Saturday, December 22, 2012

[This is just to give you an idea of what happens when I try to start writing a novel. It took me two and a half hours to write the following.]


Jonah washed his hands and felt alive. He stood at the tiny sink in his bathroom and washed his hands and watched his hands washing each other. Scrubbing, tumbling over each other, vigorously intertwining, his hands at that moment were more self-aware than any other part of him, including his brain. Such beautiful hands. What a relief it was to transfer consciousness to his hands for a few seconds and give his mind a rest. His mind was perpetually mired in the past or in the future, but his hands only cared about the present. Still, Jonah couldn’t keep time at bay for long. A song began unbidden in his mind:

You’re older than you’ve ever been
And now you’re even older
And now you’re even older
And now you’re even older
You’re older than you’ve ever been
And now you’re even older
And now you’re older still

He turned off the water and looked in the mirror. His hands didn’t mind being older, but they could afford not to, because they weren’t even aware of being older. That makes no sense, thought Jonah. He shook himself free from his trance and dried his hands (returned to their subordinate, unconscious state) on his roommate’s bath towel hanging from a hook by the door.
I’m 31, thought Jonah. I’m in my 32nd year.
He returned to his room and sat down in front of his computer. The browser was open to his Netflix Instant queue. He’d been trying to decide what movie to watch for the past hour and a half.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I tried to start writing a novel today. I wrote half a page. It was about a guy sitting in his room trying to write. I was sitting in Cake Shop. There was hardly anyone else there. I sat in the back, by the window. First I read from Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee. Then I took out my notebook and tried to write. What I wrote is stupid, of course. A few weeks ago I started a novel. I wrote about a page and a half. It was about a young woman moving into an apartment with another woman with whom she shared a mutual friend. That was stupid. It seemed okay when I was writing it, but then I reread it the next day and immediately saw how terrible it was.

I'm reading a lot these days. The more I read, the more I want to write. Anything I might want to write about is too personal. I'm still out of work. I apply for jobs all the time. I never get a single interview. I hate things I write online. I'm sitting in my room, listening to the Morphine station on Pandora. I want to write. I hate things I say.

The last two nights I watched movies called What Happened Was... and The Wife, both directed by Tom Noonan. Months ago I was watching the show Damages, and there was a character who was a somewhat eccentric police detective. Recently I was looking for Wallace Shawn movies on Netflix, and I came across The Wife. I started watching it and saw that one of the actors was the detective from Damages. That was Tom Noonan. But I started the movie too late at night and I fell asleep. That was three weeks ago. At some point I also added What Happened Was... to my queue. I watched it last night, and then I watched The Wife tonight. These were both plays originally. Both movies are great. Actually, my first, failed attempt to watch The Wife was an interesting experience in itself. Like many movies based on plays, it has a very moody and intense atmosphere. The incoherence caused by my drifting in and out of sleep while watching it was pleasurably dreamlike.

Just as I was getting up to go to the bathroom before leaving Cake Shop, the only other customer got up and went to the bathroom first. I had to wait at least five minutes. How absurd is this, I thought. Completely empty cafe and I'm waiting in line for the bathroom.

The only reason I left Cake Shop when I did was that they turn off the lights around 5 p.m., and at that point there's no daylight this time of year, so there's no light to read or write by. I had just finished my half page of failed novel when they turned off the lights. It was just as well.

I hate how early it gets dark this time of year. It's dark and cold by 5 p.m. and there's nothing to do outside. Nothing to do but sit inside and drink coffee and read. But I'm not going to go get coffee if I've just had a cup of coffee. Especially when it's $2 a cup. So I tried to think of what to do after I left Cake Shop. I decided to hang out at Housing Works Bookstore. I sat in there and continued reading Elizabeth Costello. If I hadn't just had coffee at Cake Shop, I would have gotten one at Housing Works. Their coffee is better than Cake Shop's. At home I have two varieties of Nescafé instant coffee: Classic and Taster's Choice Decaf House Blend. It may be my imagination, but I think the Decaf House Blend smells and tastes better than the Classic. As soon as my Classic runs out I'm going to look for regular House Blend, if such a thing exists.

At one point in The Wife, a character puts on a CD and plays a really cool song I'd never heard before. I recognized Michael Stipe's voice though, and I made a mental note to look it up later. The song is "Low". This movie was made in 1994, but this was the first time I'd ever heard that song.

I hope you watch these movies. They're both streaming on Netflix. The climactic speech by Noonan's character near the end of What Happened Was... hit close to home for me.

I'm taller than Michael Stipe.

The other day my roommate gave me a big bag of NYC condoms. She's a medical assistant, and I guess they had a surplus at her office. I counted them: 172. They expire in April 2017, which means I'd have to use three or four every month until then in order not to waste any. Which means that in about four years you can expect a blog post about my big bag of expired condoms. (I already made this joke on Facebook and Twitter.) Maybe I'll give some away.

My roommate has her friend over tonight. They stay up all night drinking and talking. I've got my box fan turned on just to drown out their noise.