Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holding Pattern/Still the Same


IF I RECALL CORRECTLY: In the 1982 film Shoot the Moon, novelist Albert Finney goes through a divorce from Diane Keaton. Keaton keeps the family's rural home, with the couple's three four daughters (among them, future sitcom superstars Tina Yothers and Tracey Gold), where they are building a tennis court. The contractor building the tennis court is played by affable Peter Weller and it's not hard to figure out that there's chemistry between Annie Hall and Robocop.
Finney and Keaton's separation has its trials, but we generally see things work out and both characters reach a place in their lives where they've got some peace with the end of their marriage. This is evident in the final scene, where Peter Weller has finished the tennis court and the family throws a big party to celebrate and Albert Finney shows up and wishes them well and gets back in his car and drives off back to the city where his new life awaits.
He gets in his car all right, but then Bob Seger's "Still the Same" comes on and Albert Finney smashes up the tennis court in his wood-paneled station wagon. ROLL CREDITS.

That's kind of how I feel about this year. My station wagon doesn't have wood paneling, and I don't have a Bob Seger cassette for the tape deck, and you can't smash up a year with your car, but 2014 is a goddamn tennis court that needs to get smashed up. Even though I know, just like Albert Finney knew, that smashing it up won't get me back all I've lost. But goddamn if it won't make me feel good for a minute or two. 

I wrote a lot in 2013. Not so much in 2014. I guess I wrote a lot of record reviews, though. I don't know if that counts. I read a lot. That's for sure. And I made a point of reading outside my habits, for which I was always rewarded. My three favourite books (that I read in 2014, only one of them actually came out this year) shared some common themes: boats, sisters, survival. All three of them totally ripped my guts out.
Claire Cameron's The Bear, Madeleine Thien's Dogs at the Perimeter, and Eden Robinson's Monkey Beach. I openly wept while reading each one. I did not read better books than these this year. And I read a lot of books. I read Inherent Vice. Which, yes, is very good and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie some day, but SUBJECTIVELY (which is all I got here, folks) it's pretty much the same as the book I've been writing and that, by turns, bummed me out and encouraged my efforts. Except my book is set in present day Vancouver and the drugs are different and lots of other things are different, too, but Pynchon obviously liked a lot of the same novels and TV shows that I did and what are you going to do? 
Another book that's similar to the book I've been working on is Sam Wiebe's excellent debut Last of the Independents. It's a fairly straightforward update of the PI form set in today's Vancouver and does a lot of things well, especially with regards to its setting. Like with Inherent Vice, it was a little frustrating to see someone doing things I was trying to do, even more so because Wiebe did them so well. But it was also liberating, because hey, I don't have to convince anyone that Vancouver Noir is a real thing. I don't have to show a lot of world-building. I can stand on Wiebe's shoulders and do cannonballs into False Creek (which I don't advise).

So what I'm saying is, if you like Inherent Vice and you like Last of the Independents, I think you'll find something worthwhile in my book. If you don't like anything, you might like it. I don't know. I did the huge bulk of the work on it in the last part of 2013 and I've just been kind of tinkering with it all year. Rewriting isolated sections. I spent three months working on one scene. I'm going to go in and do a total rewrite early in 2015 and then, if I still like it, I'll let some people see it. I've got other things I'd like to write. I've got a notebook of stuff I want to do after I finish this thing. Comedy. Journalism. Essays. I wrote two really good pieces for Bunch Family this year. Got to work with a great editor. I'd like to do more of that. I've got a few ideas for TV shows I wouldn't mind making a few million off of. I could even write scripts for hire.

I want to do SFU's The Writer's Studio program. But I don't think 2015 is going to be the year for all that. I've got other responsibilities, I've got other obligations.  2015, as far as writing is concerned, is going to be another year where anything I can push out in the few moments I can find will count as successess and I'm not going to spend any energy feeling bad about that.
I'm going to read more poetry, clear out some of these detective novels sitting on my shelves, fill more notebooks full of idiot ramblings, take more pictures of hot dog boxes and try to visit the Storm Crow Tavern a few more times.