The Unknown: The Orange Line.
  Oooh - A TakeDown

Dear David,

I just want to write down my gut response to your criticism while I’m still pissed off about it. I am taking it seriously, don’t get me wrong, but there are some things I want to talk about, and I think I can get a better handle on them if I write them down (Verbalizing them turns them into gobbleteegook).

1) Initial response—I do have a heart, you crummy bastard—in my life and in my writing. Go suck an egg, you fool. I’ll show you. You bet I will.

2) Analyzing this response—this is the response I think you were looking for—the proverbial cattle prod up the ass.

3) I do avoid sentimentality like a plague. I do think that it’s a trap (worse than the ironic one, probably) and that most “bad” writing reeks of it. My fear, maybe the fear of my (oh god) generation, is that I will try to write something meaningful, true, etc. and I will end up writing Hallmark cards. I don’t want to become that which I make fun of.

4) I also know that in making fun of what I make fun of, I am becoming that which I make fun of, at least I’m marginally aware of that. I’ve already read your essay and “Deride and Conquer.” I think I know that I’m sneering. I’m not sure that’s bad. It’s probably not good. But I’m not sure it’s awful. I like some trash TV. If I can get a laugh, maybe that’s enough. Probably not. I don’t know. But I’m also not fucking Bret Ellis/Tama Janowitz and I never will be. (Even if I don’t ever get published, you can’t lay that one on me—I’m more than zero and I know there’s more to life/writing than listing product names and clever/empty little ironies).

5) I liked “Loving Bill.” I liked Ellen. I didn’t like the Oprah story by the time I finished writing it, but I liked it after I read it a couple of times. Now I hate it, for the same reasons that I didn’t like it when I was writing it. By the end it felt like an exercise (intellectual) and not very rigorous at that. But there’s still some things I like about it. It’s just hard to separate myself from my writing activity this semester. Have I been wasting my time? I’ve devoted more time and energy to this than anything else this semester. So I should throw away the two things which I really worked on. Probably. But it is a violent, retching feeling to do so. It makes me question a lot of things. Writing is what I’m here (ISU, grad school) for. If all I’ve been doing is empty, clever, masturbatory—shit, I should have worked harder in advertising where they appreciate this shit.

6) I know that that’s bullshit.

7) Get a heart? Easier said than done.

8) I have this great fear that I’ve spent a year here working my fingers, cracking my knuckles. I was going to revise this stuff and put it in my thesis, but now I’m not sure.

9) I also have this great fear that I’ll get out of here having grown as a writer, but having published nothing and having nowhere to go and having destroyed my self-concept as a writer and getting some shit career-type job and hating it and never finish my first novel. Maybe I haven’t written that much fiction, but I’ve been writing seriously since 1988. Six years seems like a long time of emptiness when I confront it. I don’t know what this means, but I fear it.

10) I do recognize that what you and Curt say are coming from your own perspectives and that your words are laced with your own brands of fear/paranoia/doubt. I’m also not trying to write like you, or write like Curt. Maybe DeLillo. But I do take you seriously, and I respect what you say.

11) I was getting sort of sick of writing about TV, anyway. The next thing you will see from me will be different, but probably not the earnest (Hemingway?) kind of thing you’re looking for. I think that I need to evolve, not to force a change (of heart?) in myself.

12) I’m bad. I’m mean. I’m ugly. I’ll never make it. I sneer. I’m evil. I’m hideous. (I kind of like this). I’m a villain. I’m everything that social critics say I am. I’m empty. I don’t believe that there is truth. I’m self-centered. The world is my ashtray. It all means nothing. I think I’ll become a slacker, grow my own reefer, and sit in a coffeeshop all day, reading Nietzsche.

With a humble and contrite heart,

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The Unknown at Spineless Books.