A Writing Life

I’m not sure what one of these even is.

I spent a week on the road in October reading from The Authentic Animal,*** which was a nice fall break full of all the foliage we can’t quite see in the deep south. I sold fewer copies than there are months in a year. But I also saw people I hadn’t seen in many years. Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Pat. Thank you, Jenn, and Joan, and everyone else that came out.

Now that the sun is coming up earlier—I’ve said it before, but the true milepost marking one’s shift from child- to adulthood is when your preferred Daylight Savings Time activity becomes falling back—I’m putting in an extra hour at the office so’s to get some writing done again. I have two projects to work on:

  • a solicited essay for a forthcoming anthology on the writing of nonfiction, one that stems from that post down there on assessing good writing in nonfiction. Here’s where I’m at right now: I’m not so certain that I come to nonfiction with a different toolbox than that with which I come to fiction, as I am that I sit down to write in a narrative mode with a different set of tools than when I write expository prose. So maybe it’s a situation where step one of assessing a work of nonfiction is trying to figure out its dominant mode among narrative, expository, and lyric?
  • revising that novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010. It is full of problems that I am getting eager to work on, and but also today I found this line I like: “It was like his eyes had their own double-chins.”

III. Last week I tweeted this:

This week’s lesson: Nothing’s made me want to work on another book than touring to promote my first one. #complexterrors

A common question at these readings and book signings is: So what’s next? In fact, a colleague asked me this very question on the quad this afternoon. My answer is standup comedy. Like with taxidermy, I’m finding myself thinking about it a lot these days, and I’ve got a spectatorial obsession going on. That is: I want never to have to do standup comedy, but I want to write all about it. Also, like taxidermy, I can see that we’re all going through a bit of a moment with standup comedy right now and that without question my book, if it gets written, will wash up on the shore well after this moment has passed. As of now I don’t have any material yet; that’s what I hope to get this summer through travel. At this point I have two things to say about the book:

  • If you are a standup comedian or you know a standup comedian who would want to be interviewed by a curious writer, send me an email stating as much please.
  • I used, Gay-Taleseanly, to not believe in them, but now I’m rereading D’Agata’s About a Mountain, and I think a digital voice recorder might be a good idea. Really, Mr. Obvious? You want to write a book about an artform consisting almost fully of language and you’re not going to get word-for-word quotes? Fine: I get it. I’m thinking about buying one. I like the . I mention it because maybe you have or have used one of these dealies. I’m open to suggestions. Oh, and to all those people who came out to my readings and will come out to future readings and will be patient and understanding if I miss your city on any reading tour, I promise not to whip one of these out when you and I are drinking across a table and pointing emphatically into the air between us.

*** If you go up to that link there, you’ll find that the taxidermy book has all of three customer reviews on Amazon, one of which is Not So Hot, and I think we all can do better. So here’s the deal: Whoever writes the best Customer Review for The Authentic Animal between now and Thanksgiving Day will receive a free autographed copy of the book shipped anywhere in the world just in time for the holidays. Here are the rules:

  • Neal will judge.
  • Reviews can be as long or as short as you like.
  • Reviews can assign the book anywhere from 1 to 5 stars.
  • Reviews can be authored by anyone using any Amazon user name. Be sure to email me at amazon [at] davemadden [dot] org to claim whichever username/review is your own.
  • Winner will be announced here in early December, with the winning review reprinted and responded to, as needed, by yours truly.

Good luck!

One thought on “A Writing Life”

  1. Enjoyed your reading last night. You should speak with the comedian, Marc Maron. He’s got a blog called What the Fuck with Marc Maron (free on iTunes) that serves as an oral history of comedy. He interviews pretty much everyone in the industry and includes a lot of meta-comedy talk.

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