All conversations about literature should start with the word anyway and should include the phrase the novel as.
The novel as. I’ve met people who say, “I haven’t read fiction in years,” or “I’ve never finished a novel.” In fact, lately, I’ve met more people that prefer nonfiction. There have been essays written on the phenomenon of the dying short story, and on the predictions that the novel is the next to go. There have been novels written as conversations, or as commercials for themselves. There are novels written as blogs, as interactive diaries, by corporations. We’re supposed to still like MTV. Our society is segregated into classics enthusiasts and nons. I don’t give a damn about any of it because I know that one thing will never change: people mostly think about themselves.
Everyone’s a photographer, and everyone is a writer (or blogger, which is like journalism, so everyone’s a journalist). People are famous because they are in internet porn, or something similar. Even cartoons are in porn. Like Ariel and her dad, King Triton, and Simpsons characters. You know how Cartoon Network had to by the rights to the Hannah Barbara characters? I doubt these porno-animators are buying anything. The internet makes it so you can steal until you get caught, but even then, are you caught – the porn’s past existence cannot be erased when it’s caught.
Everyone is a celeb because celebrity has been shortened to celeb in order to accommodate us. We are in online forums and collectives and clubs and discussions, and our pictures are tagged. People think about us enough to “tag” us and create testimonies. But look at the people with hardly any comments; they must be sad that they are not famous, like the rest of the world. Online personal shopping, exclusive deals, free shipping, and total privacy and anonymity. We can become two different people so easily now: the famous one and the secret one.
My dream, as a female writer, is to look and act like a female writer. I want the surface of my life and my internet-surface to affect my writing and my drive, not the other way around. This way, I can’t lose. I will be famous because I’ll forget what fame means.
I just re-watched The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman, 1998), which is about a bunch of people who work in a publishing house but want to be writers. I wouldn’t say it’s a great movie, but it has great dialogue. I watched it alone, and by the end I was sort of hugging myself whenever Chloë Sevigny said anything. I like her for the reasons everyone else does: Kids, Gummo, Boys Don’t Cry, Julien Donkey Boy, and what some interviewer in some men’s magazine said about her: that watching her act is like walking in on someone in the bathroom, which is uncomfortable but intriguing, since she doesn’t seem to mind.
This is what I want my writing personality to be like. Sevigny is not very good at playing very many emotions, or any, really, which makes Alice a perfect role for her. She’s sort of annoyed every once in a while, but mostly unperturbed, and just into dancing and publishing (like me). Her office outfits are better than her disco ones, and Kate Beckinsale is the other way around, so you know that Chloë will end up okay. (Did I ruin it? So you know: It’s about a group of friends who aren’t very friendly to each other and like to discuss high art and literature by comparing it to low art and literature.)
In my real and internet life (which should soon merge into one), I have to come up with perfect lines, like the one about vodka tonics being the drink of choice for college graduates, which is tragically boring. Maybe there’s a few too many anyways, as in, “Anyway, I don’t think I can live with you anymore.” None of the lines are very realistic: it’s like a play, but instead of the stage being the limit, it’s that the acting is bad.
So, I’m admitting that I’m dangerously insecure because I’m trying to be a writer, and that’s okay, because I’ve figured out part of it. Here is what I need to do: Always act badly. Say ‘anyway’ before saying something else. And make sure my office outfits are better than my disco ones.
-Natasha Stagg is a writing teacher and student in Tucson, Arizona.