I’ve been watching a lot of Charlie Kaufman movies lately. Kaufman’s the guy who wrote the screenplays for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich (where John Malkovich becomes John Cusack’s puppet). I’m especially drawn to movies, books, or plays that can make me laugh while breaking my heart.
My affinity for this type of art doesn’t come out of sentimentality, but rather because it more accurately depicts life. Life is hilarious, stupid, and silly. Life also sucks. It’s filled with assholes and douche bags (like the frat boys walking around on Cesar Chavez Day, chugging cervesas and somehow finding a way to wear a sombrero backwards). But life isn’t all good or all bad, either. It’s both at the same time. Life is like the moment after Oedipus gouges out his eyes…and then slips on a banana peel.
So what’s one to do with a life such as this? That wasn’t a rhetorical question. I was asking you. Did you really think I had an answer for it? I can barely string together 500 words without using a bunch of superfluous parentheticals (meta!). I’m nowhere near equipped to tackle life’s mysteries. Hell, I couldn’t even figure out Encyclopedia Brown as a kid, and probably still couldn’t.
As dumb as I am, though, at least I’m smart enough to recognize that my brain is more complicated than simply recognizing something as only funny, or only sad, or only one way and not the other. I see all the little contradictions in other people’s actions, as well as within my own wants and desires, but that’s as far as I get. I have no way to interpret them. Thus, I am ill-equipped to make decisions. Instead, I let myself be carried through life as if on strings. It’s why I write fiction. It’s necessary for me to be able to understand (or at least think I understand) the infinitesimally tiny fraction of the universe I occupy.
It’s not even a choice for me to write. It’s a compulsion. I told a friend that I wrote 16 pages of a short story in a day over spring break and she told me she couldn’t imagine doing something like that for fun.
While the short story has been surprisingly fun to write (usually the only fun part about being a writer is the inherent alcoholism), I wasn’t doing it for fun. I don’t even consider myself the one writing the story. The story already exists. It’s just pulling on my strings, using me as a puppet to let it out into the world. I can’t stop thinking about it (this article was just a roundabout way for me to talk about it). It’s a story, like Kaufman’s, that’s both happy and sad. Hopefully it’ll make me—its vessel—as rich and famous as a short story writer can be (that is to say, not very).