“Not caring about things since 1973, so that you don’t have to.”
7. Short stories – a total anachronism, a dead genre, an affectation’s affectation even your mother doesn’t want to slog through. Why not do woodcuts, or become a cobbler? How about signing up for that coveted stevedore’s apprenticeship? Do you ferment artisinal cheese beneath your desk while crafting reams of widely unread sentences? Poet, please. Your best bet is to take that I went to a bullfight manly plotting routine back to the 1932 Left Bank, and go marinate in Gertrude’s Stein for a while.
6. Pretension – What’s with the cravats and Fedoras and Mont Blancs and long-winded masturbatory sentences? What’s with the doorstop novels no one wants to read, the experimental paragraphs that should have remained in a Petri dish, and the second-person singular tenses that make sane men want to scream between the bars of the tower of Darkmoor? Hey, why not just wear jeans and boots and write short books about cab drivers and baristas? Why not not write at all? You can bet your ass Grandma Navy welcomes no thieves into her house.
5. The Russians – I got your Pushkin swinging.
4. Grandma’s dead. We’re losing the Farm. The Sensitive Man Who Wants to Save a Prostitute but She Doesn’t Want to Be Saved. Manhattan Couple Argues – Yes, almost every short story is a variant of one of these themes. So why keep writing them? Even smart people seem to be under the impression that the problem is we need more themes, when clearly it’s that we just need less short stories. Or, hey, how about none at all? You know what authors should do instead of writing short stories? Fight more duels.
the poet, without a sound,
let fall his pistol on the ground.”
3. Whining about how hard it is to write – Yeah, yeah, you’re alone all day bobbing in the sea of your imagination. It’s desolate. It’s an excuse to use succor in a sentence: “Dude, I am completely without succor.” You get paid little or nothing for your books, which get pulped a month after getting shelved. Your agent is a tool, your editor a fool, your wife doesn’t understand, and your carpal tunnel just keeps getting worse. So what? Some of us work for the highway department. Others get screamed at all day across the cubicles of their failing hedge fund. Why are you so special? What makes your longings and defeats cut any deeper, or be more unnecessarily plural? Check your privilege, prose-boy.
2. You and your book on Facebook – We never want to see a picture of it again. We never want to read a post about it again. I actually was going to your damn book out of pity, but that fleeting generosity is long gone, because you won’t shut your yap. Did you ever hear the phrase “silence is blessed?” How about “turn off the wi-fi and actually produce something meaningful for once”? No? Well, Vince Navy doesn’t want to see pictures from your “tour”, he doesn’t want to click links to fake reviews, and he’d rather fall down an endless K-hole of hamster-shaving videos than hear one more thing about how proud you are to have signed your new contract. Facebook, as we all know, is for shallow political opinions and midriff-bearing selfies. Take your earnestness to Cuba, old man.
1. Thousands upon thousands of crappy, derivative sentences that somehow form the backbone of this thing that some people choose to call a book, but other people call Tree Crime, or at least a commitment to paperback recycling – Look, all writing is derivative. It’s just that some writing is less obvious about it. The sad, brutal truth of this short and underwhelming life is that not everyone has a story to tell. Or, even if they do, there are very few stories worth hearing. If you have to ask if there’s even the slightest chance that you should keep it to yourself, keep it to yourself. The chances that you’ll ever write something that’s even a fraction as good as the worst thing Dostoyevsky every farted onto a doily are so infinitesimal that you might as well buy a couple grand worth of oil paint and try to knock out a Matisse in your spare time. There should be a law that only 44 books can be published every year. There’s also a truly excellent chance that yours shouldn’t be one of them.