Exit Row Briefing March 2, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Toulouse Street, Writing.
“Every good painter paints what he is.”
He thinks he’s some sort of writer, someone said behind my back not a week ago and later much the same at greater length in an email directly to me, intending to wound but that approach didn’t exactly work out for Pontius Pilate and his Roman gods quite the way it was intended either.
I guess I do think so, or I wouldn’t be here typing this. I have a half-dozen credits and a much larger collection of rejections, but Toulouse Street is where I spend an awful lot of my time. This isn’t a daddy blog or a politics blog or a sports blog or a kitten picture blog or anything of that sort. It is a horse of uncertain color depending on the day of the week and possibly which race it is running, but it is at bottom concerned with one thing: the written tale of a narrator and his journey through New Orleans.
From almost the beginning there has been a quote from Samuel Beckett in the sidebar of Toulouse Street (once the twelfth post from August 2006): “I write about myself with the same pencil and in the same exercise book as about him. It is no longer I, but another whose life is just beginning.” If I were a writing coach critiquing this blog as a complete work, I would note that the twin tales of the narrator and his subject lack a distinctive voice or style that differentiates them and so the two blur together.
The key to why that critique is wrong has always been here, in that quote. The two story lines are one and the same. Any attempt to differentiate them would be artificial and fail. What happens here is the journey of someone becoming a writer for the purposes of telling a specific story, and in the process becoming a different person than at the start. I am on my fourth career, my second marriage. I only began writing with serious dedication around five years ago. If I don’t change and grow, I will die. I have known that for a long time.
And I’m not ready to die yet.
Some sort of writer, but what sort precisely? Not the sort who’s going to write that best seller or wind up on the featured book table for the hurried at the airport, that much I can affirm, and no I haven’t published anything in the New Yorker as the mentioned email attested. I am the sort of writer who is disappointed that the New Yorker poetry editor sends an email rejection instead of a pretty slip I can stick on the wall to remind myself: keep trying.
I am the sort willing to flay his own skin to find what it is that makes his heart down beat to the second line. I am the sort who spends half my writing time on poetry because I believe like the monks in Dr. Parnassus that if we ever stop re-imagining the universe it will end. If you are going to write what I write you must yearn to be the eyes of the world, to stand at once behind and in front of the camera and not fear the shutter chattering like frightened teeth, to find someway to shatter an infinity of mirrors so that the crashing splashes into the wider world and makes an opening into which you and the reader both escape.