Dead Poets Mentioned Herein

Despite having the day off, I woke up early to go take a proofreading test at the office of a potential employer. I arrived 40 minutes ahead of schedule, went inside after awkwardly spending 30 of those in the car, filled out a tedious application on an orange IKEA couch, and was then finally led into a large office where I was briefly interviewed before being handed a 10-ish page proof to mark up. The copy supervisor gave me an hour to sit there and doubt myself, and I got through the document three times despite taking time to assess the decor. You would have been distracted too were you being stared down by a 3-foot plastic lion head. Each lamp in the room was brass with a lion at its base, and there was also a warrior figure on a horse. These were the least troubling aspects, though, because between two of the brass lion lamps was a marble sphere out of which unicorns were making a heroic escape. A large cardboard promo piece for the final season of The Sopranos tied it all together.

I hope I get the job.

Later in the day I was asked what I’m reading and responded with Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman, and stupidly noted that I wasn’t enjoying it too thoroughly. Stupid to say because I couldn’t explain myself well enough, and ended up giving a banal reason for why I felt compelled to continue with something I wasn’t completely enjoying. What the truth is (but what I wouldn’t have said even if I were a coherent thinker on my feet) is that even though the book’s characters are dull and it has no actual plot, I found a lot to appreciate in his style, and that even in the act of not enjoying a book I learn about writing and fiction in general. This shit is not a diversion for me—it’s all I know how to care about. When I engage a work, whether joyously or angrily, I feel my vital organs being embraced or choked. It’s all about the act! About re-arranging your mindset to see what you could be gaining.

[Now that that is off my chest, we can continue with my thrilling day…]

Tonight I left class early to attend what I thought would be a panel discussion on the work of Reinaldo Arenas and Blai Bonet. It began with introductions by scholars/writers on each, but ended up just being a reading. A reading of poetry by poets who did not write the poetry they were reading. It was incredibly silly; I could have read them myself at home. On the bright side, I got to hear Catalan spoken quite a bit. Its close relationship to Spanish makes listening to it a rather disorienting, uncanny experience for me: it’s so close to something I more or less understand, but I can interpret nothing. Tomorrow I’m going in for an event called “The Best Contemporary Mexican Fiction” and I hope it’s more rewarding.

Within the first 20 minutes of my train ride home I finished the aforementioned novel, and oh my, the ending was horribly unsatisfying. Though I wasn’t too invested in the main characters (I do give props for Mitch, a very endearing, atypical teenage character) I was hoping for some semblance of a resolution, but there was nothing. It fell apart. It fell flat. Afterward I pulled Bolaño’s The Romantic Dogs, a poetry collection I’ve been reading between other things, out of my bag and was so glad to have had it. His writing in Spanish is so clear and simple that I understand it, but it’s also sharp and fucking beautiful. Reading him so well gets my confidence up, but when I try other writers in Spanish it’s a lot more work, and I realize I’m not as good as I had thought.

I’ll end on that note. It’s always best to go to bed contemplating your mediocrity.

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