Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

The pain of weekly updates

I was digging around old journal entries, and it bothers me that I now write in here once a week, at best, and back in 1997, I wrote longer entries on a daily basis. I’ve been thinking about this because the end of the year is approaching, and I have to do the annual firedrill of moving the old entries and creating a directory and index for the new, and due to the antiquated system I use to do this, it’s always a pain in the ass. (Yes, I know, I should install WordPress. And you should go fuck yourself.)

Anyway, the weekly update bothers me because it emphasizes that from Monday morning to Friday evening, I basically have to write off that time, and that period isn’t part of my life. When I get home from work, I no longer write or do anything or live – I eat a meal, spend an hour or two with Sarah, then go to bed. I can’t write books a day a week, and I don’t want to add some extra activity to my life that will distract me even more and make me feel like my weeks are even shorter than the 48 hours currently alloted. It’s hard enough to not think about work for 48 hours, and maybe get a movie and a single update into this thing during that time. I seriously think I should quit my job with no notice and become a dishwasher, or start heavily drinking, or maybe both. (Especially if the restaurant where I was a dishwasher gave me a discount on liquor.)

I finished reading the Jonathan Ames book I Love You More Than You Know, which wasn’t bad – more articles. The themes start to repeat themselves: the son, the alcoholism, the trannies, the parents, the self-deprecation. I think Marie mentioned in the comments a couple of weeks ago about his lack of shame being a reason not to like him. And I think it’s a double-edged sword – a lack of shame can cause you to confess some really hilarious stuff that works out into a good story. But it can also cause you to be really annoying and redundant. Bukowski had the same lack of shame, and it’s no secret that Ames was a big fan of his work, and largely followed the same formula Buk did in his early days of writing columns for Open City. Or maybe having to write a weekly column leads you into the same trap, I dunno. But Bukowski’s parents were horrible, and beat the shit out of him. He escaped them into a world of alcoholism and skid-row slumhouses, instead of asking dad for a handout every week and an open invitation to move back in his old room when things didn’t work out. I appreciate the brutal honesty schtick, but it might be more interesting if his parents didn’t foster it, but rather turned against him because of it. Ditto for the son. Some of the stories are good, but the extremeness of them is diluted because you know he’s going to escape back to a comfy family life, and there are no real consequences.

That said, I didn’t find out until just last night that Ames was a visiting professor at IU from 2000-2001. That really spent my mind spinning, wondering if he was at Bullwinkle’s a lot, or the main library, or what. That’s about when Summer Rain came out, a time when I had Bloomington on my mind something fierce. Weird.

Speaking of Bukowski, I started reading Edward Bunker’s Education of a Felon. It’s interesting sofar – Bunker was a career criminal in California, from his youth, up until his twenties, when he did a stretch in San Quentin. (He’s actually the youngest prisoner that ever did time there.) He was smart but uneducated, and slowly started reading books and writing letters and articles, and got to the point where he sold a book while in prison. He went straight then, and focused on writing. EoaF is a biography, a story of his youth. It reminds me a lot of Bukowski’s Ham on Rye. Bunker was 13 years his junior, but the stories of the pre-fake-Hollywood tinseltown, the streetcars and farm fields where there are now condos, all tie in with Bukowski’s imagery of his hometown. Of course, Bunker’s stories descended into youth wards, county jails, hard time, heavy crime, drug dealing, and bank robberies. Some of the machismo is similar, and it made me wonder if Bukowsi ever ran into him in later years.

A better comparison is the Jack Black book You Can’t Win. No, it isn’t the Jack Black that was in King Kong and Nacho Libre. It was a penname for a criminal turned writer in the 1920s, the same conversion as Bunker’s, but a decade before he was born. Black’s book showed the childhood swindling, and on to the criminal arts. With a bit of humor and a good sense of detail, he shows you the crime, then shows you why it’s impossible to pull it off without someone snitching and getting your ass thrown behind bars. It reminded me in some ways to Neal Cassidy’s The First Third, which is coincidental, in that William S. Burroughs loved You Can’t Win, and if you’re a fan of WSB, you’ll see where he gets some of his dry wit.

The one bad thing about this Edward Bunker book is that it’s very small type, set in very narrow rows, and the book is wide. With his long sentences, I’m constantly finding my eyes get to the end of the line, return to the left, and then wander up or down a line or six, making it impossible to read at speed. I really hate when books are laid out like this. I’d seriously pay the extra dollar if a bit more margin or spacing added an extra 50 pages to the length.

Something something something else here, I can’t think of how to end this, so something something something.