Did You Just Tell Me To Shut Up? – A Guest Post from Giancarlo Ditrapano
[The Tyrant sends his thoughts on the unpspeakable. Please enjoy. – BB]
“Most stuff that is genuine is better left unsaid.” This is from a letter written in 1993 by J.D. Salinger to his friend E. Michael Miller (for this story, go here). Sounds like old boy’s last plea, doesn’t it? That last line of the red one, you know: “Don’t tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” This thought occupies my mind past the point of it being healthy. There are so many things for me that I cannot write down, or will not write down. I have tried to write them down, and I have written them down, and hated myself afterwards for doing it.
It’s the same with speech. There are so many things I can’t speak about, won’t speak about. I have tried to speak about them, and I have spoken about them, and hated myself afterwards for doing it. I don’t know how to categorize these untouchables for there is no common denominator that I can pin down. I am not talking about gossip or secrets. Forget all that shit. I’m talking about the times or thoughts or experiences that cannot be regaled, or feel like they shouldn’t be regaled (even though they could be regaled but you would just feel like shit afterwards because no matter how good it felt to tell it, once you’re done it always feels like you have just let go of a kite string). That bit of advice from Dorothy Parker (about how if you have an idea for a story, not to speak about it or it will lose its steam) has something to do with it, but not exactly. Or it’s like that feeling you feel in that span of time between the moment you hear some good news (Writers, insert “acceptance-letter joy” here) and the moment that you start blabbing your head off about it. As soon as you start communicating it, telling others about it, something disappears, doesn’t it? And there was something good about that something that disappeared, wasn’t there? It’s not exactly like, but is kind of like, how you and your good friend would never talk about how good of friends you are because the mere mention of you even being friends would cause your friendship to wither somehow.
Another thing that has something (but not everything) to do with it is how when a pitcher looks like he’s going to throw a no-hitter, there’s an unwritten rule that nobody mention the possibility of a no-hitter until it actually happens. What is this thing that all of these things touch on? Is it “sacred” or is it sacred or is it sacred? Let’s take one example: your family. Okay, so you have a great story about your family that is pretty fucked up, because your family is fucked up, but lots of people would probably enjoy to hear it (because people love that shit), so you write it, then you sell it to a publisher, even though it exposes the lives of you and your close ones and turns your life-experience, and the people within it, into fodder for your writing career (nasty, but it could be perceived that way). I enjoy them, but I always cringe at memoirs because it gets me thinking, “Poor Author, you are going to have to deal with all of these people reading about themselves and then their reactions.” Will it ever be the same between you and these people again? Have you broken a bond? Do they trust you anymore? Do they act themselves around you anymore? Or does it help “life” to write it out? We know it’s an entrance, but is it an exit? Is it trading off your “sacred”/sacred/sacred story for an unholy book deal? Or is it just telling the truth? Or is it telling the wrong truth? And, God Almighty, why wouldn’t you just avoid all of this mess and drape it in fiction (even though, unless you’re real good, they always figure that one out anyway)? Is it not as good of a story if it isn’t bio? I get the whole, “a writer writes what he has to write” but did you really have to write about that? I am queerly curious about this. This family thing was just one example, an aside, not the biggest, not the smallest.
Back to Salinger: Did he figure out that the writing itself is all that matters and that publishing what you’ve written kind of ruins, or changes for the worse, what you’ve written (and what you’ve written about)? Or was he just a loon? I’m not saying this or that or it does or it doesn’t or he isn’t or he is. Really, I’m not. I have no idea. I’m not a writer. Not like that. I’m just asking writers like that. And I do think this applies to more than writing. I think there is something to this “holy” silence, but I just don’t know what it is. I want to hear some thoughts. I want to hear your thoughts. But before you begin, know that you are absolutely ruining everything by talking about/writing about/commenting on this. Okay, now let’s all ruin everything together.
(Sorry. God that was long. Oh, and Stephen Elliott is holding some kind of seminar on “Writing from Experience” on March 11th which I plan on attending so I can learn myself some shit and get back to you.)
[Giancarlo Ditrapano is the editor of the New York Tyrant, and Tyrant Books.]