So, the dumbasses out there that are watching television until they are rotting in their souls, watching Walter Cronkite and Happy Days, who cannot read my fiction, and say that it’s gratuitous, I say they have no eyes, no ears, no heart, no mouth, no sympathy, no charity for the human predicament. And they think that the human predicament and situation is living over in suburbia with a high wall around yourself and worrying about your annuities and your tax-sheltered income.
The reading public bothers me, though. They don’t want to read about the blood and bones and guts of an issue. They want to read about something they’re not going to have to think about, and if it does hurt them, as say Love Story does, it won’t last very long. What has happened in this country is a failure of the imagination.
And best of all:
Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a violent person. But if you wrong me, I’ll kill your fucking ass, and I’ll spend the rest of my life in jail. I’ll kill your fucking ass and you can count on it; depend on it.
Thanks to Ben Sobieck, whenever anybody asks me to sign a book with writing advice — or sometimes when I just feel like it — I’ve been signing ‘em with the inscription, “Leave hair on the walls.”
Which I’m pretty sure has confused some people. But they really oughtta know better than to ask me for advice on anything.
Anyway, for clarity’s sake, I stole it from this passage in James Lee Burke’s Swan Peak.
Quince tried to make sense out of what was happening to him. Only seconds earlier, he had been the “new” Quince Whitley, in control, dressed like a gunfighter, painted with magic, the giver of death. Now he lay in a parking lot, his skin burning, far from the place of his birth, a girl – no, a bitch – and a half-breed staring down at him, their faces dour with disgust and loathing, not because of what he had tried to do but because of what he was – a failure, unwanted in the womb, despised at birth, raised in a world where every day he had to prove he was better than a black person.
What does a Whitley do when he doesn’t have anything else to lose?
He could almost hear his uncle’s voice: “That one’s easy, boy. Leave hair on the walls.”
That may not make a thing clearer, but I stand by it as the best writing advice I could possibly give.
About a million years ago I spent weeks in CU’s Women Poets of the Romantic Period collection, getting paid eight dollars and hour to find and transcribe examples of poetic manifestos. (Don’t ask.) For some reason, I was thinking about it the other day, and thinking about country music. And it occurred to me how many country songs are a kind of poetic manifesto themselves. Or, at least, how many I think are.
So I made this list last night during an insomnia attack. To be honest, it ain’t probably the best 14 (15 now, thanks to Stephen Graham Jones) country songs about writing. But it’s the best that came to mind at 2:30 this morning when I was too wiped out to read or write and too wired to sleep.
Kris Kristofferson — If You Don’t Like Hank Williams
“You’re the only one that you are screwing, when you put down what you don’t understand.”
Johnny Cash — The Folksinger
“All the truths I tried to tell you were as distant to you as the moon.”
Bill Anderson — The Songwriters
“We get to tell all of our secrets in a code no one understands.”
Iris Dement — Living On The Inside
“I been living on the inside too much.”
Billy Joe Shaver — I Don’t Seem To Fit Anywhere
“Nobody quite got the drift of my songs, like me they’re a bit overdone.”
Waylon Jennings — My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
“Picking up hookers instead of my pen, I let the words of my youth fade away.”
Willie Nelson — Write Your Own Songs
“Just lay on your ass and get richer, or write your own songs.”
Emmylou Harris — Old Five and Dimers Like Me
“I spent a lifetime making up my mind to be more than the measure of what I thought others could see.”
For those who’ve expressed interest: The Denver Noir Walk on the evening of October 24th is on. We’re doing it on the side, though, as a dry run for Lit Fest 2015. The way it should be, right? Unofficial and a little shady? If you’re interested, send me an email and I’ll have my guy shoot you the particulars.
Well, I just realized that I haven’t posted anything much since Cry Father was released. And, not only that, my October is packed with related events, and I should probably tell some people about them, in case anybody wants to show up.
So . . .
October 11: If you’re a bookseller, I’ll be at the MPIBA Fall Discovery Show, so you’ll get to laugh at me trying to mumble-pitch Cry Father in a speed-dating format. I really like the idea, even as I’m hoping I don’t crash and burn.
October 13: I’ll be meeting with some folks in a book club in Stapleton who have taken on Cry Father. Which I’m really looking forward to. Speaking of, if you have a book club in the area, I am housebroken and promise not to eat all your cheese cubes. It had never occurred to me that anybody want me in their house for that kind of thing, but if you do, I’ll be there.
October 15: I’ll be at the Jefferson County Open School in the afternoon. From 12:30-1:00 PM I’ll be helping out in the student writer’s workshop, and then from 1:00-2:00 PM the venue will open up to the entire community and I’ll talk some about noir.
October 24: This one’s a little tentative, but I think we’ll be taking our first Noir Walk after the Friday 500 at Lighthouse. If you’re interested, the plan as I understand it is to meet at Lighthouse at 7:30. It’ll be hop alley, hard bop jazz, and a whorehouse. You can’t go wrong. (I’ll update to confirm and add details on this one.)
About the only thing I ever learned in school was speed typing. All that stuff in books is second hand, I thought. Writin’s no profession for a man these days. With all these poor folks wandering around the country as homeless as little doggies, what I should do is strop on a couple of six-shooters and blow open the doors of the bank and feed people and give them houses. The only reason I don’t do that is because I ain’t got the guts.
That’s all I got. I’m gonna go for a long walk, and when my kids get out of school, take ‘em out for pizza and laser tag by way of celebration.
In the meantime, you should buy it from one of those links on the sidebar. I mean, I’m not gonna beg or anything, but you should. For one thing, if enough people buy it, then maybe they’ll let me publish another.