With glittering eyes


So therefore I dedicate myself to myself, to my art, my sleep, my dreams, my labors, my sufferances, my loneliness, my unique madness, my endless absorption and hunger because I cannot dedicate myself to any fellow being.

~ Jack Kerouac

It resonates completely until I see that Jack Kerouac died after throwing up blood. The malt liquor. Then that other guy who shot his wife in the head. Burroughs somebody. And I wonder about literary figures. They're all drunk and staggering and haunting people today, I bet, still muttering and ranting in disassociated lines.



I'm wondering about a middle ground with wooly blankets and nubbly cardigans and nobody shot in the head and don't you think? Where yes, you are uniquely mad. But functionally uniquely mad. Endlessly absorbed but in the mildly scattered kind of way instead of in the crap-I-shot-my-wife-in-the-head kind of way. Unable to dedicate to another human being only in occasional fits.

Roald Dahl says you're a fool to become a writer, your only compensation being absolute freedom but then I'm not so sure about that. He bought a wagon from a Romanian gypsy and his kids played in it and I think he had more in the way of compensation than absolute freedom. He's got a point, though, even if he reached a point where his own point no longer applied to him. He had no master except his own soul, and that, he was sure, was why he did it.


I stood at the front of the classroom feeling unqualified but not only that: I lied. I told them that inspiration is less about fairy dust and more about brute force. I warned them to quit thinking they know what failure is or what incompetence is, and I warned them the same of the word 'talent'. I told them that 75% of people who begin writing a novel never finish the last 25%. I told them there's one thing that separates those who finish and those who tried and failed to write a novel once: the brute force.

I lied.

Not that it isn't true. It is. But how is it fair for me to lecture on it when I can't rustle it up myself? When I can't finish? Missy begs for her time, her place, and I can't because this thing is a hydra now, two new heads grown for every reconciled one. I can't figure out where anything belongs, if it's worthy, what to do next. It's already too long. It's running away. Or am I? I feel entrusted with too much. I stare into space and think about how we had to remortgage the house when I could have been... I don't know. Doing something that either 1) pays more than absolute freedom because all absolute freedom does is run up your credit line; or 2) doesn't cause me to drunkenly shoot someone in the head.

Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you

You're not getting enough air, like normal people.

Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you

I don't know why you do this.

Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you

Stop writing then, if you don't like it so much.

Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you

That's all me saying those things. Constantly. Muttering. One self shrieks at the other self and the other self whispers back, sometimes in the voice of Roald Dahl. All this might lead you to believe that I think I'm a writer, literary, worthy of malt liquor and Romanian gypsy wagons and creative agony. I don't think so. Or that I'm ever going to do something truly good. That I'm doing what I should. That it's worth the expense, the endless absorption. I don't know about all of it. I feel ridiculously presumptuous at the same time as I feel like the keeper of invisible children that nobody else can see but me, invisible children waiting for me to be devoted enough, brutish enough.

Instead I'm just staring at them apologetically, angry at myself, trying to figure out what happens next.

They wait, staring back.

Can you do me a favour? Tell me the one thing you espouse but continually fail at. Your truthiest truth, your highest ideal. That thing you'd most want to tell your kids to remember, but that also makes you feel like a fraud to insist on it. Is it enough to not succeed but practice? Is practicing the point?