PATRICK STEPHENSON

Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

I’d Buy That For a Dollar

with 2 comments

My dad—briefly discussed in my entry I’m Not Counterculture beneath an excellent photo of Allen Ginsberg—happened to visit my blog Thursday afternoon. He mentioned this when he called at 7pm Thursday night and criticized the entry. He felt it was too personal for the Internet, and that by the end it became muddled and confusing. I thought about what he said all night.

What is writing—fiction or non-fiction, blog entry or not—without confession and revelation? I don’t necessarily mean confessions of past trauma, e.g. A CHILD CALLED IT or A MAN CALLED DAVE. I mean saying, ‘This is what I think about and who I am.’ Should I be a drone and JUST link to other sites, expressing myself by proxy, or should I be explicit? If a piece of writing isn’t to some extent personal, then I believe it’s merit-less, processed like SPIDER-MAN 3 through a billion people and corrupted by financial interests. Processed cheese, inorganic and cow pus-filled.

Does self-expression make me vulnerable? Yes, but that’s fine. Better vulnerability than artificiality. Allowing yourself some vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness. The entry wasn’t too personal. I wrote, “In comparison to them, I felt like nothing,” but in my conclusion I wrote I felt solid, and so strong, my vulnerability in the past, replaced by something else. This makes me worry. If my dad thought ‘Not Counterculture’ was too personal, what will he think of the book I’ve written, and those I hope to write? Is too personal writing acceptable in a book, but not on the Internet? What makes the Internet different? I don’t feel it is.

I’m saying obvious things here, so here’s what I consider the real answer.

He felt the entry was too personal because it was flawed, and the flaws were obvious. Its third paragraph becomes confusing and less coherent than the other two. But really, it’s just a blog entry, written hastily, probably only skimmed. [1] If its meaning got through, it succeeded. Ya dig. Still, I posted said entry on the esteemed Return of the Relucant, a literary blog where I’ve acted as co-guest-blogger for the past two weeks. Is it about context? Would my dad still criticize if the entry were only here, instead of here AND there? Was the entry too personal in his opinion because its flaws were so evident? Is an impersonal entry airtight & flawless?

[1] This is a lie. I don’t write hastily at all. I wish I could.

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Written by patiomensch

May 25, 2007 at 1:09 am

Posted in Personal

2 Responses

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  1. Patio friend. I’m glad you posted this, instead of fretting to yourself about your dad’s comments.

    I feel as though what I want to say to you here is rather important. I’ve felt a sense of urgency about it since this morning when I woke to read your post. I try, at large, to be more aloof – but my own blogger self has all but given up the quest.

    Urgency, I think, because your post gets at the heart of what is most vitally interesting to me in life, and what is perhaps, for me, the most captivating quality of your writing. And you, as I’ve said before, are king of kings among my writer friends.

    I agree with everything you’ve written here, particularly about vulnerability. I’ve said it often: vulnerabilities tend to be my favorite things about the people I love, and it is no less true for those I love via the written word.

    I could set out a very philosophic discussion here, that turns around the ideas most central to my life’s work. It would be a long, careful discussion of the how’s and why’s of our storytelling nature and it would come to a perhaps-provocative theory about how our self-identities – the very “I” inside each of us – seem to me to be coded in story.

    Or I could point out that in practice, I enjoy blogs that blend – in some satisfying proportion or another – the personal with the intellectual. The philosopher in me is all about clear and careful consideration of the world. Make no mistake. But the philosopher-me is at war with my poet self, without hope or end, and it is the poet-me that feeds off these vulnerable story bits of yours. Careful or murky, what they transmit through the page is nothing more or less than your poet self – nothing more or less than you.

    So what I want to say, with all respect, is that your father is wrong. You’re a gifted writer. I only know (personally) perhaps two others I would say that to with such conviction, and perhaps it’s you, of all of us, who has the most compelling, singular literary voice. I suspect your father knows this, in some measure, if he cares enough to read and comment here. But perhaps he misses how much your writing voice is carried by its vulnerability – how much your words are merited by their very transmission of you.

    I liked the post more than most. The vulnerability made me love you anew (as friend and as writer), and the strength eased some of my recent worries. The thought of you walking around feeling solid in your pants – it’s one for the good, I feel.

    (And, in tiny print, I would say: at the foot note above, I never loved you more. We are writers ab uno sanguine , Patio.)

    thehellenist

    May 25, 2007 at 5:45 pm

  2. Hi Patrick,

    I’ve been enjoying your posts over at Edward Champion’s.

    I’m interested: did your father feel it was too personal BECAUSE it was structurally flawed – that is, was the perceived vulnerability in craft rather than content?

    I’m interested because that’s the kind of thing I’d do to my kids. Isn’t it terrible. “Honey, I know you could have really made something of that childhood neurosis I gave you!” But then, I’m also in the position you are, in writing about my family and life – as all of us do, really. Novelists do it. And it’s a well-known fasct that their families and friends hate it.

    I just emailed my dad a manuscript of poetry that has just been accepted for publication (hurrah), and it’s far scarier sending it to him than it was sending it to the whole world. (I even left one poem out. Let’s see how he deals with the rest of it first!)

    I thought your post, the original one, was sweet. Maybe your dad is right, it could have had more concrete detail in it, but then again maybe that would have proved his point!

    Ms Baroque

    May 27, 2007 at 6:13 am


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