Being A Writer
Have I lost my mind, you ask? Possibly, but before I cross over into the hyperreality of absurdist fiction and car commercials, perhaps you'd like to come along?
Quite simply, "The Neverything" is a tightly crafted, well-produced mini-film series (and associated interactive website, of course) with the ultimate goal of getting people to talk about the sheer bizarre-kooky-Napoleon Dynamitesque approach ... and Lincoln-Mercury products. But it's not just the oddball factor that makes this so appealing (and it is appealing). There are dark elements, humor and real intelligence driving the concept behind the story.
"The Neverything" revolves mostly around two brothers living on a ship in the middle of a field. They have no outside contact with anyone but the milkman who brings their "sustenance". They survive on cereal (which looks an awful lot like Kix) and run around in their underwear all day. Sounds a lot like college, I know. The trick is -- they don't actually exist -- they're fictional characters created by a struggling novelist named Marian Walker (who is also, for our purposes, fictional). While we learn about the strange world of Humkin and Mopekey out in their field of nothing, we also find out that Marian has started to blur the lines of what is real life and what is happening in her developing novel. Which makes sense as she intentionally creates one of the characters to have an awareness that she's writing about him ... Are you starting to catch the Borges/Calvino-style metafictional drift here?
As if that weren't enough to pull you in and make your head spin at the same time, there's a movie and corresponding site that focuses on the perspective of the author, called Lovely By Surprise, brought to you by Lincoln (while "The Neverything" is specifically attributed to Mercury.)
What does all this mean? What does it have to do with selling a car and furthermore what does it have to do with literature? I'll leave it to you to come up with your own answers, but the whole phenomenon has already started to generate some buzz, mainly by ad industry types and perplexed onlookers. I'm not sure what more to say ... and perhaps I've said too much already; however the convoluted, intriguing, highly addictive storyline and motivation behind it may just possibly be the most clever bit of writing and creativity I've seen in a long while.
And I'm not even in the market for a new car.
I'd like to thank the contest's esteemed judges for making this decision, and I'd also like to thank the great LitKicks writing community for making the book happen. More than anything else, I want to brag about the fact that I totally called this one, Babe-Ruth style, back in December over at Metaxu Cafe. I knew we'd at least make it to the final round, because the writing in this book is that good.
Will we go all the way? Well, some of the other finalists look pretty good, so I'm going to refrain from calling it a second time (even the Bambino knew better than to push his luck). If our book doesn't win, the book I'd most like to get beaten by is Keith Thompson's novel Gus Openshaw's Whale Killing Journal, an appealingly bizarre sendup of Moby Dick featuring a white whale with a scar in the shape of a double letter 'B' on his forehead, which his hunters believe stands for 'blubbery bastard'.
We didn't have the budget for any big whales or other special effects when we published Action Poetry in 2004, but we hope we still have a chance.
For those of you more focused on writing than reading, you most likely have some specific resolutions for the year. Are you planning to finish a manuscript? Self-publish a novel or chapbook? Start a new project or experiment with a different style? Maybe you'd like to join a poetry reading or put on one of your own.
Here at LitKicks we have a few resolutions and plans for the new year. Of course we are set on continuing to provide a place for literature to live online by offering timely articles, commentary and news bites. We have a few new features planned that will be fun and informative, plus we'll be adding many more reviews and interviews. As we work to expand our coverage of more genres and styles, we also want to more thoroughly explore the imprints of literature on everyday life -- and the echoes of life and global chaos in literature. We plan to dive into the current literary world and the history of literature on many levels. Levi will be taking on the NYT Book Review, Jamelah will still be reading the classics and I'll be doing whatever it is I do around here. As if that's not enough, we will always have a new literary factoid in our Today in Literature feature.
Whatever your literary goals and pursuits are -- big or small -- we'd like to hear what you're eyeing. And, as always, we wish you the best of luck in keeping your resolutions and for a great 2006.
Shabby Epiphanies by SJ Grady
Shabby Epiphanies takes its title from the eponymous poem that says
Among the secular priesthood
of our sexy new religion
worship must be sensual
(there's nothing else left)
Our fine friends at Minnesota Public Radio tipped us off to a fun contest that begins today -- it might be just the thing to work around that writer's block ... and best of all, there's a great prize for the winner. See below for the details and I hope to see a LitKicks face bring home the victory.
It is the time of year when we send or receive those end-of-year newsletters filled with funny family news: details about successes, delicate references to life's setbacks, and sometimes dramatically honest sentences that you have to re-read to believe.
As someone who's said "I'm going to write a novel" more times than I can possibly count with exactly zero written novels to show for it (though I do have four abandoned novels in varying stages of completion), I've long thought that NaNoWriMo might be just the thing to get me going. The notion of writing 50,000 words without the luxury of time to obsess over how perfect they sound is a daunting one to be sure. At least it is for me, because I am an obsessive sort when it comes to fictional prose. Even so, this year I have officially signed up on the NaNo website with every intention of seeing the whole crazy thing through to the end if it kills me and I never sleep again (until December).
The vast sprawl that surrounds high-finance corporate publishing is more than the minor league of literature. It's a permanent home for an incredible range of wildlife and humanity. Here are some of the books that showed up in our mailbox recently:
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, the British author of cultishly-popular humorous novels, short stories and plays (Jeeves and Bertie Wooster are probably his most famous fictional creations, and he worked on musicals with composers like George Gershwin and Jerome Kern) became unexpectedly controversial at the height of his popularity.
He was residing in France in 1940 when the Nazis over-ran the country. As a British citizen, he was interred as an enemy alien. The Nazis knew they had a prize catch, however, for Wodehouse was famous throughout the world, and they were anxious to use him for propaganda purposes. They transferred him to a prison in Berlin and made him an offer: he would be treated decently if he would just make a few pro-German radio broadcasts. He agreed to do so -- to save his skin, he would later say -- he would also claim that they were harmless broadcasts in which he simply joked about his imprisonment.
Today, a collection of T.S. Eliot's letters and a copy of The Waste Land sold in an auction for about $438,000. Say it with me, boys and girls: Damn, I really need to write more letters!
This got me to thinking about things like being a writer and correspondence. Though I doubt I'll ever write anything that will turn me into college English class fodder like Eliot, I had to think it would be kind of strange to have my e-mails auctioned off for hundreds of thousands of dollars after I die. (Especially since the world of my e-mail is a very strange place that even I don't want to be associated with half of the time.)
As writers, we write. Some of that is meant to be seen by others and some of it, well, isn't. Yet, if we become a part of the public consciousness (or, perhaps, even if we don't), there are still people out there who could possibly be interested in our ephemera -- the letters, the notes, the journals, the files of pieces never finished -- and I'm curious as to whether you ever think about this possibility. Even though you'd be dead, how would you feel about someone auctioning off your correspondence 40 years after you shuffled off this mortal coil? Publishing your journal? Collecting your unpolished, unfinished work and selling it as a set of your B-sides?
Do you think about it? Do you want your stuff burned after your death? Do you plan to burn it before your death? Just because you're an artist, do other people have a right to the thoughts you don't want them to see?
Or do you secretly want others to see these things? Do you ever write your so-called private stuff with an imagined audience in mind?