Trout Fisting In America #32 – Honesty Time

I am 45 years old and I’ve been writing seriously for 25 years now.

In that time I’ve had two books published. One of them was a collection held together by staples and published by a group of poets, half whom I lived with at the time.

The other book had a barcode. It was published by a friend of mine, an ex-roommate & college classmate.

I don’t think we’re friends anymore.

I still get e-mails from him. Not from him but from his literary persona. Which is too bad. I always liked the person a lot more than the persona. He writes with a lot of exclamation points now and a lot of enthusiasm. His most recent book is called The Truth Is We Are Perfect, which you have to admit is quite a lot of fucking enthusiasm. One of our most recent interactions was him instructing me in a facebook comment that I needed to play the game if I wanted to get ahead. He didn’t make it sound like very much fun.

That book was published in 2006: that’s a long time ago. I’ve written four novels since them. Two of them got looked at by agents who eventually decided no. I wrote a non-fiction book proposal that was rejected. Since our son was born I’ve written a rough draft of a novel and will consider—once this is project is finished and exists in a state of grace—trying to get these published as a book.

It should go without saying that I’m not optimistic. About anything.

I can’t stop thinking that I’m running out of energy, that the fire which once burned within me is harder to find, harder to maintain.

Our 3yr old child, and the full-time care I provide for him, may be partly responsible for that.

*****

I wish I was a better father. I wish I was a better husband. I imagine everyone feels this way, but given the shitty examples of fatherhood & love I grew up around, I have to fight off a lot of my ‘natural instincts,’ most of which are ugly.

Many days I feel as if I am letting everyone down, including myself.

I am here right now writing this (write now, righting this) on a Friday night as my wife puts our son to sleep. She believes that one day these things I write will make us rich. If not these things, then the next things. And if not those things, then maybe the old things. I find her faith in me disturbing & reassuring all at the same time.

*****

My biggest complaint about writing as a means of expression is that it’s impossible to convey more than one idea at a single given time. As opposed to film, or music, which can thrive on the tension between image & sound, or lyrics & sound, writing can’t do a split screen: and doing a montage w/o any clear signposting will get you labelled as ‘experimental.’

Everything is experimental. It’s just that most of it is a bad experiment.

*****

I can’t stop thinking about this poetry/music/art performance my wife and I did at a recent unveiling of the local university’s lit mag. And how our mix of drum machine/bass/guitar/poetry cleared the room and afterwards how one of the editors came over and  made self-conscious jokes at our expense. But it’s not the jokes that bothered me, it’s how incredulous she was that I’d shouted the word ‘fuck’ during one of our songs (it was a Wall of Voodoo cover: in the original the guy says ‘SCREW YOU’ but I was feeling nervous so I took it one step further b/c taking it one step further is what I do when I’m nervous). She couldn’t get over that I’d shouted it with the head editor in the room and everything. Which first off, I had no fucking idea who the editor of the Georgia Review was at the time, but I have to assume he’s heard the word fuck before (or even if he’s a born-again christian he’s at least heard the phrase ‘fucky-wucky’) and most likely he’s said it and most likely he’s done it, but I’m also going to go out on a limb and assume that every one of those MFA poetry perenium-puckerers watches themselves a shitload of ‘prestige television’ on HBO and the like, and goddamn me if that means they don’t hear the word fuck constantly on those shows. So like what the fuck was that all about?

The person who invited us to perform, who’s a big fan of the band we play in (also noisy, also confrontational, also able to clear a room) hasn’t spoken to me since. So there’s that.

*****

I fervently believe that my wife will one day be a much more successful writer than me, once she’s able to turn her full attention to writing. It doesn’t matter that it was my bookshelf where she found the Kathy Acker, the Angela Carter, the Kelly Link. She’ll be able to take those influences farther than I have.

People tend to like her a lot when they first meet her. People tend to only like me a lot after they’ve gotten to know me better. That friend who published my book told me it’s important for a writer to make himself likeable. I think that’s why he uses so many exclamation points.

*****

Even my friends think I’m blunt. Someone told me that the other day: that I was blunt. He meant it as a compliment, or he at least kept talking until it felt like a compliment, or that he intended it as a compliment. Or I guess maybe he just didn’t want to hurt my feelings. It’s hard to tell. He’s not as blunt as I am.

And yet, and yet, in the neighborhoods I grew up in, the family I was around growing up, I was almost always the most sensitive, diplomatic person in the room. Especially among my friends, I try to err on the side of not saying something so truthful that it fucks with the person’s head for long periods of time, even by accident. And so I keep a lot of opinions & thoughts to myself. And I’m still considered blunt.

Maybe that’s because of the way I write. And for the past five years or so, while I haven’t gotten any books published, I’ve gotten all kinds of reviews & thinkpieces & etc. published. And because my friends are my friends they read these things, and because those things are opinionated & direct (b/c like who the fuck wants to read a book review that says ‘yeah it’s kind of cool I guess’), and because those things are personal—or, to be as technically correct as possible, written in a personal style—then my writing style becomes a reflection of me. And if I’m tearing into some shitty band, or some shitty writer, or some shitty film, or some shitty country, then my friends probably read it and think, ‘Jesus, I wonder what he thinks of me.’ But of course writing is a performance the way music is a performance, the way professional sports is a performance: your audience expects you to put on a show. And while this series of essays is real as hell, it is still, like all public acts in the 21st century, first & foremost a performance.

Last night my wife came home from class nearly in tears b/c the teacher asked her to define ‘performativity’ and she couldn’t figure out how to answer the question without sounding like a tautological 5th grader who hadn’t done their homework (i.e. using multiple variations of the word ‘performance’) and so she, the wife, just said she didn’t think she could answer that question.

I would’ve said ‘It’s a way to measure how good your car is at doing car stuff, for example: the Nissan Altima’s performativity was ranked third in its class by Car & Driver magazine.’

There are very good reasons why it takes people a while before they like me.

*****

This morning my son peed all over his rug and shit in his pajamas. There was shit on his pillow (now in the garbage, literally shitcanned), shit on his mattress, shit on the wooden bars of his bed. Most likely there’s shit in places that I still haven’t found yet. He wasn’t sick, just psychologically troubled by something—probably starting school, possibly something more sinister that we haven’t yet discovered. This afternoon he peed on his library books. We have had several talks throughout the day. Tonight he’ll be wearing a diaper to bed. I did not yell at him for any of this and so in that sense I guess this was a good day.

I try to tell myself that one day he will not pee on his library books to express his displeasure with life. Maybe he’ll write essays on his website, or make discordant post-punk inspired poetry rock (I had told the person who invited us to perform that we sounded like a cross between the first—and best, don’t fucking @ me—New Order album & Steve Reich, and she enthusiastically said after the show that my description has been 100% correct). Who knows, maybe because all life is cyclical he’ll shoot heroin one day and end up shitting his pants all over again and then his life will have come full circle in some kind of eastern religion bliss: for what is pee & poop except a bodily waste version of a yin-yang relationship.

*****

This life, this tenuous existence within my own thin skin is completely endurable as long as I never interact with another human being ever. I was able to figure out at an early age how to manage being alone. To the point where it started to get to easy and it became kind of boring and so I decided to be more social. Most days I think this was a good idea.

But it’s been a rough couple of days. And a rough few years. And if I keep going back: a hard decade, a hard life, but then I guess if living was easy everyone would do it.

I feel like most people feel this way sometimes but we rarely talk about it in public. Even our bad thoughts get filtered through this positivistic shell.

There’s something about being humiliated, completely humbled, at the end of one’s psychological tether, over & over again day after day that makes you want to be honest. It also makes you want to ingest lots & lots of chemicals into your body, but it’s better to be honest. Besides, honesty is itself a kind of drug I guess. It’s just that people won’t buy honesty from you the way they’ll buy drugs.

Trout Fisting In America appears here every Tuesday (sometimes even more frequently!). We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. You can check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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