Reading Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and The Crying Lot of 49 recently has resolved some new understanding of the way I write/think, or rather, how the latter gets translated into the former. For those who’ve not partaken, Pynchon’s writing rolls along line by line gobbling up every idea it comes across, tangential or not, stretching the start and period of his sentences to a yawning chasm betwixt which one fears stranded, lost, or, conversely, the apexes of a rubber band run too far till the inevitable twang snap sends it raveling towards its source and coda. I’d hated my writing a great while due this tendency to stammer out a crush of ideas yet untangled like Christmas lights shaken out on the table or the knot of headphones pulled from a pocket’s jumble of keys, balm, receipts, gum, change, lint, etc. Pragmatism, I’d told myself, pragmatism. Get to the point and get out. Cut sentences to morsels. Chop the ideas like an onion: chap chap chap chap. Be fucking Hemingway, damn it.
It took too long to realize pragmatism and minimalism were close friends bit weren’t blood related. Pragmatism is about minimalism, sure, but for the sake of the thing itself, not the altar at which the non-minimalist was offered. My mistake was charging my thoughts and their manifestations in my writing with a task they were unfit. Ideas can zig and zip and crack and twap but not all are whips, some come out an overfilled garbage bag giving way under too many half-eaten pizza slices, plastic film wrapping, cardboard, overdue leftovers, apple cores, beer bottles, meals of failed ambition, a sudden rush of noise motion sound and smell as, holding its husk in hand, you struggle to collect your thoughts. This was the way I thought and wrote, and forcing Hemingway was ruining it. Pragmatism requires the thing to be its most useful, which I missed. Chopping up ideas were just disemboweling them, not making them better. I’d been tugging my reader through the grassy safety of the forest’s edge while my heart was home somewhere in that thicket, through the shush of leaves and undergrowth amongst the shards of light slipping past the treetops, hidden somewhere in the bush, and I did no good out there in the sun and sky meeking, “the jungle looks too dense and I don’t have a hatchet or an ax,” because a lack of hatchet or ax was the reality I’d denied myself, for I’d have to live with the forest, the forest was what I was, what I am, where my heart lives, and if we’re not stomping, pulling, squinting the dimness for the heart, then what even was the point?