Conviction is a hell of a thing.
About ten years ago I was desperate to become a writer, or, to put it another way, I was desperate to become a writer who mattered. Most of the books I had written were god-awful novellas that had one or two interesting sentences and then the rest were nothing but rip-off plots taken from Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino. My characters tended to be disturbed psychopaths or else gloomy Woody Allen rip-offs who did nothing but complain about not being able to write the amazing books they knew that they could. Whatever else was produced at that time tended to be outright pornography. I could feign some pretense that what I was writing could be classified in the high-class smut designation “erotica”, but I don’t believe in bullshitting my reader. It was porn plain and simple.
I fucked myself up however when I was young because I read and watched a lot about writers who had come before me. People like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway who had their novels published in their early twenties and who immediately achieved dramatic success. People like Orson Welles who, by the time he was twenty-five had produced the War of the Worlds broadcast as well as the film Citizen Cann. Standing in the shadows of these men my own lack of productivity was a sign that I was inferior creatively, but to my credit I did the only real thing that matters: I kept writing despite the poor quality of my work.
One night, while I was working on another wretched piece of wank-off material, I thought about an animated version of The Wind in the Willows I had been watching recently, and a voice came into my head and I wrote the following paragraph:
It occurred one autumn afternoon in a place. Now don’t ask me the name of the place for I don’t know it. That is not to say I don’t know where I am, I know full well where I am and where it is I am telling this story, what I mean is I do not know the name of the place of which this story, not story, more of a situation I happen to know occurred on an autumn day in a study of a house where Mr. Tiger and Mr. Walrus sat, as they usually did on a Monday, drinking their drinks and discussing matters of importance that are only really important to those who have time to consider such matters.
I weren’t back to my other work for a few minutes, but I knew I wouldn’t stay there for long. I’v e read enough testimony of other writers to know that this “the moment” which, if I’m being honest, is not an intellectual exercise at all. It’s a gut feeling akin to feeling the tug of a fishing line, or speaking to that guy or girl at the coffee shop: you just feel that it’s right. Ballyhoo appeared then, when it’s narrator interrupted my usual work, and after just three months I had a rough draft.
The book itself however, has languished in Word Processors, zip drives, an actual floppy disc at one point, and near constant frustration as no publisher would ever go near it. Much like Swanky Lanky before it, I just this book out. Even more so given recent events. Having lost a friend to suicide recently mortality and work left undone are no longer abstract concepts. I’ve wanted Ballyhoo to be out of my computer, to be real, to be read.
Ballyhoo was the first manuscript I produced where I felt like I had done something. Something that wasn’t just indebted to other artists, something that wasn’t just a homage to other works, something that was clearly from my own heart, and, most importantly, it was rather difficult to masturbate to it (not that I tried). It’s taken close to a decade, but the book that I wrote at 19, when I was looking to discover who and what I actually was and whether or not the word Writer might be something I could call myself, is finally complete.
And so dear reader I hope you will take the time to read it. The 19 year old boy, who is not a 29 year old boy, will appreciate it tremendously.
Thank you for your time, and thank you for reading.
“It’s Mr. Rhino, He intends on Departing!” It’s been close to seven decades since a rhino stood up on its hind legs, donned a suit and cap, and began to read, write, walk, and talk. This feet would have been impressive enough, were it not for the fact that following this event, animals all over the world began to follow suit and become members of society. That is why on an Autumn afternoon when Mr. Rhino announces to the world that he
intends on departing, the world around him begins to unravel. Taking place over the course of a single day, Ballyhoo follows the actions and thoughts of Mr. Bear, Mr. Orangutan, Mr and Mrs. Tiger, Mr. Cheetah, Mr. Walrus, Mr. Elephant, and Mr. Rhino as they come to grips with their lives, the loves they pursued, and the meanings they tried to find in their brief existence. Whether it’s discussion over tea and cookies, a tree covered with belching fish, a little girl possessed by a monstrous creature, of a loathsome person named Mr. Hyena who lives in the fireplace, Ballyhoo is a story unlike any other that tries only to answer one question: how does a person come to grips with the end of a life. And is it ever really an end?
The cover of this book is “Ballyhoo” care of my sister M.E. Smith. Thanks again for the cover Emers, you fucking rock.