent honest about my flaws — you can see how I was whipping out the kitchen sink just to obscure s—, like the identity of the serial killer or whatever, and that’s why the books got so labyrinthian in the last 100 pages.”

So…I have a bit of a problem with this because it someone belittles the opinion of all of the people that went out and bought those books.  The very people that put him where he is today and made him a very rich man.  But hey, there’s nothing to say that someone can’t go back and look at something they did in the past and judge it to be a giant steaming turd.  I can respect that.  Every artist wants to grow, and in fact he goes on to say, “My publishers, they’ve been clear if I ever wrote one, they’d back a truckful of money onto my driveway, but I don’t want to be the guy who goes back to the well just so I could buy another house.”

So, ok.  No more Kenzie / Gennaro novels.  He’s on to bigger and better things.  But then a few weeks ago I was looking for something to read and came across Moonlight Mile, which just happens to be a new Kenzie / Gennaro novel by Mr. Lehane.  I guess that truckful of money was more attractive than he first thought.  OK.  I can still get over it.  He’s a sell-out.  That’s ok.  Everyone needs a new boat every now and again.  Maybe his wife hit up Neiman Marcus a few times too many and he was in a pinch.  Maybe his kid needed an operation.  Fine.  Everyone needs to get paid.

Now comes the spoilers, so if you have any desire to read this book, then stop reading this blog.

BUT BUT BUT, then the guy turns Patrick Kenzie into spineless tool.  One of the appeals of the character is that he is smart, practical, street savy and a total badass when he needs to be.  But in the end of this book, he finds he just has no stomach for the private eye life anymore and he turns down a lucrative job at a big security firm to go back to school and become a friggin’ jr. high teacher.

Lehane completely emasculated the character of Patrick Kenzie.  It was almost like Lehane hated this character that he created and wanted his readers to feel the same way.  It’s a little like how Doyle turned Sherlock Holmes into a drug addled deviant so his readers to stop wanting to read him.

The thing is, if you don’t like a character, then stop writing him.  But to do it just for the money, when you already have loads, and then to do the character and your readers a disservice by  turning the character into a spineless idiot is a fairly shitty thing to do.  It’s flipping your nose at all the people who made you the success that you are.

I keep hearing that The Given Day is a great read, but now I can’t bring myself to buy it.

Published in: on July 31, 2011 at 9:02 am  Comments (4)  
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Originally, when I started this blog 3 years ago it was to talk about writing (for those masses who have never read my blog: I know, I know…5 posts in 3 years???  What the hell have I been doing?  Well, I do have a hundred or more that I haven’t bothered to move over when I switched from iWeb to WordPress)

More specifically, the blog was going to be about pursing the dream of a writing career while balancing a new job and being a new father.  That kind of petered out since I have done very little writing during that time.  In my defense, I did get laid off when the economy when into the shitter, a day before my second beautiful screaming bag of need got home from the hospital.  So, for a year of the past 3 years, I was scrambling around, trying to get whatever bits of work I could, and then for the past 13 months I’ve been at this job I’m at now.

When you have a family, you start worrying about all kinds of things that you never thought on much before, most of which revolve around cash money.  How I am I going to put my kids through college in 18 years so they don’t end up hooking it down on Hollywood Blvd?  How am I going pay for their braces and cool-kid clothes so they aren’t all snaggle-toothed when they’re 13 and wishing the boys in class would notice them instead of that prissy, straight-toothed Tiffany Carpenter with her salon hair and designer jeans.

You start to think about money all the the friggin’ time … Or I should say I start to.  It’s entirely possible that other people aren’t nearly as neurotic as me.  As soon as Spawn #1 spurted out, my dreams and life goals all took a back seat to constantly thinking about how I could make more money.  And in a way, this is how it should be.  My kids are more important to me than I am.

But, the catch is that when you’re in that place, you’re never really happy with where you are at.  You’re going through the motions every day at a job you don’t like doing because you think it’s going to get you somewhere that you don’t really want to  be anyway, but you’re still going to go there because it will be better for your kids.  But the whole time you’re, not miserable really, but not as happy as you could be and that’s got to have an effect the very things the things that you’re “giving up” so much to help in the first place.  It’s a conundrum.

I was watching Louis C.K. on YouTube recently.  I just discovered him and find him fucking hiiiiiilarious.  He was talking about the difference between single people and married people and he said, basically, “You ask married people how they are doing, they just say ‘fine’.  That’s all we say.  We don’t say ‘Well, my wife assassinated my sexual identity and my kids are eating my dreams.'” and I laughed a little too hard at that.  While I don’t resent my kids or silently sulk about what I may or may not have “given up” for them, I do feel myself getting farther and farther away from where, and who, I want to be.

Giving up this job I’m not crazy about isn’t the answer.  I do like being able to feed and clothe my family.  But the more I get away from my own goals and dreams the more I want to just flop my fat ass on my couch after getting home from work and escape into whatever TV show happens to be on.

It’s not exactly the life I hope to have and  it’s time to pull out before inertia makes it too hard to move.  A life of resigned acceptance doesn’t really sound like one worth living.

So, I’ll do this job and  I’ll do it well, but what I think I’ve decided to do is stop thinking about it as a career.  Stop thinking about my future and where this job can lead me and just think of it as something that pays the bills while I try to get to a place where I really want to be and while I try to become someone that both I and my kids can be proud of.

And my kids braces and college education?  Hmm.  Hopefully they’ll have straight teeth like their daddy and are smart enough to get scholarships?  Maybe we’ll be poor but at least they’ll have a dad who doesn’t hate himself more with each passing year.

From now on, this blog is going to re-focus on its original intent.  It’s going to be about writing; both mine and other people’s, and about trying to balance the pursuit of my dreams and my commitment to my family.

In writing news:

I just finished a spec script that too far took long to complete.  It’s in the hands of a good friend of mine who also happens to have an agent.  He’s going to give it a read and then give it to said agent.  We’ll see what comes of it.

I’ve re-started editing the young adult novel I wrote a few years ago.  Been polishing at a rate of five pages a day (most days).  Although I still like the story and most of the content, the book is 378 pages of spelling and gramatical errors.  An amazing, wonderful, fantastic friend of mine marked up the entire thing for me.  I printed it out, gave it to her and she returned it as a sea of red ink.  I’ve been fiddling with it, setting it aside for other projects and avoiding it for years now and about 3 months ago I re-committed to it and I currently have 57 pages left to edit.

And the main project I have I am working on is a novel that’s been rolling around in my head for a couple years.  I started outlining it and have written the first five pages.  It’s not much, but I’ve only been working on it a week.

So, just to keep a running tally of my two most current projects

Young Adult Novel:  Pages left to edit: Novel:  Page count



Well, that looks like crap….  If anyone knows how to insert a nice looking spreadsheet into WordPress, please let me know.

And that’s about all for now.  Back to writing.  I want to get to page 10 by the end of the weekend.

Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 5:22 am  Comments (2)