Talk Hard #4

Mikael Covey
if you can’t say anything… don’t

Gallix wrote an article at The Guardian, and so I left a comment, as is my wont. His point being something about on-line lit being dead and buried; my point being that on-line lit is this great wonderful thing with unlimited potential. And so, who is right?

Sometimes I’ll read an on-line lit story and more often than not, it goes like this “I got drunk, got stoned, fucked her and her little sister and her little brother and her mom and her dad and her goat. Goddamned goldfish got away, slimy little bastard, was hoping he’d gimme a blowjob.”

So I wonder, is that all there is to on-line lit? I got drunk, got stoned, and fucked her… Jeez, who edits that shit? Or is it…that’s what the masses want. The half-way literate reader maybe wants story after story about I got drunk stoned and fucked her… Why? If that’s what’s so wanted or needed, why not just pick one such story and read it over and over again. Or better yet, find a porno-lit site and read the same type story over and over – she was underage and I fucked her. Man, constant literary excellence there.

Nah, that’s a buncha crap. Or is it? Television is too pathetic to watch, so I read and write books. But TV is very successful, or at least it makes a lot of money. Perhaps pulp crap is exactly what the majority of viewers want. And maybe pulp crap best-selling books are exactly what most readers want. So why shouldn’t on-line lit be allowed this same privilege? – lit sites wanna be popular, and pulp crap is what people want.

Well, lemme tell yah a story. Pauletta is just some girl on my delivery route. Never even met her, just that her name’s unusual, so it stands out. Some time ago, she moved away from the apartment building where she was living. Then recently she moved back in. And last night she and a couple of friends were shot to death. All over the news of course. So when I delivered a package to her today, I knew she wouldn’t get it. Or anything else, ever. Twenty-one years old and a life snuffed out by some old lunatic who didn’t know what he was doing.

Not that it matters. Everything in life being pointless, meaningless, and of no particular use; like television, books, stories. But it matters to me. Walking atop God’s green earth with my bad knees and no cartilage, I think it’s wrong for me to look up at the sunny blue sky and those kids who were murdered can’t. I think it’s our fault. We’re responsible for whatever values and morality and social systems exist in our little world. It’s not enough to learn right and wrong, there has to be a deep understanding of the value of life, of people, individuals; of goodness, decency, how we treat one another, and why.

People will say that video games and movies full of gratuitous sex and senseless violence are a bad influence. While I wonder…why senseless? You’d think, here you have this opportunity, video games reach millions, millions of people. Why would you make them senseless? If you have this opportunity to captivate, to influence so many many people, why not be sensible, instead of senseless? TV, movies, video games reach basically everyone on the planet, so why wouldn’t they be brimming over with intelligent significant meaningfulness. Or if you’re a writer or editor, and if just one person reads your story on the internet, shouldn’t that story be the most meaningful thing you could possibly say?

Like you’d be delivering the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention, everybody in the world watching you, and you say “I got really drunk, stoned, and fucked her…” And people are like “wow, man, what a speech. I can really get something outta that.” No, that’s fucking nonsense. Why are we so surrounded by fucking nonsense?

Like video games. I can understand a simple concept like ‘escaping from reality.’ You get absorbed in the game, locked in, momentarily lose all touch with everything else. And another simple concept ‘to be heroic.’ You can do that in a video game, or vicariously in an action/adventure movie. You become, for the moment, heroic. So why wouldn’t writers go about informing readers of concepts like that. Explain to people that your very brief mortal existence has to be more than something you desperately want to escape from. Explain to people that their lives can actually be heroic, exciting, meaningful. People can, should, maybe need to do that.

And not to waste my time, yours and everyone’s by inundating us with pointless meaningless bullshit. But that every breath, step, and stroke of the pen needs to be used to make this a better place. Because it matters. Say something, tell me something I need to hear… or shut the fuck up.

4 thoughts on “Talk Hard #4

  1. I suppose we must be careful about writing about ‘gritty reality’. Some writers who have a lot of content online are all about apeing beat writers, or at least writers from that time period specifically Bukowski. The spectre of Bukowski looms large, though due to the volume of poetry that he wrote people get the idea that most of his stuff is solely about being on the booze.

    Sometimes this may be the reality, people may heartily drink and ‘poetry’ is how they are expressing it but if you are going to write about that lifestyle you need to have at least lived it. My second chapbook ‘Stress’ written when I was in my late teens was all about binge drinking experiences, though as I’ve gotten older and more mature (sic) I have moved away from that both in terms of reality and the situations that I write about. It would be easier to still write about this lifestyle since their is a great demand for writing about the theme of alcoholism.

    We still live in a culture where sex and shock value sells. Using singer Amy Winehouse as an example, the tabloids and the celebrity dirt tv networks like E! are thriving on her excess, yet not bemoaning the waste of a vocal talent. Expand this to the celebrity culture as a whole where we are bombarded with ‘stories’ and journalism about kiss and tell, coke in the bogs and redemption in reality tv, we are going through a cultural malaise. Even critically acclaimed dramas such as The Wire rely a lot on the shock factors of drugs and violence, so it’s not just something that affects the low brow. In your article you ask the important question, why? We can only assume people are writing for what they think people want and not what they truly want to say.

  2. I’m not an editor so I don’t know, but I agree with Mike, a lot of the stuff online is homogenized stuff. Is that all editors get or is that what they prefer? One thing, that I think is worth noting, is that online literature is not market driven and that means something…

  3. We talk for a reason, like – to clarify our ideas. Somebody else might have different or better ideas. Maybe we can learn something from them. Like when Richard says “people write what they think people want – not what they truly want to say.” And David says “is that all editors get – or is that what they prefer?”

    If I could speak to writers, the thing I’d want to tell them is – write precisely specifically exactly the one thing you think is most important to you. If you can write well enough for your stuff to be published on the top zines around the net…I don’t need to know that. I mean, good for you, I applaud your success. But if you can’t tell me something really important, really meaningful here on Oct 2 ’08…why should I bother?

    Like you, I’m busy writing a novel and all sorta other shit. Like you, I barely got time to read what my friends publish so’s I can keep up with what they’re doing. And yeah, I’d like to read some of the ‘talked about’ writers who got books published or coming out. Plus, I get review copies that I’m ‘sposed to read and maybe write about. So…time is a premium. Yeah, life’s short. And what I want (or need) outta any and all of this lit, is what’s really really really meaningful, special, stuff we all need to know.

    And for me, David and Richard hit it right on the head. Damn…editors control what we see on the net, at the bookstore, in the library. They control what everybody reads. To a certain extent, that influences what everybody thinks, what everybody does.

    Please, take that role seriously. Very very seriously. You send me emails and newsletters that this is your lineup for your new issue. So…please, if I’m to trust you that this is the best of all the submissions you’ve received, it really better be that. In fact, it needs to be that – if lit is going to impact the world. To make this a gooder place for all us kids to play in.

    There just isn’t much time to reach me, or the other six billion. For that girl Pauletta, time’s up. Nobody got to her or the guy that murdered her. That hurts. Please, think of her, think of him, think…when you write, when you edit. It’s important, it matters.

  4. i like this discussion. loved the original post and its ideas. then came the comment and that made me turn a different direction. then came the response…this gave me a lot to work with and online is the only way this could have happened. thanks gc and thanks mc.

    zo

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