– Andrew Ramirez
Who said it? Was it Hemingway—about how it takes a whole lot of sadness to write a really funny book?
Lately, I’ve come to believe it by way of the inverse: Did you know the guy who penned The Exorcist started out paying the rent with books like Which Way to Mecca, Jack? and I, Billy Shakespeare and Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane? And thanks to a cool ten grand he won on Groucho Marx’s silly game show You Bet Your Life, he was finally able to spew out that four-hundred-something page manuscript about a foul-mouthed projectile puking girl, telling priests to go do this and that with their mothers, themselves, etc. etc…
It’s funny. Today, that Groucho-funded book ranks up there with the likes of Dracula. No doubt thanks to the very popular 1974 movie, of course, (but by the same token: if Bella Lugosi and Gary Oldman and Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and Robert Pattinson hadn’t donned the fangs, well, where would Bram Stoker’s novel be in popular culture?) but still those books are important—and deserve to be—all on their own. And the formula I’m getting at, ripped off of Hemingway’s wisdom, is this: It takes a lot of X to do a really Y something. Not a lot of X to write a really X book. Not a lot of Y to find a really Y someone. But rather, the roads we take should meander. Take us places we didn’t ask for, dropping us off somewhere we didn’t know we could arrive at by taking that route. I wanted to go somewhere else but this happened. Well so what? Look at the view. You don’t need to keep staring to catch her eye. You don’t need a summer in Paris to write your novel. What’s earned requires hard honest work, obviously—but never the combination of two obvious things.
Thanks to Twitter, we can, strangely, make clear focus of the boundary blurring that’s taking place. Kanye won’t respond to you, but still you can tweet directly at him. Doubtful he’ll read it, but still, you’re EP lands somewhere in Kanye’s Twitter notification universe.
All those seemingly opposing tracks begin to merge. Literary snobs and genre crowd pleasers. Denis Johnson, recipient of the National Book Award in 2007, really did write a great shoot-em-up novel called Nobody Move. Independent and big budget. With the internet, distribution is easy.
I’ll admit it: I’ve seen the movie then read the book. It’s nice injecting an actor’s face into the prose once in a while. I was riveted, caught in trance, while turning pages to Javier Bardem chasing down Josh Brolin all over Texas in No Country for Old Men. Cormac McCarthy, your prose—tighter than a Delta Gamma’s skirt, sparer than the tire under her BMW—still can’t help but gain a little extra punch from those deep stress lines in Tommy Lee Jones’ forehead, you know?
But it’s true. As a clock ticks nearer to the end of the Mayan Calendar, come December 21st 2012, whatever changes that will mean (there’s more than a few rad theories on it), we’re still changing right now, too.
Maybe Hemingway, in all his boozy wisdom, was the first to notice, way back in the day: You take the pressure off yourself when you let something happen. What he was saying was: You don’t take sadness so as to write a funny book. You take sadness and a certain opposite is then formed inside you. What you do with it is your business.
Who knows? I started this blog with the intention of writing about a bar. But Hemingway was probably drunk when he was quoted saying that. So how’s that for a connection?