Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Winter, sort of

It’s winter, sort of. The temperature has been consistently under 60 for about a week, aside from a weird day where it was 70. The 50-ish temps mean I switch coats to my leather jacket, which is always exciting to me, for like a day. I’ve written about this before, but I’m too lazy to look up the old posts. It’s always interesting to me, because after months of no jacket or a light jacket, the leather jacket feels like home to me. It’s so heavy, it feels like putting on armor. And the smell of the leather always brings back the memories of all these other points in my history, back to when I first bought my first leather jacket in 1993. (I’m now on my third.) So I like that, but in a few weeks, I’m going to wish I could trade the thing in for one of those Arctic parka things.

It’s really odd that New York has the most people wearing black leather motorcycle jackets compared to anywhere else I’ve lived, but I’m also given the most unending shit about my jacket, especially from people I work with. If you think it’s odd that a person would wear a black leather jacket, you’ve spent too long in the fucking Hamptons. Seriously, check out the other 40-some states some time. And yesterday, I was at a health food store (believe it or not, I take a shitload of vitamins and supplements these days, for fear that my immune system will slow down more and I will be exposed to all of the viruses and parasites in this city) and I completely forgot that I was wearing the hide of a dead cow in a place full of level 7 vegans.

And it’s weird that I even give a shit about that, and I think that the fact that I do is one of my biggest weaknesses as a human, because I care far too much what people think of me or my writing, and almost none of those people really give a shit about me at all. Like I spend a lot of time trying to contact authors of books I have read and enjoyed because I think that they would care about the opinion of a reader, and almost 99% of the time, they don’t even answer their mail. And I do that because I would hope someday that people would write me letting me know if they enjoyed my books, and that also seldom happens. There are times I believe in karma, mostly when a bunch of bad shit happens to me in one day, and I’m convinced that it’s all because I cheated on a precalculus test in 1989 or something. But then I think about the above construct, and realize that karma can probably be safely shelved away with all of the other religious theories in which I don’t believe.

I read a Jonathan Ames memoir called What’s Not To Love?, which was pretty hilarious and also made me think that maybe someday I’d like to write a straight-up memoir (as opposed to the Summer Rain-type autobiographical fiction thing.) And then we went to see the movie Running with Scissors last night, and that 90% unconvinced me. The movie was not bad, but it wasn’t really that funny to me. There were a couple of good lines, but all of them were in the trailer. It was an interesting movie, and some of the acting was great, but it just didn’t blow me away or anything.

This convinces me that I really don’t get the entire memoir genre that’s so popular, with Augustin Burroughs and David Sedaris and so on. I’ve tried to read their books, and they sort of drone on to me like a shopping list, but whenever I see a video or hear a reading of them, people laugh at all of these points that are supposed to be funny, and I don’t get it. I mean, the funny parts are amusing, and some might make me chuckle, but it’s not ha-ha funny to me. I’m sure it’s some sort of demographics thing, like the same reason that I find almost all of NPR completely unlistenable, but tons of intellectual types enjoy it 24/7. And the flipside is true – I don’t think it’s technically possible to be a fan of both this memoir genre and, say, Andrew Dice Clay. I absolutely fucking loved Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but I know a lot of people who thought it was about as compelling as films of botched colon surgery.

And I don’t give a shit in the sense that I bear no hostility towards that genre, and I can keep reading my stuff and ignoring their stuff, just like I do with country music, Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings films, and whatever Disney/Pixar animated film of the month has talking fish, toys, cars, or whatever. But the problem to me is that I really do want to write a memoir in some sense, and just by picking that type of document, I’m instantly compared to these writers. And I simply don’t know how to write stuff that would appeal to that audience. I seriously think it would be easier for me to lay down a dance single in a studio, or maybe paint a modern art masterpiece than it would be for me to pen a memoir that was compatible with those standards in any way.

There’s also the issue that I’ve never been beaten, in rehab, on the streets, or sold to my mother’s shrink. I grew up in a tri-level house in a sea of tri-level and ranch houses, all with identical aluminum siding. There’s a part of me that thinks that because I haven’t lived a really out-there life, I couldn’t write a book about my life that would be interesting. But another part of me thinks it’s not the events, but how you frame them and write about them that makes it interesting. So who knows.

The zine is almost done, sort of. I have enough submissions to equal 170 pages, which was the length of #10. I have a few pending submissions that will maybe bring it up to 200. The cover’s not done or even thought about (I have the idea, just haven’t done it yet) but each story is already laid out in FrameMaker, so I don’t have a huge project ahead of me. I got a couple of last-second stories that were absolute fucking genius, so I’m happy with what’s going into this one. I am still nervous that I’m going to have to mail out more free copies than I will actually sell, and that’s a pretty legitimate fear, since it always happens. I want it to sell a lot of copies, and not because I make like 34 cents a copy, but because I want a lot of people to read some of the good stuff in it. And I want all of the authors in it to get some more exposure. My hope has always been that Y number of writers comes to the zine with their own audience of size X (the people who buy their shit no matter what), and so Y times X buys the thing, but some of the fans of one writer say “hey, that other writer is pretty cool too” and they go out and buy their books or read their web site or whatever. Last time, a couple of people posted links to the zine on their blog, and one person actually went out and pasted the press release into a jillion discussion boards and web sites. But yeah, not as much synergy as I’d hoped for. We’ll see how it goes this time.

(I’ve vaguely thought about writing a press release for the zine, mentioning that this guy used to write for my last zine, just so it shows in a million web searches. I’ve wasted a ton of time talking to the press about the guy, which converted to about zero book sales. If some idiot can get a book deal because they’re a 17-year-old blogger from Harvard, it seems like the distant zine buddy of the FBI’s most wanted might at least get me a column in Salon. But, I know I mentioned above that I didn’t believe in karma, but I think trying to huckster the terrorism angle would probably be a bad idea in general.)

I’m leaving for Berlin on Saturday. I have not done a single bit of preparation. Sarah picked out a bunch of restaurants. I bought a book, but read like a page of it. Time to get busy on that, although I’m now reading a bio of a Vietnam helicopter pilot, which is a bit more interesting…