Monday, January 28, 2008

Irreverent Conferencing

Fellow writer John Yelverton shared this with me. This passage is quoted in The Long Embrace, a biography of Raymond Chandler by Judith Freeman.

Raymond Chandler wrote this in 1950 called "A Couple of Writers."

"...Just a flat emptiness. The emptiness of a writer who can't think of anything to write, and that's a pretty awful painful emptiness, but for some reason it never even approaches tragedy. Jesus, we're the most useless people in the world. There must be a hell of a lot of us, too, all lonely, all empty, all poor, all gritted with small mean worries that have no dignity. All trying like men caught in a bog to get some firm ground under our feet and knowing all the time it doesn't make a damn bit of difference whether we do or not.

We ought to have a convention somewhere, some place like Aspen, Colorado, some place where the air is very clear and sharp and stimulating and we can bounce our little derived intelligences against one another's hard little minds. Maybe for just a little while we'd feel as if we really had talent. All the world's would-be writers, the guys and girls that have education and will and desire and hope and nothing else. They know all there is to know about how it's done, except they can't do it. They've studied hard and imitated the hell out of everybody that ever rang the bell.
What a fine bunch of nothing we would be, he thought. We'd hone each other razor sharp. The air would crackle wi
th the snapping of our dreams. But the trouble is, it couldn't last. When the convention is over and we'd have to go back home and sit in front of the damn piece of metal that puts words down on the paper. Yeah, we sit there waiting--like a guy waiting in the death house."

John thinks that Raymond was down when he wrote it.

So now, fifty-eight years later, the lady (me) speaks to the grumpy protagonist in the late Mr. Chandler's story:

Oh, why bother with the pretense of a writer's conference? Especially if we know the crackle and sizzle just won't last? Who needs to be reminded that the lady in front of you submitted a short story to journals 77 times before having anything accepted? Or the girl who spent $60 grand on an MFA can't get a job at a University, nor can she afford to move to NYC and no one wants her manuscript? Do we need to get embroiled in the font controversy and hea
r that if you submit in Courrier rather than Times, the lackeys below will think you're a neanderthal? Does it really matter whether or not the group you've been assigned to think your trans gender protagonist would be better as a metro sexual male, and do we really need handouts with passages from Wittgenstein and Gardner with no opportunity to discuss what they were saying or acknowledge the crossover between fine arts and writing?

No. I say go on a cruise. Why not a cruise of writers, where the
pages are lost below deck, everyone plays drinking games, goes for broke in the casinos and then uses rusty social skills and reacquaints themselves with the concept of "dressing for dinner?"

At least the booze would be decent, we'd know the
life stories were bullshit and there'd be time for outrage and fun. That's exactly what I think of the $1500 spent for a conference fee. Better to upgrade and get a balcony view room on a good cruise line, workshop lightly, flirt outrageously with someone you'll never see again, and have a really great time. And there'd be no academia la la la.

And if Josephine Damian and Chumplet Writes came along, at least there'd be a few saucy minxes.