Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Midsummer Blog's Scream

It's hot and I don't feel like writing. Not blog posts, anyway. I've been working on The Project, sketching out stand up bits that I can riff on and develop into longer sets. But that's pen and paper, which I still love. Tactile, sensual, direct. Crossing out lines, writing in margins. Kerouac wrote novels in pencil, but I prefer the glide of ink. When it cooks, everything flows. Beautiful.

I've also returned to the book I set aside for the stage. I now realize The Project encompasses spoken and written words, and I finally got over the rigid approach to the book that flustered me early on. The stories, memories, encounters, reactions, ecstasies, depression, terror, love, and sadness -- it's all in me. I don't need to create a line. Meditate, release, transcribe. Some of the stuff bobbing to the surface has surprised me, a happy bonus of the process. When I write about politics, surprise is nowhere in the mix. Just tedium. Thankfully, there are younger, more energetic go-getters itching to battle the machine. It's all yours, friends.

I once knew that itch, intimately so. Examples of my condition litter the Web. But there's a lot of offline work and correspondence that you'll never see, boxes filled with clips and letters. One box I recently scoured through contained most of my exchanges with Noam Chomsky, from 1988-'91. Noam's letters were, on average, two to three pages long, typed and single-spaced. Dense paragraphs on MIT stationary. Re-reading these now brings back younger me, the smell of aged paper making that time tangible. How inspired I was back then. What an education. Noam's generosity still moves me. Even his critiques of my early pieces make me smile.

Those early pieces are rough to read today. I was all over the place in style and tone, with more than a few sentences jumping the rails and crashing into walls. But I must remember that younger me had no training as a writer: he just wrote, wrote, wrote. That Perrin had many bad habits and a tendency toward obscure usages and needless flourish. He tried too hard to prove that he belonged.

As Updike maintained, you unlearn writing as you progress. Ideally, external bullshit drops away in the search for your real voice. But this was back in typewriter days; when stuck for a word or phrase, you stared off into space in concentration. Computers and the Web have decidedly slashed concentration rates. Basic sentence structure is a mystery. Spelling is out the window. Numbers and single letters now pass for words. And few seem to mind, much less notice. Idiocracy is closer by the day.

This is but an aging man's lament. Still, happiness and creative fulfillment remain. What does that mean for this space? Who the fuck knows. I only write the damn thing. You want a seer in the bargain?