Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Okay, in Class for Real This Time

“Why do you want to do this? Why in the world would you come for a degree in writing?” the professor asked.
Simon Smith was a short, portly poet with glasses. By his own admission, he usually didn’t dabble in prose, “but I’ll try.” When the three of us in the course met in one of the seminar rooms in Woolf, it was dusk at around four. It was myself, a guy named Ritchie who happened to be in one of The Writer’s seminars, and Simon in this room. Sitting, chilling out. Initially, when I saw that there were only three people in the class, I thought, “Well, this is strange.”
I was used to literature courses with about eighteen depressed scholars, one skip away from diving into a whiskey bottle due to their time spent reading the works of people who truly hated humanity. Being in a room with two other people, one of whom seemed to be simply mildly cynical and the other who seemed to wish he were writing highbrow crime novels, this was strange. I wondered if every writing seminar were like this.
“I mean,” continued Simon, “it’s not like there’s any money in this. I made more money working as a librarian than I did writing poetry.”
“Well,” I thought, “that’s because you write poetry. Try writing lawyer thrillers. You’ll make a mint.” I didn’t say that, though.
I cleared my throat. “I’m doing this to spite a friend.”
“Okay,” Simon said. He gave me a look—one that would turn out to be a common look—that said I was slightly unhinged and didn’t have the firmest grasp on life.
“He’s a dick,” I continued, though Simon obviously didn’t want me to. “Real pretentious type; thinks he’s the shit, right? King Shit of Fuck Mountain, one might say.”
Ritchie snickered.
“Huuuuge fan of the Russians—writers that is, don’t know about politics—and thinks every piece of genre is total crap.”
“And so you’re spiting him... how?”
“I’m going to write a long-short story, have you mark it, and then show him that genre doesn’t necessarily fail.”
Simon nodded. “Richard?”
“I don’t know. I like to write. I hated my job. This seemed like a good idea.”
“Welp, one of the required texts for my other course—”
“Which is?”
“Er,” I pulled out my notebook. “It’s called ‘Utter Mishegaas’ with Todd McEween. It’s in the Ranting in Literature M.A. I’m reading Atlas Shrugged. If I get through it without gouging out my own eyes—”
“Like Oedipus, I like the imagery.”
“I was thinking Sam Neill from Event Horizon, but yeah. Oedipus will work. If I get through it without doing that, then I guess I’ve completed just as much as I can hope to as a human being.”
“How dark.”
“Meh. Life is objectively meaningless, and I feel it’s best to keep your expectations as low as humanly possible to avoid disappointment.”
“How Zen.”
“Nah,” I said. “My guitar teacher taught me that when I was fifteen.”
“Richard?” asked Simon. I could see the wariness growing already. “How about you?”
Richard listed some British novelists of whom I’d never heard, and I zoned out for a bit. Went to my happy place, which, today, was sadly based in Sholazar Basin in Northrend. It’s best if I skip over the contents of the happy place, as to describe it in detail would be incredibly depressing.
“Well,” Simon said, “here’s a thought. How about we eschew this meeting in a large seminar room, since there’s only three of us in the module, and have one-on-one meetings?”
“Oh, at a pub?”
“What? No. In my office.”
“Oh,” I said, deflated. And here I thought writers were all rampaging alcoholics. “Yeah, sure.”
“Great,” he said with a smile. “Well, how about we break with some thoughts about what we’re each going to do as a final project—I say ‘we’ because, hell, why not do one myself—and then meet next week. Narrator, you at eleven, and Richard, you at one?”
“Works for me,” I said.
We left the room. Ritchie and Simon were talking about what Ritchie was thinking about doing—a continuation of something he’d been working on for that Rose woman, who, I was certain, The Writer was trying desperately to impress. I figured there wasn’t much point in me thinking about what to do, as I could easily just choose one of my mad daydreams and write that. Or, barring that, if I couldn’t think of anything, just use my blog, which was original writing and I would be damned if anyone said otherwise.
As I left the building and was hit by a heavy burst of wind, I received a text message from The Traveller. We would be meeting at The Sub-Pope’s Flock on Saturday to have another story session. Anyone who did not attend would be counted as bowing out of the competition. It was now Wednesday, which gave me two days to remember who’d told a story last, and to think of one myself.
But, more pressing than that was the reheasal tonight. It was the first non-singing scene (the bit where Tevye leaves off singing “If I Were A Rich Man” and gets mobbed by people with bad news) through the scene where Perchik goes all “guh” for Hodel for the first time.[1]

[1] Side note: If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s for the best. It’s been about a year since I started rehearsing for the musical, and I’m still having nightmares about being on-stage and forgetting lines mid-song, and then being lynched by Laura. I wake up in a cold sweat and curse my iPod whenever it plays songs from that musical.

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