Project, Passion, Product, Impending

During the strike, I was thinking that the number of hours that union management asked writers to put in on the picket line did not add up to a normal work week; and I’m more of a Neoclassicist than a Romantic when it comes to inspiration and time and words (if I’m using those terms correctly?—my Glossary of Literary Terms isn’t helping; what I mean is Maugham’s line, if it’s accurate—my Bartlett’s isn’t helping—about inspiration striking every morning at nine, or Edison’s line about sweating a lot, etc.), but still, I was thinking that there had to be not-paid-for words getting written during those hundred days, and I was wondering where all those words were going, and I imagined we might eventually read something like this:

[Michele] Mulroney has gone back to writing a play and said many friends had picked up “passion projects,” like unfinished novels, children’s books and developing screenplays. After the strike “the town will be flooded with new material,” she said.

—Melena Ryzik, “For Strikers, the Agony of Spare Time,” 27 January 2008

So now I’m wondering if the inboxes of book publishers and literary agents will be compared, at some point soon (perhaps they have been already?—I am fearful of the white noise of such a Googling!), to that old myth of what the birthing centers of hospitals in big cities look like forty weeks after a major blackout.

Clintonian Rhapsody

I’ve been thinking recently about a short story I wrote while I was at NYU, in a workshop with Breyten Breytenbach in the fall of 2003. The story, like this post, is titled “Clintonian Rhapsody.” I’ve been thinking about this paragraph in particular:

Bill Clinton lay his head on his desk. He was tired. He was tired more and more these days, he thought. Tired and sad, possessed by an ennui he’d never known before. Certainly not while he’d been President. He wondered if he needed a coffee. He wondered if he needed prescription meds, if that would help ease the pain. He wondered if he should start keeping a diary, a record of his melancholy, if that would help him, or help others, others who felt this ennui too. He could even start a weblog, like the kids all seemed to do these days. He liked keeping tabs on what the kids were up to. But surely his life already was his diary? The record of his accomplishments? Didn’t men such as he leave the record of their days in the history books, in the betterment of the lives of others? In the records written by others? Sure, he had things to do now, he had a very busy schedule, but it just never felt nearly as good, nearly as significant, and he had these small windows, windows of fifteen minutes here and there, alone at his desk, looking out at the Harlem skyline, in which to brood, and sometimes weep. Maybe he should run for President again, if Hillary did not. Would the people want him back? Maybe, he realized, he was just avoiding his own deadlines. Maybe he should just buck up and get to it on the book he had a contract to write. Maybe that was his diary. Maybe that would be his solace.

Clinton explains, later in the story, while talking to a kid who’s been blogging from the top of a Ponderosa pine in the Nebraska National Forest: “‘My understanding is that the two-term limit only applies to contiguous terms.'” This is, of course, not true. But if Wikipedia is to be believed (and the link from the relevant footnote citation is no longer good, so take this with the usual Wikipedian grain of salt), Clinton has said that he is in favor of tweaking the twenty-second amendment to make a third non-consecutive term possible. Who knew?

The story is really quite nuts—its cast also includes the Delphic Oracle, George W. Bush, the Monkey King, God, and the Supreme Court, among many others—too nuts to ever submit anywhere. (Which somewhat allays the vaguely navel-gazey feeling of quoting myself in this space; also, I’d like to think my writing has gotten better in the past four years.) But the reason I’ve been thinking about it—and the thing that executes this idea in a much more incisive fashion—is The Onion’s hilarious “Bill Clinton: ‘Screw It, I’m Running For President,’” from two weeks ago:

Although some have pointed out that it is unconstitutional for Clinton to run for a third term in office, he has silenced most critics by urging voters ‘not to worry about the Constitution for now’ and assuring them he will address those legal issues immediately after regaining control of the White House.

‘All I am asking of the American people is four more years,’ Clinton said at a fundraiser Tuesday where tens of thousands of South Carolinians gathered to stare in gape-jawed wonderment at the former president. ‘Well, maybe eight. Actually, you know what, definitely eight. Eight more years.’

Anyway, I’m voting for Obama on Tuesday.