Ever read a book that is too good to be true and everything after it just doesn’t compare? And then reading everything after that just seems trite? And your writing is never good enough?
That’s how it was after reading reading Infinite Jest followed by Gravity’s Rainbow. An onslaught of brilliant post modern fiction with a dash of Mason & Dixon in between. Witty, amazing, spiraling prose that lures the mind along paths of clauses and adjectives creating a picture through an onslaught of words. Its hard to believe that there is writing like that out there and how far away my own writing is from it. It is humbling to write and think that I’m worthwhile when these towering giants exist.
But they push me. They make me think outside the box and helped me do something different with my own writing. One that uses parenthetical statements (like this) to offer asides in a way that commas and hyphens struggle with. Hyphens are too much of a break in the flow And commas are such a degenerated form of punctuation that we can even read sentences without them half the time. The hell with formal grammar, I’ll put a comma in when it offers a pause, not when a school marm tells me to.
It also ruins other books.
I’m trying to find something else to read. I think my only recourse at this point is Nabokov. It’s incredibly difficult to read standard prose and dialog after seeing how one can butcher it and maintain its integrity. I tried Kipling and it just felt old and cumbersome. Even American Gods felt like it was tried and true. And now for research I’m trying fifty shades of grey (I refuse to capitalize it and mark it as literature) to see how a successful bdsm novel works. Ugh. So fucking bad. So fucking wretchedly terrible. It burns my soul knowing that people can stomach this prose which I would already hate but after the onslaught of awesome it’s just not possible, it’s just not possible to read static characters bitch about trivialities.
It ruined me. I don’t like reading anymore and haven’t read a book since the end of September. It’s a haze that makes me critical of everything in comparison to the pillars of my literary world that I strive to be like every time I sit down and attempt to write another sentence and I had the ridiculous idea to read both back to back. And it’s made me intensely critical of everything. I used to be able to laugh at bad books and enjoy them for their badness, but that’s gone. Throw writing at a clip on top of it and bam! I have insights into the construction of a reasonably long book. I’m far too critical for my own good and I can’t enjoy anything without comparing it or tearing it apart.
I’m now a literary nihilist. Nothing is worthwhile.
That’s making too much of it.
The same thing happened to me when I was a sound engineer. I knew how to deconstruct everything a band was doing, how it was mixed, how it was equalized, even the equipment posed questions to my mind. I couldn’t go out to a show without obsessing about how the engineer got things right and wrong and the wrong things infected my mind to no end. I couldn’t enjoy it without getting really drunk. My liver loved me. But I know the Jest-Rainbow haze will pass like it did with sound (though it’s taking its sweet ass time).
I’ve had literary haze in the past. Cormac McCarthy did it to me the last time. And before that was Nabokov. And then there was Walter Kaufman’s translations of Nietzsche… It’s a recurring theme with me. But it is nice to know that books can have such a powerful influence emotionally and technically when writing.
Still, I’d like it if the haze was more subtle.
Blerg. Blerg indeed.
- 1088 Reasons You Should Read Infinite Jest* (buzzfeed.com)