I'm not sure if an introductory sentence is really needed for this entry: the subtitle really speaks for itself. However, to explain, as I have a tendency to overdo, in the first David Foster Wallace themed entry, I mentioned that the piece I included on the first try at the I Write Like quiz was an excerpt from my novella "I'm Hoping This Will Work." I also mentioned that I had included the excerpt below, which, if you have read the entire entry, you will know is a total fallacy. (This wasn't deliberate, I just forgot to include it.) As such... I have included that excerpt in this entry.
This excerpt is the first page and a half of the novella. The set-up for the piece is as follows: It’s about a young man in his early twenties named Mike Higgins who is overcoming the death of his best friend, Andy, something he feels responsible for—they went out drinking one night and, on the drive home, Mike had Andy drop him off at the store near his house. Andy drives around the corner and gets in a head-on collision with a delivery truck. The structure of the novella alternates between Mike's "what-if" scenarios--if had had done this differently, then that wouldn't have happened-- and the actual narrative. Below is the first of the alternate reality "What-if" scenarios.
As always... enjoy.
I am hoping this will work, that when everything is finished, the screaming phone calls, the booze, nameless women, nightmares, my inability to read more than five pages at a time, and the blood, all that fucking blood—when my front door is closed and locked for the final time, I’ll be throwing my clothes in the back seat, driving those two blocks, one coffee in hand, another in the cup holder, driving to pick up Andy, and we’ll drive like we always talked about, to Montreal, Madagascar, cross-country, straight across that Atlantic Ocean, anywhere, really it doesn’t matter;we’re just driving, him and me, anywhere.
We’ll start at Redbones, as usual. Downstairs, just like we did. It’ll be raining (I won’t change that) as I walk down the road. I’ll get there first: Andy will be coming from work in Kenmore, and I just live down the street. Tom the Bartender will ask, “How are you, Mike? Where’s Andy?” “He’s on his way.” I’ll order a beer, and ask for a menu while I check out the girls across the room.
When Andy finally gets there we’ll do a few shots and talk about work, movies, and ideas for a summer trip: Amsterdam, Grand Canyon, Montreal. We’ll keep drinking, just like we did, and drive home. I’ll have him drop me off at the Corner Market for some milk and smokes, but I’ll tell him to wait. We’ll make that dreaded left and swerve as that fucking delivery truck takes his turn a little too wide. The car will fishtail and careen into the curb, the tire popping.
“Fuck!” Andy will yell.
“Don’t worry we’ll use a spare and keep drinking at my house.”
We’ll wake in the morning, one on each couch, boxes of crackers, empty containers of ice cream, half-empty glasses of whiskey and beer bottles scattered on the floor.
That’s what will happen, and I won’t be kneeling in my room amid a stack of books and scotch at noon, socks that haven’t been changed in three days clinging to my feet. I’ll be at work, sending him stupid forwards, making plans for later, for this weekend, or making plans with a girl that I will have met at a party.He’ll answer the phone when I call. I won’t jump at the sound of tires screeching, I won’t be afraid to leave my house and walk to the center; the walk to Davis won’t remind me of everything from that night.
It won’t remind me of anything, because nothing will have happened.
David Markson passed away over the weekend. The official obituaries say that he passed away on June 6, but the articles also state that his children found him on June 4th. The exact date of when he actually passed is unknown, which seems strangely appropriate. The narrator of this fragmented novel states at one point:
"Perhaps I am no more than 47 or 48," the narrator explains. "I am certain that I once attempted to keep a makeshift accounting, possibly of the months, but surely at least of the seasons. But I do not even remember any longer when it was that I understood I had already since lost track."
David Foster Wallace wrote that Markson was direly underappreciated and wrote that Wittgenstein's Mistress was "quite possibly the high point of experimental literature in this country." I would go one step further and claim that Markson was perhaps the high point of experimental literature. Period. (For the record, I have not read Wittgenstein's Mistress, but I have read This Is Not a Novel and Reader's Block, and I can't imagine that Mistress eclipses those by a terribly large margin. It is the novel where he began what became his late career fragmentary, experimental style.) In 2007 he was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. That same year New York Magazine called him "the best writer you never heard of."
A year and a half ago I was attending a writer's conference in Chicago. One of the workshops on the agenda was a tribute to David Markson, which I had checked off on my giant conference booklet as one of the lectures I wanted to attend. I decided at the last minute not to attend as there were other more career-appropriate lectures for me at that point: how to go about applying for a grant, or how to write a query letter, or how to go about getting flash fiction pieces published. At that point I also had not completed This is Not a Novel and had not yet read Reader's Block. Had I known that the man who reinvented what was possible with a novel would pass away less than two years later I most certainly would have said, "Career be damned! This is David Markson." I have very few regrets in my life, but I can add my skipping of that lecture to that short list.
My remembrance of Markson's life as a writer and his work cannot match one of the tributes I read to him earlier today. As such, I will let journalist Sarah Weinman's much more eloquent words speak for me:
"Others will chime in with more reasoned and coherent essays on what Markson meant for American literature, and I'll link to those as I do to other missives below once they come in. But I got to know the writer's work, and later on, a little bit, the man, through his earliest output, a couple of entertaining and erudite crime novels featuring a scamp of a private detective named Harry Fannin. I'd read THIS IS NOT A NOVEL and had been excited and blown away, and just weeks later I was assigned to write my very first piece for the Los Angeles Times - a double review of those two Fannin novels, EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP and EPITAPH FOR A DEAD BEAT... "After that review he got in touch with me - oddly enough by email, through a friend, since he did not own a computer - and we corresponded a little, by postcard and letter. I'd see him at the Strand Bookstore sometimes, one of his regular haunts, shooting the shit with the cavalcade of managers working the review copy desk in the basement... "I saw Markson last at the public memorial for David Foster Wallace. I hadn't seen him around for several months and asked after him and his health. But the answer, at least to me, was obvious. He was more frail. He didn't have to articulate his sadness over Wallace's suicide, that a much-younger man with prodigious talent had died too soon, and that it was a far different feeling from watching friends your own age pass on. A thought passed through my head that Markson might not be around much longer and I should get back in touch, lest the inevitable catch me off-guard. Like many good intentions, it wasn't acted upon."
I recently completed a massive revision of the second half of my graduate thesis. The second half of the thesis is a novella, currently titled "I'm Hoping This Will Work." This arduous, and ultimately rewarding, process obviously caused me to think about the nature of revision itself. It is much like how a child views school: you certainly don't enjoy it while you're doing it, but after it's done, you enjoy the results and see how necessary it was. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ I will be the first person to tell you that I am not a poet. I dabbled a bit in poetry during my undergraduate years, as all writers do, but I soon gravitated towards fiction and essays, where my interests in writings still lie. I know many astounding poets, and I have read wonderful works from these and other people. I read it on occasion and am always envious of their ability to parse and expand the language, to imbue an entire world, emotion, and theory in the briefest, most efficient use of language. I wish I could write that concisely. (I wish I could think that concisely, actually, but that's a separate neurological issue.)
I recently attended the AWP conference in Denver. While preparing for the conference I pored over the schedule of events and narrowed down the seminars, workshops, and lectures I would attend before I arrived. There were many attending that were poetry oriented. In my effort to whittle the hundreds of lectures per day down to a handful, before I later pared that list, I ignored anything that had poetry in the title, or anything that had to do with poetry. This makes it seem like I am anti-poetry. I am not. I just did not have a need for it during the conference. That is until the last lecture of the week. I was convinced to attend this last lecture, which concerned the digital copyrights of poetry and music, and the changing and emerging legal issues concerning digital copyrights and the use of other persons' words. (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/foundation/poetryinstitute.html) While at this lecture, I began to wonder why I had so abdicated poetry over the years, why I had stopped any of it, why I had stopped taking an interest. Even though I had stopped writing it years earlier, why had I abandoned any interest in poetry with such fervor, as if it had nothing to teach me? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ While conceiving of the idea for a quick blog post about revision, I realized that some of my undergraduate attempts at poetry weren't entirely awful. They weren't entirely good, either, which is why I write fiction and essays still, and not poetry. One of these less embarrassing forays into poetry went through many revisions, and I kept every version, including the original longhand scribbles. I kept each copy as a means of showing myself, and possibly other people, how revision is necessary, how much a poem, a story, an essay, etc. changes from its original incarnation to its final state.
Darren Cormier lives in the Boston area. He is the author of A Little Soul: 140 Twitterstories. His fiction has appeared in Opium Magazine, Meetinghouse, Amoskeag, Every Day Fiction, Raft Magazine, Arch Literary Journal, and One Forty Fiction, Ether Books, and Seedpod Publishing. Writing peeves: there should be a comma before the "and" in a set of three or more items; it is "A historic" not "AN historic"--the 'h' is pronounced; would've, could've, and should've are contractions and should never be written as "would of," "could of," or "should of"; and "ATM machine" is redundant. He also invented the giraffe.