I Like __ A Lot
I like Jimmy Chen a lot: the many minds of JC
I think in future litmus tests of potential significant others, one could do well by presenting to them a bibliography of Jimmy Chen, inclusive not only of his fiction, but his blogging, his persona, his internet collage. Then watch their face. If they aren’t with it, they are worthless. Send them crying to their moms.
Knowing Jimmy Chen exists in the world has on more than one occasion made me feel better about my life, and about writing. This is strange, likely, as I have never met Jimmy, never even Gmail chatted with him, or had much direct correspondence with him outside of brief emails and blog comment banter. And yet in most every instance of him I can remember, I have come to believe that if more writers were like Jimmy Chen, this whole game would be so much better off.
There are lots of ways I could define this sweeping statement, but rather than explain why he is a good person (which I believe he is), or positive for the mind, or just plain goddamn funny, I’d rather look at what he does more concretely, and in the mind of how what Jimmy does can be used as a model or a mindset worth trying to strive for.
Often in my pursuit of the active publishing aspect of writing, I’ve thought of the process as one long and complicated role playing based video game. You fashion sets of keys to open certain locks, collect items that may just be of flash value, or serve a later purpose you aren’t sure of. I’ve found that the more you work at knowing exactly what kind of ‘problem’ or ‘scenario’ you are entering, when it comes to submissions and politics aspects, the more likely you are to be successful (this all assumes that the work you are doing is work you have really put yourself into, that you believe in, and that is worth spreading, which is another question in and of itself). This aspect of publishing can be tedious and brain-fucking if you let it, but with slightly thicker skins learned from context, you can learn to make your way, or something, something.
Jimmy, I think, is kind of a master of understanding the aesthetics of the journals he shows up in, and therefore sending them work that reflects that journal’s taste. As in: dude doesn’t blast off the latest creation he’s burped out: he actually thinks of what the editor of those journals, and therefore that journal’s audience, would like to read. He ‘gives a fuck’ (a value statement also expressed in his analysis of other people’s writing, the evidence of which is all over this website). That’s not to say he’s bending himself into received aesthetics: more than he’s bending the aesthetics into him. The result is a kind of super-sharp and fine-honed narration, bent to exact what seems a very certain response there in the reader: which is perhaps a thing left off too often.
I am confabulating here, as I don’t know anything about Chen’s creation methods, but I think the sum of what I’m saying is: Chen’s work is smart, and his approach to that work’s manifestation reflects his smartness. Smartness.
Here are some recent examples of Chen’s work in relation to the journal’s mode:
‘Holland, 1660’ in Sleepingfish: an absolutely brilliant take on hysteria and aesthetic, which could not be more apt for the ZZZfish sensibility, and yet still has that Chen churn and bursting that always gets me off.
‘Let There Be’ in Diagram: I was really happy when I saw Jimmy would be in Diagram, as his text in the Diagram mode I knew would be new on both ends, and is brilliant, again, in the way it continues turning on itself.
‘Eyeshot Lee Klein’ in Eyeshot: a Chen classic, and probably evocative of the methodology I am pointing at slightly in this post. When Chen gets meta, it’s like Barry Sanders birthing babies.
More Chen reading can be found at his website’s archive here, the breadth and playfulness of which further reflects dude’s Tupac mannerism. It also contains a whole section of ‘satire’ work, which is another post in and of itself, but let’s just say if Jimmy somehow ended up on the staff of SNL, I would start watching that bullshit again.
And yet, across the board, despite the venue, there is something concretely and singularly Jimmy about Jimmy’s voice. I feel like I could read a stack of work from all kinds of writers and pick Jimmy out, no matter what clothes its come in. The sentences are sharp, and unveil an inner logic, that lets you in where it allows and at the same time continues spinning. Above that, also, there is the laughter: I almost always laugh aloud when reading Chen, though the variations of the laughing change the same way the tone does: sometimes it is his wordplay, the fucking of genre (which he is distinctly good at, and reveals a high level of analysis behind the text: my man is smart), and even into the DFW-ian kind of humor where you are laughing not because what is being said is funny, but because it was said so well, in such a way.
I want to get one of those Jesus bracelets because I am certain I would benefit from more often thinking: WHAT WOULD JIMMY DO?