Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm just like the freelance fence-painter

There was a good spate there--a lot of 2004--where I was working on a sequence of stories about the doings of a freelance fence-painter operating in the Muskokas. I had read Italo Calvino and holy hell did my hair ever get blown back, did my dress ever get gusted up over my head. The freelance fence-painter was my stab at Calvino's Marcovaldo and Palomar stories, the stories full of the titular character looking at banal things and realizing profound trtuhs about himself and the universe and the universe in himself. The project was a fantastic, thrilling failure. I even spent a weekend in the summer of '04 in Bracebridge and Huntsville getting drunk in Travelodges' under the guise of working on the Book (a scene that has been repeated the past few summers in Arizona, while I work on what might one day be my first novel).

Let me tell you: the only thing better than actually writing a book is sitting around dreaming about writing a book. We can talk about Shelley and the ember of inspiration, but my second year Romantic notes are in a box at my parents house, so we won't. I will flimsily summarize, though, and say that the way you (you being me) build a book in your head is an astounding exercise, astounding because you don't actually have to do any of the work; the prose has already taken move-like life before actually being written. The comeuppance comes when you (you being me) have to sit down and turn all those lovely, sitcom-flashback-misty scenes into real writing. It turns out writing's hard. What's easy is killing an entire weekend in a hotel in Ontario's lake country, not leaving your room, getting drunk the way twenty-year-olds get drunk, watching TV in your swim trunks, and calling it writing.

The stories that I did manage to finish (roughly seven of the planned (seriously) 100) appeared in Soliloquies 7 and a newsprint magazine called The Void. (A funny story: Colm Toibin visited Concordia that fall with his book The Master. In a fleeting conversation it came up that I had just had a story published. "Oh? Published where?" he wanted to know, imaging, maybe, that I had placed a story in the god damned New Yorker or something. "In The Void," I told him. And Mr. Toibin laughed at me in that way only a large, craggy-faced Irishman can.)

The character of the freelance fence-painter (marvel, please, at my choice not to Capitalize the main character) hails from this Smog song, Song. You (you being you) can be sure there was a story where the FFP eyes the backside of a woman who has brought him iced tea.

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