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Philip Roth retires, Scott Walker lives! :: Grant Maierhofer talks to himself

Grant Maierhofer

When it was decided that I’d try to write something again for The Open End I wanted to make it special. I inquired again to Herocious just what they’d like to read right about now and he gave me a handful of ideas that all seemed like the sort of thing I could do decently enough, and though taking a walk and capturing it in words and pictures and likely taking that a bit too far seems tempting, I’ve decided to throw Philip Roth a proverbial bone of kudos and stand up at a school computer station to write a brief treatise on the state of things today.

Why does standing up and writing shit have anything to do with Philip Roth?

I once saw an interview segment with Roth and the moments in which he was shown writing always featured him standing at a computer station and though I can’t be sure this is where he did his writing writing, I’ve long been curious about writing methods of this ilk and wanted to give it a try. The computer I’ve chosen has a loud [CLACKCLACKCLACK as I type this to you] obnoxious keyboard and I’m fairly certain all the classrooms in this hall have been shouting at me for the last five minutes or so to keep my goddamn fingers anchored, but I’d never know for I’ve been listening to Scott Walker sings Jacques Brel ever since I started and as a result they cannot possibly touch me. I am superhuman, etc.

What class have I just left?

A Scottish film class in Wisconsin and the two films we watched—Hallam Foe and NEDS—were particularly violent and Oedipal and my mind’s kind of reeling from the experience. I don’t think I like violence a great deal. I used to think I enjoyed small acts of violence like fistfights and I’ve won enough to know how it feels and lost enough or been put in my place enough to now have a calculated take on the whole spectrum of miniscule shows of human violence or aggression: I don’t like it. I don’t like grand violence like wars or genocide or even idealistic violence like racism etc. and I find the whole thing counterintuitive to what we’re trying to do as a society. Enough people are illiterate and fucked today to make them little more than the violent bastards of two thousand years ago, so no, I don’t believe more violence will solve anything in our lives.

As for the Oedipal shit, well, that’s inevitable, isn’t it? We all at some point want to surpass (kill) our fathers and control (fuck) our mothers. i don’t think worrying about it makes us fucking lunatics, especially in the age of pornography. This is the age of pornography. Christ, that truly just hit me. This is not the age of reason or television or media or lust or religion, our god is probably pornography. Our god is pornography. Could be worse, I guess. Moving on.

I’ve wavered a bit regarding the retirement of Philip Roth. At first I felt disheartened because the old bastard’s been declaring the novel dead for any number of years and to have him throw in the towel is quite a perplexing thing. However, and this is one big fucking however, I’ve kept my ear closer to the heart of literature today than in the 70s or 60s with Roth and his colleagues and hence my confidence in fiction, in literature, in books on the whole is doing just fine. That isn’t the issue with Roth’s retirement. The issue, if there is one, is rather one of precedence. Not many authors have been willing to do what Roth did. Literature essentially killed David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and any others who wrote something or another until the last days of their lives. And of those mentioned only a slim few released the mere quantity of books that Philip Roth did, and he managed to do it in his lifetime, which is important. Control is important to us authors, controlling when we write the last book we’re proud of is a rare gift given throughout the centuries since men and women have begun sitting down to write and call it art. And responding to all of this my feelings responding to Roth’s retirement quickly went from anger, confusion, to admiration, and appreciation. On top of the massive and awe-inspiring pile of books the man left behind, he’s working seriously with his biographer (another rarity among proud, strong-minded authors) Blake Bailey to give the world one last piece of literature bearing his namesake.

In other news (news?) Scott Walker is releasing a new album relatively soon and my fucking face is melting off in anticipation. I’ve talked a great deal to friends and the internet about influence and its significance at this point in my life, and I think if I had to choose only one person as my influence as a writer and a human being, it’d probably be Scott Walker. I don’t know when I discovered him and I don’t care. Every single one of his recordings has moved me at some point or another and while Philip Roth takes his leave I can think of nothing more reassuring to artists and the like than another album from a man who has not sacrificed integrity for fame once in his entire career. Walker’s music sounds like what bad opera could’ve sounded like if it were written by a dark-sunglassed lunatic with a penchant for reading Greek tragedy in strange French bars and locking himself up in cabins with nothing but a guitar or piano and recording device and when he leaves he burns down the cabin and cuts one of his fingers off knowing he can only write nine more masterpieces in his lifetime; Scott Walker’s music sounds like that.

I believe, I guess, in art, which might make me an idiot, it might make me a fool, it probably does. I think it does. I think I’m going to die a fool with a copy of Scott 3 and 4 on the floor next to me in a house where nobody’s been but me and on that day I’ll probably smile and walk around masturbating like a five year old even though I’m 200 and the world will be burning itself alive and I’ll write my final words on the walls of the house only shortly thereafter to burn up in effigy.

I’ve taken lately to sending perfect strangers long letters or copies of my journals or excerpts from novels I’ve written that haven’t yet been published. I don’t know why I do this. Maybe it’s because I’m sick of submitting novels places but I don’t want to stop sending my writing to people. That’s probably it. Is that weird? Is everything beyond weird? I don’t remember who said it, but somebody said if you don’t realize everything’s absurd already then you’re doomed to disappointment in this age. They said something like that, some stranger. In my head I’m thinking it was Borges, or maybe Will Rogers, and I like the idea of posting this on the internet with you completely aware of my ability to Google shit without the actual writer’s name written here. There’s something human about that. I might just be lazy but that’ll be up to interpretation.

I enjoy human things like that, which might be why I found The Open End in the first place. While the word speculates incessantly about the fate of books and what the fuck people will be reading on in 20 or 2,000 years, TOE remains in their workspace—wherever it may be—creating books by hand to perpetuate the good word of a small faction of dedicated scribes. I like that. I dislike so much in life that it feels like such a humungous breath to admit I like something. Oh well. It won’t last. Two seconds back on Twitter or walking to my car in the freezing fucking cold and I’ll know life sucks again.

OK, bye.

November 29, 2012 11:39 pm

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