Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chapter 70: In Which I Ruminate on Tears and Laughter

Right now I'm sitting on a plane from Denver back to Oakland. Or as the kids say nowadays:

Oh my god I'm in the cloudz they hella fluffy yo lol #Nothingtodofortwohours

And by "right now" I mean "as I type." By the time I actually publish this post I’ll be in Oakland, passed out somewhere. So far it's been leisurely travels and I should touch down with enough time to hit the ground running on all the stuff I put off over break. Listening to the new Nightwish album. Maybe I'll post a review when I'm done. Just found out recently Imaginaerum or however it's spelled was released. In my dotage, I went a whole month and a half without knowing one of my favorite bands had released their new album. Nightwish are one of the most solid acts in heavy metal. Seven records in and they have yet to release a bad one, or even a mediocre one. Symphonic metal is not everyone's cup of tea. But if it is your cup of tea, then it doesn't come much better than Nightwish. And all the people on Youtube are still arguing over which singer is best. Argh. It's been, what, six years since Tarja Turounen was fired. Move on. The band is so good that they could hire Sammy Hagar for their new singer and I'd still be down for them. Though Hagar would not rock the evil Snow White costume as well as Annette:

A few months ago I did the Works in Progress reading at Mills. It's their bi-weekly MFA showcase where you go up and read your current project for five minutes. Seeing as how it's Mills and the audience had a year and a half of familiarity with my fantasy stuff, I decided to try something different. I expanded a memoir piece from my Multicultural Young Adult Lit class. I don't write memoir. Part of it is that I just have a bad memory. If I were to write a memoir, it would end up being half fictionalized anyway. That, and all writing is autobiographical. That stuff about characters having a mind of their own and speaking through you. Nonsense. It's you. I could write a story about a Sherpa in the Andes and it would still be filtered through my views and experience. And since all writing is autobiographical, why not add dragons? The Jack Daniels Sessions? That’s my life, that's my memoir, that's my therapy, all of it.

So the piece, which I put together just for the reading and will never be published anywhere, was short and pretty dark. Dealing with a period when I was eleven or twelve and intensely unhappy. The kind of stuff that years ago I would have been uncomfortable to share with a room full of acquaintances. As I usually do when I have some kind of time limit, I sped through the reading like the Micro Machines Guy in the old commercials. And about halfway through the first page, I hear a sound.


Uneasy laughter. Gradually, they got into it and were laughing outright. This surprised me. For some reason, I expected everyone to be grim. If only because that's what you do when someone is Baring His Soul. You take that pain and you treat it with love and respect like a sick puppy left in your care. And here they were, laughing at it all like a bunch of sick perverts.

Here's the thing...the story was funny. I think some of my best stuff was in there, albeit in a dry, black humor kind of way. They were laughing because it was funny. Which was my intention. And when the really serious parts came up, they listened. That grim look people get on their faces when they're at a reading means they are listening to the reader.

I left Works in Progress with an altogether happy feeling.

In my work I strive for that balance between light and dark. It's proven to be the greatest challenge, trying to be true to life's hardships while also being true to the fact that life is pretty damn funny. Even in its darkest moments. There's a story in my book called "How Brother Roy lost His Dog, Twice." It's one of my few attempts to write a straight-up humorous story. The first time I ever read it was at my last TerPoets feature. Afterward, everyone came up to me saying how sad it was. but they were laughing during the reading. Uncomfortable laughter. I liked that feeling. And I pride myself on the fact that I don't write for shock, and have my characters say things purely for controversy. Just telling the truth, as I see it.

1 comment:

  1. Sir, I wasn't at the reading and I've only just looked through a few of your blog posts, but I love the way you write. And I know that doesn't mean much, but going through a random google search for rants about Mills College and stumbling onto this blog was a real treat.