19 May 2010

5 oh, mother dear, we're not the fortunate ones

it's jackie dead day so, as always, i ask that you humor my pretentions.
(and presumably you all know the original story:
7th grade oline.
white shortie shorts.
anderson cooper.
a million magazines.
blah, blah, blah.)
[if you don't, go HERE and you will.]

croftie is convinced this is the year we're going to get published.

she tells me this on our crepe date, over a glass of chapoutier. hearing the unflinching conviction in her voice, i have no doubt that this is the year she will.

but then croftie always has high, high hopes. croftie always gets things done. because croftie has a work ethic that would shame ben franklin and to which the rest of us layabouts can only ever hope to someday aspire.

odds are this is not the year i will get published. because i am somewhat less determined. i prefer to indolently anticipate disappointment and perhaps one day be pleasantly surprised. in the words of my father, i am an "optimistic fatalist," who is a master of the "artful lollygag." this is not a compliment.

and it's not due to laziness or lack of material or a great deficit of distinctly unsouthern belle Big Ambitions. i'm writing myself off as unpublishable because, at the moment, i have yet to ratchet up whatever it is that it's going to take to write what's next.

which makes it sound far more important that it really is. it's not the gospel. or an epic. or, heaven help me, Fiction. obviously, it's just biography and it's just jackie- a subject that is the biographical equivalent to the beauty pageant answer "world peace."

so in the large scheme of things like God and gawain and foer, it is relatively unimportant that there's this jackie book i'm meant to write. the jackie book i wanted to write even before i wrote the jackie book i ultimately did write.

and it's fairly inconsequential that this is THE jackie book and that i really really don't want to write it because it is an inferno of impossibles. and because biography done well is damn difficult and i'm not ready to damn myself just yet.

something i should have thought of before mentioning this jackie book to the world famous biographess when we were lunching in new york. before casually tossing it out over the humus plate in the simple hope of garnering that amorphous credibility that comes from the respect writers have for one another's as-yet-unacted-upon Great Ideas.

it is a great idea so i was stupid not to have foreseen the explosion of enthusiasm its revelation would trigger. i should've anticipated the overpowering gung-ho.

there are three reasons why this project, this jackie book- otherwise perfect- appalls me to no end:

1. it involves a language i do not speak.
2. it involves money i do not have.
3. it involves sources that do not exist.

never mind that the few sources that do exist appear to be systematically dying off as i approach them.

there's an elvis song entitled "it's impossible." the actual opening lyric is "it's impossible to tell the sun to leave the sky." my family, big fans of bastardy, bastardized this line into the distinctly different yet equally truthy observation that "it's impossible to stick a piano up your nose," the sentiment that perhaps most accurately captures my feelings towards this jackie book.

this jackie book? it is a piano up my nose.

i do not say any of this to the world famous biographess when, three months later during our endnote business, she digresses and returns to the subject of the dreaded jackie book. this evil book that couldn't care less that i'm not yet ready to write it and is apparently going to railroad it's way into my life and be an abominable inconvenience.

i do not tell her it's a piano up my nose. instead i nod and smile as she tells me jackie book's time has come (it hasn't). that it is a story that MUST be told (not really). NOW (noooooooooo).

it could be a documentary! a mini-series! a sophia coppola-directed feature film!

the world famous biographess tells me this and only then does she avert her gaze toward her falafel and drop the bomb for which i have been waiting all these months.

that it would be better were i an academic or an older, previously published white man (sadly, i am neither), because there is no funding for girls like us.

a sentence that, just hearing it spoken, i know is going to be hell on earth to repeat to my parents.

when i do, a full week and a half later, the response is predictable. my mum says- her voice fraught with the hope that her daughter is the reasonable, financially cautious young woman she was raised to be and an inkling that she probably isn't- well, cupcake, maybe someday you can really do it, but the timing's just all bad right now, right?

and i couldn't help but laugh. because though i'm a woman of few philosophies, the one i've held most dear is that one must imagine somewhat more boldly than may be socially acceptable and that when things are at their most inconvenient and impossible, that's when they'd really best be done.

which is essentially what the world famous biographess meant when she said, we're story-tellers and, really, nothing else matters when you've a story to tell.

so maybe croftie's right. maybe it is the year we get published. or, if not, maybe it's the year that- without french or funding and with sources dying right and left- i finally try to tell this story that all the older, previously published white men have inexplicably overlooked. and who knows. maybe there's a reason they missed it. maybe it was left for me.


Les Savy Ferd said...


As an old white man who has already spent far too much time in academe i can say with some certainty that (dips finger in library, tastes words) the bio-world needs more Oline.

Besides, you're the girl who has killed couches. With a hand-saw. I see no reason why the piano up the nose is unachievable.

Now if I could only stop sitting on my own hands and write my own damn book. My own personal harpsichord in the ear.

oline said...

"you're the girl who has killed couches. With a hand-saw. I see no reason why the piano up the nose is unachievable."

i think that line is going to feature prominently in whatever biography is written about me (presumably by my optometrist) in future years.

Osutein said...

Croftie's absolutely getting published this year. God willing she'll move slow enough that we can all grab onto her coat tails.

There's something to be said for fear of finishing. When a book or project comes to dominate your mind and life for a long, long time, it's scary to approach the end. What do you do, what do you think about, when it's finally done?

Part of me doesn't want to finish my book. I realized this recently as I was working on it. I'll miss the characters, I'll miss that distinct voice in my head. And when it's done, I'll actually have to try to get it published and that's terrifying.

oline said...

(please someone appreciate the cindy lauper allusion...)

for me, obviously, starts are scarier than the finish. if only because you don't know where you're going. and because when you're done, you get to tinker and tinkering is the very bestest part. when you've got words on a page then the fun begins. it's getting them on there that's difficult.

oline said...

and yes, we need to get croftie some big-ass coat tails.