Tuesday, August 30

i don't know stephen elliott

I finished Stephen Eliot’s The Adderall Diaries tonight. I’ll probably say this again, but it’s amazing. And fucked up. I was reading the last couple chapters intermittently, sneaking a few pages in while my coffee partner was in the bathroom or manning the counter for the shop’s owner.

The book is like a drug, like Adderall itself, maybe. First I wanted to read it in 5 milligram doses, and later I wanted to crush it on a TP dispenser in a bathroom and snort it. That’s how I felt driving home with around ten pages left to read. Crush and snort.

My friend and I had this incredible, rambling conversation for almost four hours. We talked about my manuscript first, my “process”. She writes, or did and will again. We took a creative writing class once, long ago in (for me anyway) another lifetime. I think about my “process” in quotations marks because the term suggests an established methodology. I feel the same way thinking of it as my “process” as I do about calling the manuscript my “work in progress”. Both seem dishonest because, well, it’s my first time. I’m making this shit up as I go along. 

If I do stuff the same way next time then maybe I can say it’s part of a process. When I start the second book it’ll be a WIP. Maybe. This time though, it’s just “the work”. I’m involved in “a process” in the sense that I’m working through something, but there’s nothing established yet that I can say is “my process”. It technically is a work in progress, I admit, but talking about it as my WIP seems presumptuous. I’m the only one that actually knows there is or will be any other WIP. You can only take my word for it.

And we talked about artists, meeting them, how there’s a difference between meeting an artist to take their autograph away as a souvenir and actually meeting them, asking them about what they like in life, what matters to them. Having coffee with them (or just wanting to) instead of just wanting to get proof that you met them. She talked about the difference between meeting the band so that you can take a bit more from them after the show, and meeting the band so that you can give something back. Neither is wrong or right, but there's a difference.

There was other stuff too: self-discipline and how it isn’t discipline when we love to do it. How it can look like discipline to other people, maybe, but to the person loving it, it’s just good fun. And music. And the difference between literary fiction and genre fiction. And definitions of success. And how hard it is, when we assume a definition contrary to cultural norms, to express how we’re successful. And on and on and on. It was delicious.

I don’t know quite what to think of The Adderall Diaries beyond my belief that it’s amazing. I don’t want to try to figure Mr. Elliott out from it, or even have it inform my opinion of him as a person. I don’t think I want to have an opinion of him as a person, at least not from his writing. It’s a memoir, and a wonderful read. It’s ugly and beautiful and painful and tense. But it’s not him, you know? Even he says that he writes to figure shit out. Memoir is fun because it’s opinion, not autobiography. Factual accuracy isn’t the point, even if it is accurate. The point is not to take it as fact. The point is to enjoy the experience.

We all want to be known, maybe artists more than anyone. We metaphorically (or literally) bleed into whatever medium is relevant. There’s a cost we decide is worth paying at some point, and then we pay it. We say it’s just for us or for the art, but we want to be known, to share something. To express. But we only share a very little bit.

I love Pearl Jam, love Vedder’s lyrics, the passion and angst. I’d love to have coffee with him and pick his brain, to know him and be known by him. Truth is though, that even in the bizarro world that allowed me to have coffee with Eddie Vedder, we simply might not hit it off. At all. The hypothetical conversation might suck. I might not like him. He might not like me. Doesn’t matter though. I’d still like the music and the words and the voice. He is not his music. His music is not him.

When I got home there was a broken mouse dragging a trap across the kitchen floor. The roommates are away, camping. I showed it as much compassion as I could, imagining its fear, and the pain. It was trapped at the hip, broken on the same side I was. I had to euthanize the mouse, right? Right? I know of no non-violent way to do that with a mouse broken in a trap. So the climax of my evening sucked. Finishing Adderall ended up being massively anti-climactic.

Writing about it all works better as a denouement. It’s like using mouth wash.

Memoirs should not be read as biography. We are ridiculously incredible, fragile, strong, broken, ascendant bags of meat. I don’t know Stephen Elliott, not even now. Not at all.

p.s. Revisions on the WIP are going really well. I'm loving my process. ... ... ... uh, yeah.