There was this scary story I loved to read when I was a kid. It was about a boy who was obsessed with monsters, aliens and all things macabre. He had a hardy collection of sci-fi magazines and comics to prove it and if a new issue came out he’d devour the thing before he even got home from the drug store where he bought it. This kid loved his monsters.
But as with most vices, the monsters began to take over. They infiltrated his dreams and before he knew it he couldn’t differentiate between the monsters of the imagination and the real life monsters I guess. I wouldn’t dare spoil one of my old favorites for you but let’s just say there was a delicious twist to the thing that influenced me so much as a writer that I’m only now learning how not to rely on this device.
But I will tell you what struck me as strange about the story. It wasn’t the creatures or the nightmares or the blurring of realities, those things were the norm in most of what I read. It was the kid’s fanaticism. Don’t get me wrong I was obsessed with the same stuff, clearly, but it was how the kid was able to be on top of every new issue of every collection of literature about any random creature spawn from the geekiest of imaginations.
Keep in mind I was reading this stuff in the back cab my dad’s pick-up truck, on a dirt road out in the middle of beautiful nowhere, during a time that can best be described as pre-Internet. I was lucky enough to have a family that fostered my nerdiness with access to the library and extra lunch money for new discoveries when the book fair came around. Every piece of literature I owned had an arbitrary feeling to it that I liked. It was all found… I was never waiting around for say the next R.L. Stine masterpiece so much as I was content with what was already available. So this kid, this character’s veracious appetite for every new mutation of the gruesome and vibrant underworld of fantasy, that I got, his all access pass to the stuff was a little different from my reality.
But I thought about it today. About that hungry quality there is to anticipating art that takes us away. You know that feeling when you squeeze in just one more episode on Netflix even though you should be in bed. You know it when a band you like finally comes out with something new. You know it when you check your favorite blog three times a day. The feeling of intellectual wanting is almost acidic. It gnaws at you for a little bit more. I thought about that feeling today and that story I used to read and how I didn’t understand that I was devouring monsters just like the character in the story was, I just didn’t have a corner comic book store. And I thought about how these days, post-Internet, I have any shop I want in my pocket pretty much all day long and access to all the monstrosities of imagination that ever graced the web.
And yet for about the last week or so I’ve been incessantly checking my iTunes for a specific subscription that I’m down right feening for. That would be this month’s fiction podcast from The New Yorker
. If you are unfamiliar with these podcasts, they are recordings of well-known New Yorker stories as read by other published New Yorker authors who are fans of the work. Afterward they discuss the story with Deborah Treisman the fiction editor at The New Yorker. I very much enjoy listening to these podcasts. I discovered them a few years ago and when at some point I figured out that I’d heard them all, I started looking forward to the latest podcast every month at around the 14th or 15th mark. But it’s the 21st of the month and I think I’ve got the shakes.
You gotta understand. My reality is inundated with the stuff of great literature. I shuffle around with other students all week and we try to get our characters straight and remember what it all means and at the same time write some characters of our own and hope they sound like they mean something. And more often than not I find that I start processing life just like I process the words. Every day I hear what people say and deconstruct their stories in my head. It’s second nature by now. First nature? But I dig it. Nerding out on lit and creative writing and life I guess. So even though at any given moment I should be mustering up a reading response on say, Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own
, I still nerd out on my own. I have too. And these podcasts give me that extra little fix.
So today on the light rail when I checked my iPhone for the thirteenth time and there it was, the latest podcast, I felt my muscles loosen, and my spine extended a little. It soothed me like. Like a kiss from a ghost on the back of my neck. And with my ear buds in I indulged again on my way home. I want you to know though, I didn’t listen to the words. They were there in the background of course looming on the periphery of inspiration. Perhaps I felt the rhythm of the reader’s voice. The power of inflection. Of breath. But I did not listen to the story. Instead I wrote this post. It must have been that what I was really feening for was that sweet, exhilarating, and always just a little bit scary, intermingling of our realities.