10/25/2009
They don't sell cynical non-fiction for a reason

November's still a week away, and already I'm one-thirds through that David Sedaris book that I picked up a couple of months ago. I did say I won't open that until a couple of weeks from now, when I'm on a three-hour flight to Singapore, bored with inflight entertainment. Then again, that's pretty unlikely. In the case that it happens, I have another book to read.

I mentioned this before, I know. I picked up David's latest book because I remember him from what Lizette told me that one time. I figure I took it as a compliment, which is why it's stuck in my head. She says we share the same writing style - and of course, it's a compliment, because he's a bestselling author! I agreed after a few weeks, when she sent me a clandestine copy of one of his earlier books, and I realized that we have the same approach when it comes to words, but definitely not with the perspective we share. And then I started downloading the This American Life podcasts and I heard some of his contributions, and I laughed, and I told myself I'll buy one of his books when I chance upon it. It still amounted to an impulse buy, though.

After a handful of essays from When You Are Engulfed in Flames, I don't regret anything. The critics were right: you do come off as smarter, somehow. And yet you pore through the paragraphs and you still marvel at how effortlessly he does it: a flutter through different topics, much like The Simpsons to an extent, and yet it all boils down to that one thing, and you don't realize it until the very end, when you start thinking about what you'd read and, when you think you've figured it out, you believe you're smarter. All throughout, you're laughing despite the situation being absolutely absurd, or despicable. He's got your attention.

I thought, "we can't share the same writing style."

Maybe we do, but we have pretty much nothing in common. The stuff he writes about are interesting: experiences here, experiences there, skewed outlook, you get a book, you get thousands of people to buy it and read it and think you're the greatest. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but people return because you have interesting things to tell, and even if it's something you usually (absolutely) don't want to deal with, you still do. Me? All I do - and I know that's all I do - is complain.

As much as I think that my writing's getting better, I think my writing's getting angrier, and you all know nobody wants an angry someone blasting angry stuff down their senses. There's a reason why liberals make fun of Glenn Beck, after all. Well, initially it will make sense, but in the long run it gets ridiculous and tiring and unbearable. "Kasi naman, Niko, ligawan mo na kasi si Neobie, hindi yung nagmumukmok ka lang diyan kasi ayaw niya sa'yo." And then they get flustered with the same old, and then they go.

If, for some reason, I decide to pursue a career as a writer for magazines, then I have absolute no hope where I'm headed. People do not read essays that's mostly a complaint about how crappy life has been lately. Editors do not accept essays that's mostly a complaint about how hard it is to be published. What the masses want is something that either makes sense, or is easy to take, which is why there are more fashion magazines in the shelves, or ones that carry essays about people who became successful because they did not pursue a writing career, instead crunching numbers or kissing ass. Nobody wants cynicism on their bedside, more so in their heads. I would've studied at Gokongwei instead of Miguel if I only knew that's how things go. Or maybe stayed at Miguel, but rather than holding a camera and running around, I'd probably be reading books on politics, which would've led me to the same route anyway.

So much for telling Ning and Valerie - or being told, I can't recall - that my cynicism is what makes my writing supposedly great. In Valerie's words, "awesomesauce". But it certainly won't stack up to the people who get sold in actual bookstores, who get actual praise from actual literary critics, and who get to sit back and just be happy with where they are, even if there's really nothing to be happy about. It's impossible, me getting published, or me getting, I don't know, recognized further. Or anybody being happy, for that matter. No wonder sugar is so important.

And your responses...

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