Fiction. Now more than ever.

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 10, 2017 9:23 PM

I saw an article headline today on Slate about why writing fiction is so hard in the toddler error. It was entitled The Urgency of Writing Fiction in the Trump Era and in it, writers Ben Winters and Hector Tobar talked about … actually I have no idea because the article was behind the pay wall and while I pay for some online content, I have not subscribed to Slate Plus. I did a quick google search and came up with a tone of articles about much the same topic. The majority talked about having a new sense of urgency in addition to a responsibility. Ernest Hemingway said “The writer’s job is to tell the truth.” A hard job to be sure in this error of time.

Interestingly, the professor of the current class I’m taking says nearly the opposite of what Hemingway said. In one of our lectures, he informed us that we were all about to become expert liars. However, the current stories we’re working on all stemmed from something that actually happened to us or to someone we know. So I suppose both Hemingway and McNeely (my current prof) are correct. 

I have always loved the escape of fiction. When I was young, a long time before there was Amazon or BN.com, I used to go to the town library where I would check out two or three books at a time. My reading for the week. It wasn’t uncommon for me to polish off a book over the course of 24 hours. I never read non-fiction, other than for school, preferring to immerse myself in the lives of people I imagined to be real rather than those who actually were. Fictional people are just deeper, more nuanced and infinitely prone to situations, sometimes of their own making, sometimes not, where they have to change. Maybe they change for the better, maybe for the worse, but they are forced by circumstance to do something in keeping with who they are.

After I became a professional writer, my reading time dropped, especially after I went out on my own. The hours I work are long, though worthwhile financially, and I often don’t have the energy to do much of anything, including read. In this new error of time, I find myself reading too much non-fiction and it makes my heart ache for a good work of fiction wherein the bullying, amoral antagonist gets just what he deserves. I remain hopeful. 

Only for the briefest time when I was young did I dream, as most young girls, of being either a famous singer or a famous actress. Staying truer to my more introverted ways, what I really wanted to be was a writer, an author. If I became famous for that, all the better. But being able to create worlds and populate those worlds with characters both good and bad, and then escorting them toward their logical end is what gives me hope still, even today. It’s why I’m taking classes. 

My first class was in the fall and didn’t end until after the election. I had a story due and I found myself almost unable to concentrate, both before and after November 8. I was terrified of what would happen and then it did. Reality was too much to bear. The idea of trying to channel my anger and disappointment, my fear and loathing, my sheer terror into something fictional just seemed beyond me especially since I don’t write horror stories.

Perhaps I should try. 

The class I’m taking now has existed entirely while the toddler has been first the elect and now the official. Somehow I’ve been able to write much more clearly, and I actually think better since … him. I don’t know why. But this quote by Kurt Vonnegut pretty much sums it up: “The reason we write fiction is because it’s so much easier to exist spending part of each day in an imaginary world.”

It’s the escape, and that alone is worth celebrating.

Fawning

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 1, 2017 7:57 PM

Salivating. Glowing. Groveling. Appalling. The normalization of the toddler who would be king was on disgusting display last night following his unbelievably incredible feat of reading off a TelePrompTer and not sounding deranged. Amazing how far we've come and how low we've sunk that this is now the standard on which he is judged. This from the enemy of the American people. They should be ashamed. They should be embarrassed. They should be, but they're not. They've all been so desperate to make this man-baby into something worthy of the office that they have been reduced to this. They should engage in some self-reflection.

I am not a media basher. I believe that journalism is a noble profession. I don't think that everyone should agree with me nor do I think that they should have condemned the speech given last night. The fact that he didn't froth at the mouth or burst into flames is improvement. But just because he didn't do those things doesn't mean he was presidential or that it was a good speech. It was a speech, read off a machine by a nasty human being who cares not one wit about anyone other than himself. He wasn't good. He just wasn't maniacal. That is not a good standard by which to measure someone and it certainly isn't appropriate for members of the media to fawn over someone's ability to be restrained for an hour. That would be like deciding that because Charles Manson didn't spout demonic phrases this afternoon he's no longer out of his fucking mind. 

I expected it, though, the fawning. It was time. It’s cyclical. For the last 40 days – dog, has it only been that long? – there was been constant scrutiny. There have been negative stories because of negative acts. There have been bad op-eds. But the media, like America in general, loves a good comeback. If someone has been down, and that person can then pick themselves back up and become something or someone special, they fawn and salivate and glow all over themselves. 

Think Robert Downey Jr, after finally getting sober. Think John Travolta before and then after Pulp Fiction. Think the hated New England Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl. Even those who can’t stand them grudgingly acknowledged their impressive and winning comeback. There are countless others who aren’t famous but who have changed their lives for the better, pulling themselves back from the brink of destruction to prosper and thrive. 

The toddler in chief is not one of those people. 

Because for every person who has picked themselves up, there are those who are still not celebrated. Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski come to mind. The toddler is a bit like those two, only much worse because of the power he has in his tiny hands.

He’s Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, with worse hair and makeup. He wants to be the salesman. He wants to tell people what they want to hear and say it in such a way as to get people to forget that he’s a miserable mother fucker who cares about one thing and one thing only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. (Hat tip: Aaron Sorkin from The American President) 

Mexicans. Syrians. Immigrants. Democrats. Women. The media. 

And the media bought it nearly en masse last night. But for those of us who remained disgusted, appalled, disappointed, fearful and distrustful of toddlers everywhere, what he did last night was sickening, not glorious, not triumphant. Not worth fawning over. He just did what he’s been doing for a year and a half, only with his indoor voice. 

Will we ever learn, ever grow up, ever hold people of power to account, ever not be influenced by power and celebrity and a spray tan? I remain hopeful, last night and today notwithstanding.

Here’s to tomorrow and the possibility that it holds to stop this malignant narcissist in his tiny tracks. That would be worth celebrating.

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