#AuthorFail 6: Jarret Middleton

Welcome, fellow failures, to our weekly support group.

As you all know, poetry is largely worthless.

How often do you see anyone but “poets” or “earnest” “students” “reading” this treacle anyway.  When’s the last time you gave your “mother” a contemporary poetry collection for X-Mas?

You might also be interested to know that writers “suffer” to produce this particular-brand-of-failure. Yup. And this week’s correspondent offers us one tragic example of his wasted youth.

I’ll recount for you one of those innumerable brazen follies of youth which are all somehow required to obtain the badge of becoming old and bitter later on. Since I am most firmly a writer of fiction, I am happy to tell this story of a very minor window of my life and my development as a young author in quick transition from travel writing to poems to an eventual comfort in my own voice.

Four to five months of continuous travel on the road in the US, Canada and Mexico finally eased its pace and I landed in a terse New England mill town a little less than an hour inland from where I grew up on the seacoast in New Hampshire.  I lived in a two-bedroom that cost $600 a month, total.  I split it with my roommate, a sociopathic surfer and painter who was convinced he had a drug problem, though I never saw him do any drugs.  We listened to Creedence and Al Green records.  He smoked cigarettes and drew and I read Nietzsche, Lautremont, and Henry Miller and wrote poems and cryptic pronouncements on an old Smith-Corona.  I slept on a musty futon mattress thrown into one corner across a badly slanted floor.  The entire apartment was slowly tilting down the hill it was built on.  One whole half of the town was sliding down toward the river and the bridge that led to the sleeving and plastic tubing factory where I worked throughout that winter. Continue reading

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Art as Experience

Like John Cage said: "Not a peep."

In the comments section of my last post, Can Video Games Be Art?, I sketched out a definition of art as experience, or even as an attitude, rather than as a thing or a collection of things (see here and here). At the risk of repeating myself, I’d like expound on that position, in case anyone is interested (and wants to discuss/debate it).

But first, and briefly: I really do consider Roger Ebert’s argument—that video games aren’t art and can never be art—easily refuted. (I suspect Ebert thinks similarly; he’s obviously being polemical.) Here are two different ways:

1. Redefine art so that it includes video games. (As far as I’ve seen, no one caught up in the Ebert-inspired debate has taken the trouble to actually define art—always a big mistake.)

2. Demonstrate how video games display, in their own way, artistry (formal elegance, originality, personal expression, ingenuity, response to an artistic tradition, etc.). This is what I see most people trying to do, but the key is to find that artistry in the video games themselves, without comparing them to paintings, literature, cinema, etc. If they are an artistic medium, then video games should have their own unique artistic integrity.

That said, Ebert’s right when he asks why anyone really cares whether video games are art. I think it’s self-evident that they can be, but despite that most of them still totally suck.

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Unsolicited Edits of a Story by James Franco

Actor James Franco has published a story in Esquire. Though I’ve read stories that were once within its pages, all of which were edited by the incomparable editor, Gordon Lish, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything from Esquire while it was in Esquire. Reading Franco’s story, I knew, from the outset, that it would not make it past Lish’s careful eye. Not many stories could withstand his scrutiny, but I’d also guess that it would not make it past any editor’s eye, well, that is, except for the editor(s) at Esquire. In short, what Esquire has published amounts to a draft, a draft that’s far from fully-realized, but one that does—after removing extraneous details, redundancies, poor handling of slang and idiomatic expressions, clunky language, failed attempts at syntactical play, flawed punctuation, etc.—have some potential to be a compelling story. You’ll also find that I removed the italicized words in Franco’s story. They should be used sparingly not, as they are here, to give often weak dialogue emotional peaks and valleys. I contracted many words to facilitate speed, to make the dialogue here—which should be especially punchy—flow. My tweaks here do not make this a finished draft; they’re meant as a further step toward it. I’d like to see the dialogue made sharper, made funnier but still edgy. And another dimension I’d like to see expanded that Franco only barely develops here is the narrator’s strange, sometimes “pharmaceutical”-induced reveries.

Below I’ve included my mark-up of the text and then the “cleaned-up” version. All strikethroughs are Franco’s text, and everything in bold are my tweaks.

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