The Twenty-Second Particular / 19 April 2001

Keep revisiting the same themes over and over, hammering away at the same concepts and characters, the same dynamics, the same vocabulary. I’ve got deaths in the family, I’ve got amputation, I’ve got inventions assembled from everyday parts and corporate dialogue and fragmented mystery and throb and sinus and enhanced by machines and disconnection and fear of death and unfocused desire and a lot of manufactured or modified mythology. Alexis, driving her car through the tree-lined corridor that speeds us past the Bush compound to the Piscataqua, she says that children keep cropping up in my writing, or at least non-adults if we’re going to include el protagonisto of the book I’m working on (and by “working on” I mean “not working on,” of course) (not sure why I felt it necessary to Spanish-ize that word — perhaps to give the book a whiff of the rogue outlaw that it so sorely needs), who, due to the constraints of the plot, is a high-school senior (a shrewd move, I think, given that I am unable to accurately depict a fictional character unless I am at least ten years older than said character) (it takes that long to form a healthy, detached, wide-awake sort of awareness, I suppose).

At some point in the distant past, Ben had a Perl script or the like that would scan a given piece of writing and calculate how many times each word appeared, sorting them in order of frequency, I believe. [Update: Ben just reminded me of its whereabouts — turns out it sorts the results alphabetically.] It acted as a nice coldwater wakeup call, shaking you by the lapels and making plain your excessive use of, for example, particular (just did a search on this site and it appeared in 21 different stories), but it was also a way to see what you kept writing about, again, again. A cheap sort of self-analysis, always my favorite kind, esp. when the number-crunching is handled by a computer (see “enhanced by machines,” above).

I like the idea, though, of this sort of obsessive focus, of finding a thematic niche and thoroughly exploring it. It’s my loathing of dilettantism finally triumphing over my loathing of repeating myself, and I think that’s a sign of potent, virile maturity. Write the same story, make the same movie, compose the same song, over and over, always getting a little bit closer to some sort of fundamental understanding. Take it all apart, separate it into its tiny, shiny components, get so familiar with them that you could put it back together in the dark, or, more likely, get even more baffled and find yourself unable to reconstruct it, forcing the broken pieces back together, jerry-rigging a creaky solution so the thing never quite works the same.

But: when my legs are shattered in a car accident and I bleed to death under a cement divider (“fear of death”), I think I’d find some small degree of happiness, there in the acoustical tiling of the hereafter, knowing that someone said well, he put it all back together but it never really worked quite the same way again.

Previously / A Menace To Liberty
Next / Eightball'd

Joshua Green Allen

Fireland is a rickety old website by Joshua Allen.

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