Toronto
3 min

Casualties of a writing life

I'll do antyhing to talk about Gordon Lish

Credit: Xtra files

Since I’ve become a famous writer, doing famous writer things – never writing, spreading the Internet rumour that Daniel McIvor was a goth until he was 35 – people have started acting differently toward me.



I can’t describe it, even though I’m a famous writer. Isn’t that just terrible? Maybe I should try to describe it: Hack. Chop. It not a bus driver, it only meat. Eat the ass.



That was from when I was a famous serial killer. Phases of fame all seem to fade into one fame phase. I’ll try again, harder this time. Look where trying harder got my friend and pilates partner, Marg Atwood, whose feminist classic Surfacing was originally titled Dreams Made Real: My Drunk Husband Makes Me Sleep In The Washing Machine But I Love Him.



The main thing is that people have started to ask my opinion on things. People never used to ask my opinion on things. Even my friends used to just smile dismissively whenever I offered my opinion on things, as if I was Jennilee Harrison on an episode of CNN Crossfire. And I liked it. When your friends like you for some intan-gible thing that isn’t insight or intellect and certainly isn’t charisma or sex appeal – that’s just the best, the best ever feeling ever! It makes for a feeling of modest constancy, as if you were a fridge magnet or foot lesion. Nice, you know?



Not nice is being breathlessly asked for my opinion, now that I’m a famous writer.



“What do you think about the war?” a crying fan asked me on the street last week. “Awful. Awful,” I said. Inane, I know, but when you say “awful, awful” over and over, it begins to sound like “falafel, falafel,” which is what the fan thought I was saying, and was duly moved by my simply stated support and compassion for our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters.



I got lucky that time. But sooner or later the jig will be up, the Greg Is A Complete Fucking Bonehead Jig, the one where I put your right foot in and take your right foot out. Of course, you’re asking yourself (at least I am): What are feet?



Writers, at least the good ones, are among the stupidest people in the world. The childlike wonder at life’s minutiae that a writer has to sustain for vivacity’s sake might make for a pretty haiku, but it robs them of every other kind of cognitive capacity. Street smarts, for example. I’ll never forget the time when I was a prostitute and a customer put crack up my bum and said it was part of the Celestine Prophecy. Can you believe I believed him? It took another customer making me eat crack from his ass in the name of the Celestine Prophecy for me to realize: You can’t have your ass-crack and eat it, too.



By now you’re probably deriding me for playing into the lame notion of artist as mute conduit for divinity. I couldn’t care less. I recently took an on-line IQ test and scored 58. My IQ is just slightly higher than a first trimester miscarriage. In my world, independently turning over in bed is akin to an MFA. If I choose to comfort myself by believing in the whole “only idiots can be geniuses” song and dance, so what? Fuck off! I just hate you so much!



Of course, if you were to make my psychic welfare your business, I would give you things. I’d wash your dishes and you could crack my balls like eggs, if need be.



Dignity. There’s another casualty of the writing life. Before I became a famous writer I fancied myself a rigid moralist. “Pierced ears? Tsk. What does cat food really taste like?” It didn’t matter that I rolled spina bifidians for their candy money, kicked and punched and blew up baby cemeteries. Hypocrisy energized me.



But that has fallen away. As one gets older, the incongruities of one’s personality tend to dissolve, don’t they? One is less able to invest in the quaint vagaries that one once held high, even if one wants to. One’s thesis statement becomes more punchy and probably no longer contains the phrase “high priestess of the moment.”



I don’t know what I think about the war, except that George Bush Jr is probably great in bed, in a red-faced, “my bowling alley mini-pencil of a penis is a poison dart that’s really gonna rock you,” kind of way.



I am not very bright. If John is taller than Bill, and Bob is shorter than John and the same height as Jack, then it would logically follow that Bob loved Rent but sometimes feels very lonely, even at parties.



I am debased. I would sell my only child down the river for lunch with Amy Hempel. Or even just lunch.



But I am also a very famous writer, who doesn’t need to sell my own child down the river for lunch with Amy Hempel, because famous writers have lunch together all the time, pursed-lipped, paying playful homage to Gordy Lish over a shared salad, too stupid to know fork from knife but not caring, because they are famous writers, and because they are too stupid. But serene. And stupid. And famous. And stupid.