Monday, September 15, 2008

Projectile Weeping

Last Friday night, David Foster Wallace killed himself at the age of 46. I didn't hear about it until Sunday afternoon, and it took me at least five minutes to fully register the news. Sometimes when famous folk die, us plain people often feel like we've been punched in the gut. It depends on the individual, and the context, but I'm willing to bet that we've all felt it before. It is slightly embarrassing to admit: that a person you've never met, were never going to meet, know next to nothing about, is long gone, and now their loss is plucking at the strings inside your own heart. I mean, it can't be real sadness, right? But, for me, the loss of DFW was a genuine gut-punch.

I read Infinite Jest last summer exclusively during my breaks at work. It took me three weeks and several re-starts and one library renewal to finish, but once I had slogged through to the end I felt the familiar twinge in my stomach: I knew that this book was going to be one of "those books" for me. His language play, his muddle of characters and time periods and content, and his often three-page-long run-on sentences were all difficult to get through, but as payoff the book made me reconsider where I wanted to head with my own writing. It encouraged me to take more risks with style, to think smarter, to try harder. In short, it made me want to be a better writer.

David Foster Wallace had the rare ability to impress and destroy and rebuild and entertain and touch, all in just one sentence. He was less a "writer" and more simply an artist, a builder of intricate webs of words and thoughts. He was one of the best voices of this generation, and I can only hope that other talented wordsmiths will take up his mantle in the years to come. Here's to a truly unique voice, a thousand perfectly penned pages, and a legacy of gut-punches. Rest easy, DFW.

"We're each deeply alone here. It's what we have in common, this aloneness."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

big and dirty

I've been having trouble readjusting this September. Past Septembers have always entailed a jump back into the familiar: that old campus, that dingy transit system, those boys in striped shirts and girls in purple Western hoodies and too-early-in-the-season-Uggs, my roommates, my boys, my big beautiful oak trees. As soon as I got there each fall, and despite the lack of air conditioning in the various apartments I rented, London always felt like home. The city sucks, but it was always my Forest City.

It's been about two weeks, but Toronto isn't my Big Dirty yet.

Although, to be fair, it is pretty damn dirty.

This house of mine looked pretty nice upon first and second viewings, but as soon as I moved in I realized that every interior surface was actually covered in a thin layer of dirt and grime. The floors and the kitchen counter and the bathtub. The walls and the window-sills and the windows. The doorknobs and the baseboards and the front door of the fridge, even. I cleaned and primed and painted and fixed it up for five days straight, and it still doesn't feel like home. A few days ago I finally, finally felt a small flicker of comfort in this place-- something really small, but something noticeable. I'm hoping it'll snowball in time.

School is something else entirely. During the orientation "party" I slowly realized that my one fear about entering this program straight out of undergrad was being confirmed before my eyes: I am the baby. I am the youngest person in the group by at least two years, and even then most of these other people are closer to 30 than I am to 20. Quality in writing is often guaged by the life experiences of the author, and my fact sheet (young, suburban, cynical, straight, redheaded and pale like fucking Anne of Green Gables) isn't doing me any favours. I'm sure most of these people doubt I have the capacity to succeed at this, at this stage in my life. And I'm sure they wouldn't be suprised if I were to admit to them that, yes, I too doubt my potential and worry sometimes that I've started out too early. I haven't written The Great Canadian Novel yet and tucked it away in a drawer, and I haven't been published in literary journals or won large-scale writing contests. So what have I done? I've written a novel, a novella if you must, that took up most of a year and now takes up a substantial part of my heart (only a few people have ever read it, and only a few ever will, but I'm okay with that). I've spent four years emerged in this world of pretentious literary folk, writing out everything that comes into my head, looking for inspiration, trying and trying and failing and sometimes succeeding. This is the only thing I can do, and the only thing I really want to do. And that's a universal statement, right? Writing fiction can, and should be, ageless. Well, so long as it's good.

On the other hand, there's this:
"She's already a reality star and a fashion designer, but Lauren Conrad is adding another title to her crowded resume: Author.

Conrad, 22, has signed on to write a three-book series of young adult fiction for HarperCollins, the publisher tells PEOPLE. The books – the first of which is scheduled to hit shelves in the summer of 2009 – will be loosely inspired by Conrad's own experience going from an ordinary teen to a reality TV star.

"It's definitely influenced by my own life," Conrad tells PEOPLE. "The books are about a girl who moves to L.A. and stars in a reality show, so obviously there are some similarities."

So will Hills costars like Heidi Montag, Specner Pratt or Brody Jenner wind up as in Conrad's series? Not exactly. "I'm not trying to do a fictional story based on all my friends in my real life because their stories aren't really mine to tell," says Conrad, who has gone through many dramas on her MTV show. "Some of the characters may symbolize people in my life, but it is in no way calling anyone out."

Conrad's best gal pal and The Hills costar Lauren Bosworth has already been offering advice. "I run ideas by Lo and I'll ask for her opinion because I value my friends' opinions," says the budding author, who has completed the outline for the first book.

But not everyone in Conrad's life has been clued in to her plans to pen a series. "Honestly I haven't told everyone," she admits. "I've told my best friends and they have all been really supportive. Nobody was worried."

And it's enough to make me want to puke up all that cheap white wine I drank last night-- a Wednesday night-- while I pretended to work on my most recent novel idea.

Also, who knew they sold quilted Chanel handbags at Target? I sure didn't.