Okay, break's over. Christmas is fun, but man, am I always glad to see it recede in the rearview.
I have never been much of a rebel. When I was a kid, the worst thing I ever did was probably getting kicked out of Perkins, or perhaps throwing pancakes off the roof of a parking garage. I didn't smoke or drink, got good grades, kept my shirt tucked in, and was generally an uptight little SOB.
I do, however, possess a very strong antiauthoritarian bent, which I've always tried to channel into writing and music. It wasn't authority itself I disliked, really--as long as it let me do what I wanted, I was fine with it. Indeed, for most of my life, I was quite friendly with the gatekeepers, probably because they always seemed happy to let me in. When I got started writing and publishing, I had no gripes with the system--it seemed like a good one to me. I was 25 at the time, and got taken out to lunch a lot, and asked by editors and publishers what I was working on, and in general I felt totally extra super special.
I didn't realize, of course, that this is how every first novelist is treated, before she's had a chance to establish that she isn't going to be writing any blockbuster bestsellers; and the non-arrival of The Big Novel effects an increasing distaste, and eventually disgust, and pretty soon you can't get anyone to return your phone calls, and e-mails become "lost," and nobody's terribly interested in taking you out to lunch anymore, and in general would prefer that you just stayed as far away from midtown Manhattan as possible for the rest of your life. This happens even to literary writers whom any sane person would consider successful--and the buyouts and consolidations of the past ten years have only intensified the process.
And so, having myself endured this literary rite of passage (not to mention an overheated economy on the verge of collapse, and eight years of Bush-fueled paranoia and cowardice), I have come around to realizing that yes, in fact, the gatekeepers are full of shit.
Brave man, huh--parties with the Man until the Man dumps him. It's pathetic, I know. But it has resulted in a belated appreciation for rebellion, which this week has taken the form of my grooving on Wall and Piece, a newish book by Banksy, the British graffiti artist. (This book, BTW, was a Christmas present for Rhian, but like most gift books for spouses, it was really for the giver.) I found out about him belatedly, when he started doing those "vandalized" versions of old paintings (most notably Monet's Bridge At Giverny with abandoned grocery carts half-sunk in the water) and stealthily hanging them in museums. He's also the rat-stencil guy, and the bobbies-kissing guy, and the guy who did the bitterly ironic paintings on the West Bank barrier wall. He's an iconoclast (who, like all good iconoclasts, has become an icon) and a joker, and am I alone in thinking that literature needs a guy like him? A guerilla writer? A stealth novelist? A memoir vandal?
It's a hell of a lot harder for writers to rebel than it is for visual artists and musicians--our product, the book, has historically required a fairly massive infrastructure to produce, not to mention a lot of time. There is not really a literary equivalent of busking, or tagging. But technology has changed. You can start your own publishing house (and maybe we should). You can sell your own downloads (and maybe we will--if people ever show the desire for such a thing). You can stage events, or start a blog (and apparently we have).
But still--it's not the same as the Beatles on the roof of Apple, or Banksy's Tesco soup can at MOMA. What do you think--you're a writer, and you want to stick it to the Man. How do you do it?