Flourish December 2005

vol. 1, no. 10

In 1972, the cult author Harry Crews wrote a novel titled The Car. It is about a young man who announces that he will eat a Ford Maverick in full view at a downtown hotel. About a decade later, Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, mentions that she once heard about a man who ate a car. Not all at once, but slowly, over a year’s time.

I suppose that my first response, on reading such anecdotes, should be to roll my eyes. How far-fetched! But I keep on wondering if maybe somebody did do it. Or at least started to, maybe on one of the, you know, tiny European models. Or perhaps I just wish it was true because it sounds so much like writing a book.

At every stage you wonder, but do I have to eat that? Well, how am I going to eat that? I said I was going to eat the whole thing: was I insane? But I really don’t feel like eating the radio today. I don’t think I can face the steering wheel. I thought I was done with the tires, but I forgot about the spare. Wow, is it already May? I only have a month to get through the carburetor.

Sound familiar? Eating a whole car is damn hard. So is writing a book. Be nice to yourself.

The Horror, The Horror

“I’m going to say this officially, so you can use it. I don’t care. After that article in Lingua Franca where I was unmasked, I don’t care. Do you know that I have not seen a lot of the films that I write about? For example in [my book] Enjoy Your Symptom, there is a long chapter on Rossellini. I haven’t seen the films. I tried to, but they are so boring. They’re so boring! …

“Now, I will reveal something to you (My God! Let’s go to the end in this Lingua Franca territory!): often I don’t have time to read the books about which I write. I will not tell you which ones. More and more (My God! This is a horrible thing to say!) I rely on summaries like Cliffs Notes. One English version of Cliffs Notes (it has a different name over there) is for me the ultimate sublime; it’s the Cliffs Notes version of the Bible. At the end of the book, you get a description of the characters, and it says, ‘God, an old, omnipotent but jealous gentleman; Christ, a young gentleman.’ It’s wonderful! So my idea is that the ultimate dream would be to write a Cliffs Notes summary of a non-existent story. You go directly to the Cliffs Notes, and if reactions to the Cliffs Notes volume are good, then you write the work.”
Slavoj Žižek in Critical Intellectuals on Writing, ed. Gary A. Olson and Lynn Worsham. NY: SUNY Press, 2003

Tipping Point

Do you find it hard to remember when grant proposals, fellowship applications, conference abstracts, or edited volume papers are due? Try using an online reminder service. I use the free service Memo to Me but there are others, including schedulers in Microsoft Outlook. With Memo to Me, you just register, enter the information about the application, put in the due date, and include the times when reminders should be emailed to you in the weeks before hand. It may take you about an hour to set up all the grants you are interested in, but you can set them on yearly rotation and not worry about them again.

News from the Editor

Unfortunately, there are no Cliffs Notes for what I write about; so I’m off to chew through a few volumes. Happy holiday eating to you, too!