The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

Mo’ Like Literature… Nope, I Just Can’t Think o’ a Good Obloquy that Rhymes with “Hub”

Till I finally found a way to turn it off, my phone decided to give me its own version o’ Mozilla’s beloved Pocket with its own mountain o’ trash clickbait & 1 website whose idiotic titles kept catching my eye was a website called “Literature Hub”, so let’s take a look @ its greatest hit:

“On the Myth of the Made Writer and the Madness of Emerging”

For someone who thinks of herself as a writer, I’m writing very little these days.

Unironic r/writingcirclejerk member here.

It’s been months since I’ve liked anything I’ve made, or since I’ve felt much pleasure in making it.

Wow, nobody else in the universe has felt this way. It’s too bad there’s not a million cliché advice ’bout it. Better make your own, too.

Obviously, it can’t be that they’ve managed to grow a li’l bit o’ better awareness o’ literature & have come to realize that what they’ve been writing sucked & obviously “study literature, specially literature I’m not familiar with, including critiques & commentary ’bout other literature, ’cause I take writing seriously & want to be always improving” isn’t the solution, but moping round hoping for that right sparkle to strike you is.

In July, a friend of mine died, and his widow asked if I would take his dog. Although I’d known this dog for many years to be a calm, assured, stately fellow, our beginning in California was proving rocky. He whined in the doorways, keened into the empty air, paced through the nights. I could find no cause of his discomfort. I reached out to a writer friend, a woman who knew about dogs, wrote about dogs, had taken in dogs of all kinds her whole life. I needed help.

If this is how you write, I can definitely see both why you haven’t liked anything you’ve written or why you don’t derive pleasure from it, since this is a terrible way to start a novel. Love how they just casually mention their friend dying & then goes on to, “anyway, let’s talk ’bout his dog, the real star o’ the story”.

To clarify: when I say “writer friend,” what I really mean is “writer in whose workshop I was a student at a conference exactly once and who, for whatever reason, took a bit more of an interest in my work than was strictly required by her position, and who now, on very slim occasion, emails me, and who I, on very slim occasion, email as well.” She is advanced and successful, has published many excellent books and won prizes for them, makes her living writing, teaching, and lecturing.

So by “friend”, you mean “someone way out o’ my league”.

She is what I’ll call here a Made Writer…

Ah, now I understand: by “friend” you mean “business associate”, & by “business associate” you mean you’re part o’ some mafia o’ writers. ¿Why aren’t you writing ’bout that? That would be far mo’ interesting.

…and I call her a friend too not because we’re friends exactly, but because I was writing to ask her about my life, and about my dog. We were speaking of human things, not of writerly things.

¿You ask her ’bout your life & your dog? ¿Why would she know mo’ ’bout it than you?

All right, I’ll quit boring you with this banal tripe. You want to get to the meat o’ this article. Here you go:

I opened the file, twitchy with that particular thrill of finding oneself proximal to the famous; a video of Michael Ondaatje’s dog!

Cool, I guess…

We get interrupted by this giant-ass red text that’s super meaningful:

There is a kind of freedom in divorcing the maker from what is made.

This is clearly just the writer o’ this article trying to justify continuing to listen to R. Kelly.

Anyway, back to our feature presentation:

Of course, I thought, this is Michael Ondaatje’s dog, by which I meant, of course Michael Ondaatje, brilliant writer, would have a brilliant dog. And it might be true that Michael Ondaatje does in fact have a dog with these (or other) particular talents, but what I’d come to understand shortly (after paging through the exchange a second time) is that nothing actually suggested this was Ondaatje’s dog. Sure, he sent the video, but that was all. I’d made the leap of ownership on my own. I’d equated Michael Ondaatje’s singularity and success in writing with Michael Ondaatje’s singularity and success in dogs, which is to say, singularity in life, in self. He was his writing, and his writing was him.

99% o’ you readers are probably thinking, { ¿Who the hell is Michael Ondaatje? }. I actually read 1 o’ his books in high school — tho I don’t remember much ’bout it other than that he had that trite habit o’ trying to make e’ery bowel movement into a deep metaphor for life, which I think the writer o’ this article is trying to do with fucking dogs. What I do remember is my teacher introducing Ondaatje as the man who wrote a book that inspired a movie that became a part o’ a Seinfeld joke. It must be so lonely for Michael Ondaatje @ the top.

Before we continue, and to clarify: I am not a Made Writer.

That means Ondaatje can kill them & there’s nothing they can do ’bout it — real greaseball shit.

I am, at best, a writer in the middle-beginning of her career, a writer who finds herself in the anxious, hand-wringing early-success-place of having seen some of her work recognized, but not yet knowing what that will mean.

Anyone who e’er considers themselves “in the middle-beginning of their career” & isn’t in the middle-beginning o’ their life isn’t going to do well, since great artists always strive for improvement, regardless o’ how ol’ they are — e’en “Made Writers”, @ the risk o’ finding Brandon Sanderson’s head in my bed next morn.

After piddling away in obscurity for a decade and earning an MFA, and after seeing two or three publications during that decade in journals that either do not exist anymore or have little to no footing in the literary world, my career has accelerated. I was granted a scholarship to a high-profile conference, and then another; I was awarded a residency, and landed a story at a lit mag you would recognize, and then another, and another.

“& nowhere in any o’ that time did I write a single sentence o’ decent prose. ¡The system works!”.

As a result of some of this, I started to get emails from agents, and although no one who’s read it thinks my manuscript is a book, it’s become clear to me that if there is a path to having a book, I am on it, or one iteration of it, or anyway I am Doing the Writer Thing.

Yes, I guess you could describe panically typing word after word without any concern for whether or not they combine into coherent sentences some vague sort o’ uppercase “Writer Thing”. Personally, I would try writing an actual book rather than some vague Schrödinger’s Book Manuscript. Maybe they’re referring to the Marxian belief that labor’s social value can only be understood @ the marketplace. “Nope, sorry: it’s a mud pie”.

That I feel this way only by the measures of these externalities is, of course, and like Ondaatje’s dog, part of the problem.

Also, it would help if you stop getting distracted by niche-famous authors’ dogs.

After a brief and thrilling few months in which my productivity seemed to flourish with all this newfound external support, I’ve come to hate this part of my career.

¿What part? ¿The actual fucking writing?

I am not writing as much, and what I do write is by any measure flatter, more predictable, and emotionally more wretched to come by. I have stopped reading almost entirely (the last book I read was The Beet Queen, and it took me four months to finish it). I watch endless hours of television, a lot of which I’ve seen several times already. I turn my mind off whenever possible, which is one of the swiftest ways I know to poison any hope of meaningful work.

There’s this weird popular phenomenon ’mong people my age & younger to indulge in what I will now call “pitybrag”, which is where they essentially brag ’bout how useless they are. As someone who has this natural Darwinian avoidance to flaunting my failures ’less I can make it funny — & if this is an attempt @ comedy, well, it’s ’bout on the same level as a mentally-insane blog writer — I don’t understand why someone would want to do this, just like how I don’t understand the appeal o’ going on reality TV shows or Jerry Springer.

I do this for a reason, of course. That reason is: the experience of being in my own mind is uncomfortable.

¡Well, then quit fooling round in there & get back to your writing desk & get writing!

My mind is, when allowed to rest, at odds with itself. Languishing in it is the last thing I want to do.

The tragedy in all this is that if this writer were born a bit earlier they could’ve thrived as a writer for nu-metal artists like Papa Roach.

I am sure this reality comes from many places, and that some of those are personal to me, but I recently had a conversation with another writer —

Much as C. S. Lewis allegedly shouted, “Not another fucking elf!” when Tolkien was reading The Lord of the Rings to their writer group, I want to shout, “¡Not ’nother fucking writer!”.

We discussed everything: the pressures of the externality, how hard it was to resist the value system of prestige that permeates the literary world, how much it seemed that what mattered in that world (our world?) was not the quality of the work as we understood it, but the determination of the value of that work as offered by external sources.

They’re definitely talking ’bout the Marxian conflict ’tween labor value & use value as expressed thru exchange value.

Mo’ big-ass red text:

The reality of being an artist means, first, that one endeavors to express authenticity; the seed of that authenticity definitionally begins in a private place.

Worst economic theory e’er. ( Well, maybe not as bad as Milton Fucking Friedman’s “F-twist” ). Shigeru Miyamoto doesn’t express authenticity when he has Italian plumbers growing big & jumping on giant turtles — & if your definition leads to the conclusion that Super Mario Bros. isn’t great art, then it’s already falsified itself. & the last part seems to imply that “authenticity” is insularism, when one could argue that obsessing o’er one’s own “deepness” is, in fact, a very artificial phenomenon o’ modern western societies & much less authentic than humanity’s natural proclivity toward social interaction.


My favorite line from Ulysses.

I don’t think this pattern—in which the complex, interested, curious self creates interesting writing, which in turn garners recognition, which in turn buries the once-curious mind in a value system that hinders the creation of interesting writing—I do not think this is limited to the beginning-middle writer.

Personally, I don’t think it means anything ’cause it’s a jumble o’ superlatives. It sounds like they’re saying, “I’m such a genius, but I write shit. ¿Where is the synthesis to this dialectical conflict?”.

In fact, at that same conference where I met my despondent kindred writer friend, I saw it in a Made Writer as well. He was a faculty member at the conference, had seen enormous success with his first book, and was working toward a second. If my last few years feel fast to me, I cannot imagine what his trajectory felt like to him, in which he rocketed from a non-writing life to national acclaim in a few short years.

¡Yes! ¡Anonymous faculty member at the conference! ¡My favorite rock star writer! I loved his most recent book, .

A lot has been written about art and madness.

A lot better stuff, to be quite frank.

The general theory proposes a link between the predilection of a mind to create—art, music, writing, whatever—and the predilection of that same mind toward collapse.

No, the general theory proposes that laissez-faire economic policies can’t sustain full employment. ¿Did you e’en read Keynes?

To my read, the reality of being an artist means, first, that one endeavors to express authenticity; the seed of that authenticity definitionally begins in a private place.

God damn it, it’s that bad economic theory ’gain.

Which is why I started writing this essay in the first place.

¿To babble on ’bout trite philosophical musings?

I am afraid that, having stepped into the public eye (even a little, at 34), I won’t ever escape my current arrest.

I can assure you that nobody cares ’bout you, much less the police, who have mo’ important people to arrest, like Michael Ondaatje & his dog, who recently made a local book store that moved his latest book from the front window in favor o’ “yet ’nother fucking Stephen King doorstopper” have a “surprise fire” in relataliation ( he did give them a “fair warning” ). This is like that joke where some office drone draws a picture for slide #37 in some powerpoint presentation & 1 coworker mildly praises it & then the office drone goes round in shades offering autographs for their “masterpiece” to the bemusement o’ their coworkers.

Fears are not reality. I know this. Or, I repeat it to myself in the effort that it might become something I know.

This makes no fucking sense. You can’t make a statement & then claim you don’t know that statement after you just stated it — ’less Ondaatje’s genius dog snuck in & wrote that 1st sentence.

If there is a solution to this—to my assumption that Michael Ondaatje’s writerly genius extends to his dog —

It’s to stop smoking a whole bowl o’ Presidential Kush on a Saturday afternoon.

to my beginning-middle friend’s self-loathing

I thought you were the “beginning-middle” writer.

to the Made Writer’s struggle with his second book

How ’bout he struggles to get a name for himself & any o’ his books.

I think it has to lie somewhere adjacent to the New Critical view of literary criticism.

¡What a twist! ¡This was ’bout some outdated theory o’ literature this whole time! ¡Fooled you fuckers! They might as well have legitimately brought up a fucking Marxian or Keynesian theory & it would’ve made as much sense.

That there is a kind of freedom in divorcing the maker from what is made.

Shit, that’s what this line is ’bout. I’m reading “Sirens” from Ulysses.

At yet another literary conference, at which I met yet another Made Writer (yes, probably I should just take a break from these) —

Maybe you should spend mo’ time sitting your ass down & writing or studying writing ( probably more o’ the latter ). That’s what helps me write — less talking to idiots with no talent & mo’ writing so I can actually hone my own. It’s no guarantee — I mean look @ this blog post — but it’s better than any alternatives.

I heard the only piece of advice that I’ve found practical in these struggles of the last year.

Blood scrawled on the wall: “¡Practice, you idiot!”.

I was sitting with this writer in a one-on-one meeting, on Zoom

Wait, ¿You were sitting next to them but talking to them on Zoom? That’s some Boomer’s joke o’ a millennial.

She was an older writer, had come up decades ago, and told me that she had, certainly, but also that in some ways, it was just easier back then: no internet, no social media.

Actually, the internet is incredibly useful if you don’t waste your time reading idiotic nonsense from social media ( which… I’m doing right now, admittedly ). T. S. Eliot & James Joyce could’ve written all those foreign language parts in a snap with Google TranslateTM. ( Rock o’er London, rock o’er Chicago; Google Translate: Please Translate, you bastard ). Yes, it would’ve been inaccurate… but it’s an open secret that many o’ genius Eliot & Joyce’s translations were inaccurate — specially their gaijin attempt @ Japanese.

I can’t believe how long this article is going. ¿How does it end?

My new dog is doing much better now, thanks in no small part to the emails of the Made Writer. He no longer keens at the doorways, although he does sometimes seem to look around for something that is not there. This is a product of his circumstance, I think, a discord between a life he knew before and the life he knows now. It is an understandable madness.

Nope, sorry: tho this be madness, there’s no method in’t.

So, I just read o’er 2,000 words — tho it felt like 8,000 — o’ some rando meander thru several mixed metaphors ’bout their obsession with being a writer & nowhere do they talk ’bout anything they’ve written or have been writing or any mechanics o’ writing that they particularly like or dislike or anything that could prove that they e’en know what writing a book is. I think that “manuscript that may not be a novel” is 80,000 words o’ this meandering without a plot, setting, or theme & its characters are just writers & their dogs. ¡Today Scooby-Doo & the gang meet John Updike!

Actually, that sounds like it’d actually be funny. There’s my solution to your writer’s block ( I think that’s what they’re saying they have ), rando writer who will ne’er read this: write a book ’bout Michael Ondaatje & his dog solving mysteries. ¿Wasn’t that a plot point in Bojack Horseman?

Posted in Literature Commentary, Yuppy Tripe