samuel x. brase likes to write

Goddamn These Vampires

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam X. on 25 May 2011

crawl til dawn / on my hands and knees

goddamn these vampires / for what they’ve done to me.

-The Mountain Goats “Damn These Vampires”

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, so the whole “write more” thing makes sense. Reading more is another natural extension of this. So now I read nonfiction books at home and fiction during lunch and on the weekends. As these two aspects of my life have developed, I realized I couldn’t just write literary fiction about people with issues. While all well and good to include the eternal troubles of humanity, there are more timely problems that I feel need addressing. Societal, political, economic problems.

This has driven me to search for legitimacy. People like Robert Reich and Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky generally agree to my worldview, even Jeffrey Sachs at times, but–it still feels–I feel adrift in some ideological sea, where the problem is apparent but everyday life is too comfortable. What can my writing do? “The correct way of posing the question.” That’s what I can do. But is that enough?

Art allows me the space necessary to draw in all sides of the discussion without compromising my fundamental beliefs; art allows for seamless transition between political critique and human story; and art allows me to endless room to experiment.

I need to come up with some kind of grounding philosophy that keeps me optimistic about all of this, because it is too easy to feel the weight of the world and turn myself cynical and hopeless. Even Heda Kovály, in her book Under a Cruel Star, expresses hope. After being crushed by Nazism and Stalinism, she can still manage:

Three forces carved the landscape of my life. Two of them crushed half the world. The third was very small and, actually, invisible. It was a shy little bird hidden inside my rib cage an inch or two above my stomach. Sometimes in the most unexpected moments the bird would wake up, lift its head, and flutter its wing in rapture. Then I too would lift my head because, for that short moment, I would know for certain that love and hope are infinitely more powerful than hate and fury, and that somewhere beyond the line of my horizon there was life indestructible, always triumphant.

If she can feel that flutter of love and hope; what am I doing? Her husband was arrested and for a year she didn’t know what would become of him. Then one day she sees him at a show trial. The next day he’s executed. And she can still love and hope! What am I doing? Immersing myself in these thoughts does me no good. Fuck, I’ve become Sufjan Stevens:

“I’m wondering what am I doing? What is a song even? I’m questioning, what’s the point of a song? Is a song antiquated? Does it have any power any more? The format itself — a narrative song with accompaniment — is really beyond me now.”

I told myself I would never do this kind of thing. Yet here I am, taking notes on string theory and writing “everyone’s a prism” on a sheet of paper that’s too big for any practical purpose. Scratch that: it is big to allow my ego to unravel across its surface. I cannot do this to myself. It is all fuel; Emily says I must keep the frustration, but I must use it. I can’t let the fuel control me. Use it.

I will experiment; I will show all sides of the discussion; I will describe beautiful things.

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