Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Zappa and experiments in form

Not much is going on here. The Zappa book I am reading is Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa by Kevin Courrier. I’m about 200 pages into it, and I like it so far. I think in some sense it fails to be critical about Zappa’s shortcomings, but it does give a different perspective than Zappa’s first-person biography, which is the only other book I’ve read about him.

I’m not interested in reading about Zappa because I am the sort of person that has memorized every single song of his. Rather, I am interested in how he created this whole monster, the way he started making very confusing and confrontational music and brought it to a worldwide cult status of attention. I wish I could do the same, and it makes me jealous in a way because music and performance is such an easy to comprehend format for people. It has such a legitimate place in society, it is easy to distribute and easy to perform live, and it can be a very active performance or a more passive thing to enjoy. I feel the literature’s downfall is that in order to enjoy it, you have to sit there with a book in hand and get through 200 pages of it. The bar is so high for entrance to it, that it’s hard to get a large number of people interested. I wish I would’ve asked my parents for a guitar when I was ten, and then played it for hours every day. It makes me very confused and depressed about what I am doing, and what I should be doing, not to mention that I just put this book out and I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever done and the only legitimate feedback that I got was that I should go back to writing stupid first-person stories or that I should find a psychiatrist and make them read the book so they could “cure” me.

Of course, the only answer is that Rumored is the right direction for me, because I don’t think there’s any legitimate value in me writing another book like Summer Rain or some kind of Cometbus ripoff stories like Air in the Paragraph Line. I think there are a lot of popular writers out there that are selling lots of books writing coming-of-age, punk-rock, brat-pack stuff. And I think my only tangible skill is to take what they do and destroy it, satirize it, blasphemize it, and take their bold statements on society and laugh at them. I feel more people, or at least some people, should see this and enjoy it as the opposite of these books that are easy to hate. Rock and roll was created because people didn’t want to listen to “Who’s that Doggy in the Window.” I don’t want to read Wally Lamb. I’m sure others don’t want to, either.

I guess a lot of Rumored was the beginning of an experiment to find my own form and technique that isn’t just a story about a boy and a story about a girl or whatever. The way I structured the book was an attempt at changing that, and it didn’t work as well as I wanted, so the next book will pick up on the flaws in structure and story. But it won’t change with regard to tone and content. It will still be obscene, and dark, and violent, and funny. (It may not have any puke jokes, since that pretty much threw everyone.) I don’t want to go down the road that Burroughs did with cutups and stuff. I am finding less and less value in Burroughs as I continue. (I now find almost no value in Kerouac, and I’ve always disliked Ginsberg, both as a person and a writer.)

Anyway, I have an idea for a book, but I can’t talk about it. But I think it might work. I’m going to take notes on it all weekend. I think I might do NaNoWriMo again in November, and write a draft then, but I will continue working on it after them. I’ve come to realize that writing fast is not my forte, and it’s better that I take my time and nurture my thoughts a bit more, so I can come up with stronger writing.

I just ate Chinese food, and I’m ready for a nap.