No, Niko, not another concept piece!

If anything should remind you, in the most impactful of ways, about how much you've missed out, it should be death.

Last week was the fifth death anniversary of writer David Rakoff. He died of cancer, a cancer which has left him with no use of his left arm, but has not dulled his observations.

I enjoyed his work, but that might be considered a lie. I heard his stuff on This American Life (and went as far as writing about his last ever piece for the show on the other blog) but it took his death for me to get my hands on his books. I got two: his last book, a novel written in verse, was a gift for Shalla; and one of his collection of essays, which I bought for later reading.

It has been five years, and no, I have not gotten around to reading it.

I have long moved out of my "I have to buy a book!" phase, a combination of two realizations - that I have enough books left to read, and that Fully Booked is no longer the place it used to be. Not that I have stopped reading: I moved back to magazines, buy them regularly, got a subscription, even. I just realized, one day, that I had so much to read I should stop filling my already bursting shelves (or corners of them). And then my interests shifted, and now I have a pile of autobiographies and other non-fiction books left unread, David Rakoff's book included - although his, I ended up bringing to a couple of trips abroad, just staying in the bag.

Those days were when I thought I could write like them. Well, not like them. I can't, I couldn't. Occasionally I still remember Liz telling me that I write like David Sedaris - just his form, but not his humor. It was sad, because I was never sure if it was a compliment, but it also was a reassurance that I can never really be like the greats. I never really wanted to be one, I'll say, but the more time you devote to something, the more you dream of hitting those peaks others have reached, or at least set. Maybe you could be like them. Well, I never saw myself as a best-selling author, but maybe I could get Liz to think that I have even just a bit of the other David's humor as well.

But then I remember the other thing she said, that I complain a lot, and that I should stop complaining. I don't recall if that was followed by "if you want to be taken seriously as a writer". Maybe that's my memory messing with me.

I don't get to write a lot anymore. Busy, simply said. This is only my second essay this month, and knowing my thing for a quota, I'm just bashing this out to make myself look prolific. The stuff I'm writing are what you'd call boring things these days - long-winded essays explaining consumer trends, only to be seen by a thousand people, if they find the time. I am proud of them, but then I get reminders that I write other things as well. I write about things happening around me. I'd probably try to be a smart aleck about it, to the detriment of anybody who merely attempts to read what I write. I'd then realize I don't really... I don't really have a life to write about. Everybody seems to be doing something out of the ordinary - just slightly, most of the time, but out of the ordinary anyway, at least out of the routine. Mine is wake up, prepare, go to work, work, go home, kill time, sleep. I don't like stepping out of my comfort zone as the hassle of doing so always outweighs any possible benefit. So what's there to write about? I complain about things? Or, to put it a better way, I talk about how things benefit some more than others? That's just me being self-absorbed, they say. That's something people don't like.

But I still write, if only to hit a self-imposed quota.

There are days when I feel it's a curse, being able to write like this. People turn to you to be able to articulate what they could never, and you take the responsibility since, ideally, you enjoy it. And then it happens, again and again, until you realize you have nothing left to write for yourself. You can no longer write anything you're really, really, really proud of. I can no longer write anything I'm really, really, really proud of. Unless, of course, I want people to talk about how I always just complain rather than act. "But that's how I act," I might contend, but who cares? We're all busy.

Shalla has that other David Rakoff book. She borrowed it, thinking she'll have time to read it, but she never did, and it's just lying in her place.

Me, I rewatched his last piece on YouTube, and thought, "I could never do it the way he does." And then I ponder giving up this curse altogether.

And your responses...

Post a Comment