Preface: I am reposting this entry despite the fact that the move described in part led to my divorce and entirely caused or at least fueled a depression followed by a streak of mania like lightening.
I am moving to Florida; Sanibel, Florida, to be exact, an island just west of Fort Meyers. Robert Rauschenberg and (how’s this for contrast) Dan Brown live on the adjacent island of Captiva. Several other known writers live there, too, like Barbara Kingsolver. Luckily, it’s not the home of Dave Barry. “Count your blessings,” they say. One.
My wife and I really can’t afford this move. It’s a crapshoot and the odds are loaded. If I had any marital power, I might have put the kibosh on it, but as a writer, I have no power in marriage, either.
I’m moving from the known location of hell — Flint, Michigan — and I wonder if my metaphoric angels will leave with my not-so-metaphoric devils. Perhaps chiggers will relieve me of that burden. Besides, I’m not at all convinced I’m possessed of even metaphoric angels. Let them fly — buzz off. I’m neither George Bailey nor Fyodor Dostoevsky.
On the other hand, I do worry I’ll begin writing mysteries of local color, guaranteed to sell a respectable number of copies to residents wanting to read about the places they regularly visit, as if those places only exist when written about, broadcast or filmed. The new definition of “art” seems to be: “To confirm the existence of readers or reassure them someone else’s life is worse.”
I believe the purpose of art is to change perceptions and to reinvigorate the senses. To show something in a different way, even to show what that something “sees.” To remind us we’re bored precisely because we only see what we’re used to seeing and how limited that viewpoint can be. To open our eyes and everything else.
Give me Christian Hawkey and take away every memoirist in the book…store. Give me what is of this earth and keep the conveniently-half-answered mysteries, even if Christian Hawkey is…a Christian. I’ve an open mind.
Everything is of use, everything…you’re a collagist or you’re nothing. There’s nothing you can do that hasn’t been done, so why do it again? There are no original singularities, but there are new combinations, always new combinations. Ask any locksmith. Or pair of lovers. So do it again.
Of course, major publishers aren’t interested in combinations; they’re interested in repetitions. Show me a current bestselling novel and, with a few exceptions, I’ll show you a book that’s been written better before. And by repetitions, I don’t mean interesting repetitions; I mean repeating in the manner of a cocaine addict: “It worked once and, despite all evidence to the contrary, I will repeat the experience again and again, hoping for the same result.” Hence, the rehab memoir.
I’m not saying I don’t repeat myself; in the words of Robert Fripp, “I repeat myself when I repeat myself.” I always hope only to enlarge a pinprick of a vision. ABE: Always Be Enlarging. That statement, by the way, should increase site-wide hits from blog spammers.
Maybe I’m merely “stressed,” a useless word now that leaving the house and seeing lowered flags everywhere, every day of the week, should alert anyone it’s time to be stressed all the time: Have Paxil, will travel. Stress, anxiety, depression, all of it, no longer signify neuroses. If anything, they signify the lack of it. It’s as though we’re constantly approaching a yellow light, uncertain how close it is to turning red.
So here I go, heading for earthquakes disguised as hurricanes. In that deceiving land, I’ll live near collagists and repeaters of conspiracy theories. There are rumblings. In destruction lies what will be, something not so much new as refashioned into something else.
Not New Orleans but New New Orleans.