Writer’s Desk: Fast, Cheap, and Good

Jim Jarmusch once told me Fast, Cheap, and Good… pick two. If it’s fast and cheap it wont be good. If it’s cheap and good it won’t be fast. If it’s fast and good it wont be cheap. Fast, cheap and good… pick (2) words to live by.

-Tom Waits

Do with that what you will. But cheap and good sounds like a good combination for your average writer.

Writer’s Desk: Go Deep and Go True, But Make it Good

Tom Waits, 2008 (ntoper)

Back in 2001, J. T. LeRoy was the literary world’s mysterious enfant terrible (The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things). That was not long before the transgressive little gutterpunk Bukowski facade was exposed in the most fascinating literary hoax since, well, just about ever.

Before that happened, though, Vanity Fair had Tom Waits interview the person then calling themselves LeRoy. A couple things jumped out of that exchange. First, this:

Tom Waits: The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering. It cheapens and degrades the human experience, when it should inspire and elevate. You are an exception.

J. T. LeRoy: Wow, thanks. One thing I realized is that to just have merely suffered isn’t enough…. [I was given] a book by this guy who had been in prison and writing about his experiences. He had a really horrible life, but it was so horribly written that I just didn’t care.

Your experience matters, as does that you’ve just heard about, but if you can’t write about it in a way that makes anyone attention, it will never be noticed.

Make the pain count.

Friday Music Break: Tom Waits and the Resistance

For his latest album, Songs of Resistance 1948-2018, guitarist Marc Ribot collaborated with other musicians on a numerous of old and new protest songs.

He enlisted Tom Waits to sing the old anti-fascist Italian folk ballad “Bella Ciao” (“Goodbye Beautiful”). You can hear it here, via the video directed by Jem Cohen (who also shot the classic Fugazi documentary Instrument) which collages footage from recent demonstrations in Washington, D.C. behind Waits’ growling protest lyrics.

Writer’s Desk: Working in Cafes

cafe1

When the writing den or (for those lucky ones) the separate writing office don’t offer much hope and the walls start closing in, there is always the cafe. The clink and clatter of dishware, the hiss of the espresso maker, the low burble of conversation; for certain kinds of writers this outside interference focuses the imagination more than it distracts.

Per Benjamin Wurgaft in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Hemingway once reported that in cafés he “was like a charging rhino when he wrote,” noticing nothing but his target. Whether or not this is true, it suggests a familiar kind of authorial self fashioning. For a kid with literary aspirations, to write in cafés is such a cliché that it needs no explanation…

Like anything Hemingway says on writing, this is both utterly true and sheer nonsense. Wurgaft is correct that writing in cafes is a cliche, but for many of us it’s a necessary one. Sometimes just feeling like a writer helps you to become one. And nothing feels more like being a writer than hunching one’s shoulders over a cheap drugstore notebook and knocking out the lines while a coffee of thin brown water (like the Tom Waits line, “the coffee just wasn’t strong enough to defend itself”) goes cold by your elbow…

New in DVD: ‘Seven Psychopaths’

7psychopaths-dvd1The latest Martin McDonagh movie, Seven Psychopaths, comes out today on DVD and Blu-ray. It starts promisingly, with a cast ranging from a murderous Woody Harrelson to a bunny-stroking Tom Waits, not to mention plenty of McDonagh’s patented acerbic sarcasm. Unfortunately, it’s no In Bruges.

You can read my review at PopMatters:

At one of the quieter moments in Seven Psychopaths, Hans (Christopher Walken) tells his friend Marty (Colin Farrell) that the female characters in his screenplays are horrendous. Each gets only a few minutes of terrible dialogue before ending up dead. “It’s a tough world for women,” Marty stammers.

This is a multifaceted joke for Seven Psychopaths’ screenwriter and director, Martin McDonagh, who indeed makes sure that none of his female characters speaks an intelligent line or escapes suffering grievous bodily harm. One could argue that purposeful clichés are only worth citing if they help to unpack some of the prejudices or lazy thinking that gave rise to those clichés. Otherwise, it’s just the same old garbage with a smirk…

You can watch the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Seven Psychopaths’

The new Martin McDonagh movie, Seven Psychopaths, opened yesterday, with a cast ranging from a murderous Woody Harrelson to a bunny-stroking Tom Waits. You can read my review at PopMatters:

At one of the quieter moments in Seven Psychopaths, Hans (Christopher Walken) tells his friend Marty (Colin Farrell) that the female characters in his screenplays are horrendous. Each gets only a few minutes of terrible dialogue before ending up dead. “It’s a tough world for women,” Marty stammers.

This is a multifaceted joke for Seven Psychopaths’ screenwriter and director, Martin McDonagh, who indeed makes sure that none of his female characters speaks an intelligent line or escapes suffering grievous bodily harm. One could argue that purposeful clichés are only worth citing if they help to unpack some of the prejudices or lazy thinking that gave rise to those clichés. Otherwise, it’s just the same old garbage with a smirk…

Seven Psychopaths is playing everywhere. For all its problems, it’s ultimately worth checking out—unless you haven’t seen McDonagh’s In Bruges, in which case, watch that immediately.

You can watch the trailer here: