Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who what where when why, and how.

Yesterday, I received via email -- O cold, postmodern disconnect, thou maketh me tear at my breast! -- my first officially official rejection, merci, magazine that dare not speak its name. Putting aside for a moment any humorless jocularity about now qualifying for starving artist assistance, 'twas a series of strange sensations pinballing in the caverns of my skull.

To begin, beneath the loamy verse: how I view my stuff. A beacon of cringe, so why submit in the first place? (Various & sundry humans -- yes, I know two or three -- encouraged this tiny lark to grow into a carrion-chomping vulture, but all failure, as it were, falls decidedly on these shoulders.)

Few have seen few, even fewer have been posted, some have professed enjoyment, others remained politely quiet, though one person did in fact pelt my house, not with rotten vegetables, but slugs from a twelve-gauge. We all can't be Super Franzen Up Up And Away, bub.

So again I (& other equally strange beings, it seems) query all you excellent-to-awful people, why submit, why reveal snapshots poorly (though valiantly) composed to those who, in this particular case, aren't the subject of the work? If I may be permitted to wax rhetorical, is not the craving for recognition innate in all of us? To take one extreme(ly obvious) example, nihilists don't blog since they're busy foraging for roots & screaming at the stars, I blog, you blog, everybody blog thus evidemment we want someone to glance at our something, even if they're not reading us -- save the parsing for I'm aware that a familiarity coupled with close readings of non-confessional texts can glean kernels thought cleverly hidden by the author.

The desire for validation -- or, if so inclined, Validation (or having something important to say or respect or appreciation or communion with fellow travelers or whatever synonym you prefer) -- is that not a passing fancy but something worse, a weakness, especially disturbing at the feet of the self-appointed gatekeepers of culture; Jack Poet & Jill Novelist are in print, so that's what I want, of course of course, horse? One rejection from one (or more, I've no clue) reader doesn't change that; the universal arbiter of taste is fickle for if she wasn't, you'd all be midnight headphoning Opeth just like me, goddamn cretins.

To step further in this garbled incoherence, can this quest -- and here I, for the sake of argument, set aside the notion of pure art for art's sake 'cause I know that's a whole other wormy can but this sentence is already beguiling accepted syntax so let's save that cataclysm for tomorrow -- be classified as a temporary bout of hubris; on my part for saying you should pay attention, or on theirs hell no we chose to dismiss this tripe, now who's the cretin, hardee har har.

In today's magical, Jetsonian world, there's a neo-egalitarian internets at a chunk of the planet's fingertips where the amount of time & care (often sizable) poured into the mold of a single piece can be (fleetingly) experienced, even if it harbors distinct artistic limitations & believe me, I'm well aware of mine as the degraded, plastic facsimile of long-rotted Romanticism. Different language & approach, but all the salient, tired elements are present, variation on the same clutch of personal themes orbiting the same handful of people & past scenarios every. single. time be electronically damned. Hell, (relatively) cheap self-publishing is readily available for the old school bookworm if fabulous web pages ain't your gig though, in either case, be wary of the omnipresent monster lurking on the periphery ready to bite your goddamn head off:

[N]ow he was being asked to take into account the potential effect of his writing on a completely anonymous readership. This effect, moreover, was not only impossible to control but also irreversible. Once something is printed, it is out of the author's hands for good, no matter how strong his will to perfection. -- p. 95-96, Kafka: The Decisive Years by Reiner Stach.
Fucking yikes & amen.

Writers, poets, painters, musicians; deeply skilled, hardworking artisans or drunken sub-amateur scribblers, we're going to imagine regardless & since I, or anyone I know, isn't sailing their economic boat upon the creative sea, we are so s-m-r-t, why seek [insert euphemism for validation here] at all? One too many, I guess. At least it didn't cost a dime.


susan said...

I love the rejection letter and plan to use a version next time I submit a portfolio to a gallery or publishing house.. which is probably never. The universal arbiter of taste is either on drugs or seriously constipated so it's a damn good thing we can share what love to do without being censored by hacks of commerce. Of course, it would be nice to have someone offer filthy lucre now and again so we could afford to buy more pencils to snap in outrage when Snooki gets a book contract.

Lisa said...

I love susan's comment!

Oh, where to begin? First, as you know, I thank you for the link and the ongoing moral support as I traverse this unfortunate path.

Second, I suppose we must learn to accept, even embrace the rejections in order to grow tough enough hides to carry us through.

Third. Ouch and god damn it. Rejection hurts.

Fourth. There is no fourth.

Fifth. Let me know if you ever need a back up singer. I mean, beta reader. I'm always looking for good excuses to procrastinate on working on my query. Sitting on my fat ass watching Jersey Shore is wearing thin.

okjimm said...

Back in the 70's, when I really thought I was stuff, I began a collection of rejection letters. It got to be kinda fun. After awhile I selected publications simply because they would fill in a niche in my rejection portfolio. It got to be a hobby. Today I have several vintage rejection notes. They could be valuable some day. Much more so than that small poetry journal in Dorth Dakota who actually printed my drivel. Rejection is just another form of validation! Embrace it!

David Barber said...

As I type I'm filling my face with shitty food to pile on the pounds to produce a healthy pair of man boobs, then I'm hitting the sunbed to get a tan. I'll be looking mighty fine then so let them reject my work after that. Oh fuck...I've not slept with enough people lately or starred in a home made porn video on the net. Also, I write my own stuff......I'm fucked! ;-)

Tengrain said...

Graves, you swine!

I know it is completely different, but as a published author (hey, manuals count!), being published is not the thrill you think it will be. Working with an editor that doesn't understand you--or worse, who doesn't understand English--is the pits. Dilbert jokes aside, I was once asked if the database came in colors.

Keep trying, keep trying, keep trying.



Susan Tiner said...

All I'm going to say is that I enjoy your writing.

sunshine said...

My second husband will have to be a rich man. That's what I've always said.
Why do I think that you'll never have enough money for me to have you as my "second husband"?

I'm kidding of course. (I'm in a weird mood today sorry, Professor Millington, was it???)

So, I suppose that the moral of my comment is this.
How are we ever going to be each others second marriage if you don't get some of your stuff published??? I've got a visual of our photograph for the back cover of your novel in my head right now. You and I by the fire, both smoking pipes. It will be fantastic.


Demeur said...

Oh but it is only for narcissistic pleasure that we grace the pages of your comments. Thought you knew that.

And anyway there's nothing good on TV anymore.

Randal Graves said...

susan, that's how I look at it. Not about being rich, I simply want to buy another bag of rubberbands to fling at passersby. Is that too much to ask, vile capitalist machine?

lisa, I originally had 'fucking DSM-IV nuts' but changed it to 'strange' as I didn't want to hurt your feelings.

That's the nice thing about this poetry crap, I don't have to spend the majority of my thought and energy on the cthulhuawful query letter, which is what you fucking DSM-IV nuts novelists are doing.

I still think you and Mathman should resurrect Commute Chat and turn it into Georgia Shore, you guys can get fake tans and everything.

okjimm, hmmm, you might be on to something, a new art form, a glossy coffee table book of rejections.

david, I'm in the same boat, I haven't (consciously) stolen enough work of others, and I've shagged fewer than the average midfielder.

tengrain, I thought my idea to submit with the text in neon pink was a good idea, are you saying it wasn't?

Um, I don't understand English either.

susan t, if only I did!

george sand, I don't even have a tweed jacket with the elbow patches yet, and it's a misdemeanor to smoke a pipe without one.

Randal Graves said...

demeur, are you saying our respective football teams aren't entertaining? I for one find much joy in watching fourth quarter leads evaporate each week.

sunshine said...

Did you just call me George??? :O

Tom Harper said...

Cool rejection-of-the-rejection letter. I'll have to try that.

Reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where George keeps trying to break up with his girlfriend of the week, and every time he says they're through, she just calmly says "Nope. That wasn't convincing enough. We're still together."

Beach Bum said...

...isn't sailing their economic boat upon the creative sea, we are so s-m-r-t, why seek [insert euphemism for validation here] at all? One too many, I guess. At least it didn't cost a dime.

Screw'em all if they can't take a joke.

La Belette Rouge said...

I have my pitchfork, torches and other assorted midivil weaponry is ready. Just say the word and I am at the ready.
They are idiots. But you know that, right??

Randal Graves said...

Merely invoking your famous cigar-chomping chick namesake, george.

tom, surprisingly, that was one of the first entries returned by The Google.

BB, a priest, a rabbi and a writer walk into a bar...

LBR, I was told I would I could have mansions and boats and helicopters! If only I went to Columbia.

Freida Bee, MD said...

You are so much ahead of me. I don't even have any rejection letters to show for my efforts, or lack therein. Plus, since we started blogging in the same month and are blogging twins, you were always mother's favorite as is evidenced by your 19 more followers (and, crap, I just used a calculator and confessed it). I guess that might make me more successful in Kafka's eyes, but if we're using him as the standard (which I think we should), well, I think that really changes it all, don't you.

Plus, come let mama hold you.

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