"House Metaphor", Adventure Fiction, Books by Jammer, Creative Writing, Genre, Horror Fiction, Humor, Indie Fiction, Jammer's Books, Joshua Jammer Smith, LGBTQ Fiction, Literary Fiction, Literature, Mystery Fiction, Novel, Prime Numbers, Satire, Sexuality, Swanky Panky, Swanky Panky's Crazy Wisdom $3.95, Ta-Nehisi Coates, This is How the White Man Won, We Were Eight Years in Power, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Writing
Don’t think you’re having all the fun
You know me I hate everyone
—Wish, Nine Inch Nails
While I was reading the first chapter of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, We Were Eight Years in Power, I was struck by a passage. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, in fact every one of the books in my home bear little pencil marked circles and stars where I’ve found a paragraph or sentence that feels important. For whatever reason this passage though hit my gut and I had to write something about it. He was introducing an article he had written for The Atlantic, This is How the White Man Won, and discussing the idea of black discourse and because I lack his ability with words I’ll just quote him directly:
The tradition of black writing is necessarily dyspeptic, necessarily resilient. The tradition was the house in which I wanted to live, and if my residency must be fixed to a certain point in time, I suppose fixing it here, with the publication of this piece, is as good as anywhere. I characterize this as an “attempt” because I felt myself trying to write a feeling, something dreamlike and intangible that lived on my head, and in my head is where at least half of it remained. And there were other challenges, more tangible, that were not met. (11).
This idea of writers creating a “house,” or inhabiting one that is defined by their writing, is a fascinating one to me, though I note immediately that it’s not terribly novel. C.S. Lewis described Christianity as a house establishing his “Hall metaphor,” and I often heard professors and lecturers describe the halls of academia as “houses.” The “House metaphor” in fact is a cultural cliche in some respect, but I’ll give Coates a pass on this because I like the man. I love his writing because even in cliches he manages to make them feel new and dynamic. His words aren’t just empty shapes designed to take up space and fill a writing queue, rather their honest expressions of his his heart, what he’s feeling and thinking, and trying to communicate his experience honestly to other people. This is why I his words always hit me the way they do.
I also partly want to be him, or at least have some modicum of the level of success he enjoys. Not the fame. Fuck fame. I’ll take the money though.
I’m stuck on the house metaphor because having recently published a novel (self-published, but hey I got something) I wonder what kind of “House” would take me in. Writers are part of the society and culture that they publish in, and thus they are stuck in the company they keep. This is not that far from real life. If a man spends his days surrounded by drunks and losers it’s likely society will look at him, even if he’s the CEO of a Fortune Five Hundred company, as a bum. Likewise if a man is wearing a suit and surrounded by stock brokers he’s likely to be thought of as a Wall Street Executive, even if he’s just some dude who wanted to dress nicely that day on the way to the bridge where he blows homeless people for money. As my wife is fond of reminding me every time I tell her I want to get a Cookie Monster tattoo, we live in a superficial society that only looks at exterior details.
I look back to the idea of the “writer’s house” and again ask the question: What kind of house would let me in?
Horror, Adventure, Romance, Mystery, Literary Fiction, Indie, Experimental, LGBTQ, all of these I believe would reject me outright because my novel Swanky Panky’s Crazy Wisdom $3.95, while it contains some facet of every one of these genres, does not conform to any of them. There are plenty of horrific elements in the book ranging from the death of children to outright sexual assault, and while these elements exist they do not act in the traditional mode of horror. Whatever grotesque or horrifying elements my readers will find it is usually employed to be funny in some sort of sick or twisted way. Black humor involving dead babies, I realize, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but some dead baby jokes are just wretched and therefore worth a pity laugh. I’m not trying to frighten or depress my reader, and so horror slams it’s doors shut.
The novel is about a young man named Elvis who is waiting on a date and so maybe Adventure and romance could be a way to classify it. But there a problem appears because his date arrives late and by the time she does he’s already found somebody new, a black male boxer named Atlas. A date, and discovering one’s sexuality is technically an adventure, however the regular reader of adventure writers such as Clive Custler are sure to be disappointed and would immediately want a refund.
Mystery is a bust because nobody dies, and Swanky Panky being the character that he is he would probably just inform my reader who did the murder and how and why in the first five pages before offering them a half-assed blow-job and a pirated copy of David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day. The only mystery that wold exist is how he managed to get them to buy a book that is so obviously a copy of the Pickwick Papers Porn Parody. So Mystery’s out.
Literary Fiction is tricky territory because that’s the one I aspired to. I purposefully wrote my book thinking, hoping, someone would find my work literary, whatever that term actually means, and in the tradition of someone like Joseph Heller, Voltaire, or Pynchon…even though I’ve never actually read any Pynchon. The “Literary” genre is the only one I could ever actually use to describe my work which I recognize is a problem because my novel contains a passage in which Dostoyevsky is described as “The Greatest Hater in the World” and then dies beside a nameless river in Russia (Google was broken that day apparently) in a cardboard box eating cheese. Literary feels right. But much like my desire to have a threesome with Anderson Cooper and Michael Fassbender, my dreams are not meant to be. The “Literary” class of writers would look at my grammar and spacing errors and laugh me right out the door.
Now as for LGBTQ I might have a solid case here. I’m bisexual, I prefer the term Queer personally, so this shouldn’t be a problem. The main character Elvis discovers, by the end of the book, that he is bisexual and the entire creative locus of the book tends to be sexuality. However a problem emerges quickly as I’m sure the reader who’s actually read my book (and hopefully paid for it) will recognize. Everyone in my book is a slut. This would not appear to be much of a problem at first, however it’s important to recognize that the queer community at large has struggled with the inward and outward perception that they are nothing but promiscuous hump-bots designed only to fuck and suck and hump and fuck until the day they die. I’ve written a novel that ends with a four page (I wrote it so I should know) interracial same-sex sex scene, and spends the previous 200 page span sporadically exploring a wide-variety of sexual appetites.
This leads me to conclude that I’m a slut and that he LGBTQ community is sure to ask me for my gun and my badge.
The final “Houses” would be the Indie and Experimental genre, however before I could knock on the door, the community at large informed me that the genre had decided I wasn’t a right fit and decided that they would instead write 1000 page novels about alienation and sexual exploration with their sisters complete with footnotes written only in barcodes that have to be interpreted with an app that’s only available through Android. They also found out that I like Apple products and have therefore dubbed me a MacFreak, as if that’s some sort of insult, and have listed me as a, to quote the kid’s these days, “Poseur.”
Swanky Panky’s Crazy Wisdom, $3.95 leaves me, upon reflection, seemingly without a house. At first. After a careful analysis of my situation I’ve discovered that I have established a house of my own creation. And of course because I’m a writer I have to describe my house as is judged by my body of work. I hope the reader enjoys:
My House is a house that’s falling apart and stained with piss and it’s name is Mudd. A writer jerks off into his hand before wiping his ass with said hand and sticking his butt cheeks together. It’s a house with water damage that smells like rotting balls and slow death. People fuck beside corpses and what’s worse they don’t bother to push aside the pizza boxes that are crawling with maggots. A lunatic with a Traumatic Brain Injury tells me he smells the dragon’s farts before eating the first ten pages of his manuscript. It’s a shame. It was the best work he’d accomplished or would accomplish in his short carear. The few women in the place are either nymphomaniacs, which, apparently discredits them though I don’t know why, or else they are transgender lesbians who write acoustic power ballads about their growing breasts before they eat the strings of their guitars. Dildos are a common sight. I would prefer them to be blue because there’s something about blue dildoes that is inspiring, but these are just purple like all the others. Boring, veiny rods designed only to push and stretch pussies wide and apart and leave you feeling hollow and almost all of them are spoken for. They have name tags attached reading: Mary, Jessica, Issa, Breanna, Brittany, Derek, and Jo. Jo’s the slut, but her poetry is electric sex-fantastic so everyone gives her a pass. There’s a hole in the floor. Something’s living in it. It has two eyes on one side of it’s face and it’s skin is scaly and light brown, almost egg-shell. We toss it bits of meat from time to time, otherwise it roams the house sucking our blood at night through the underside of our knee-caps. Everyday bills come threatening foreclosure but we know that nobody’s coming. The house reeks of too much shit. No bank would dare send someone to collect our bills lest they lose a valuable employee or an expendable asset. So the bills stack high, stained first with the various first lines of novels that no one will read. Then these too disappear until there’s
nothing left but dirty smudges and green mushrooms that dig through the masses of letters and we have to try and ignore another smell. Everyone sleeps on a single mattress, but there’s no sex. No orgies or casual circle-jerk sessions with obligatory yet awkward eye-contact. Everybody just lies butt to crotch to butt to crotch hoping somebody would die or get a publishing deal so that there would be a little less stale, homoerotic tension and we could get some goddamn sleep. There’s some sort of green molds that grows in our mouths. We’re not sure what it is but it moves if you try to rip it out. Eric has discovered that the only way to actually kill the mold, which yes is parasitic and occasionally catches radio transmissions from the CIA Frank Sinatra A capella group, is to go ass-to-mouth. The sensation of tasting your partner’s asshole is not a pleasant sensation, but the mold dies quickly and one is left to enjoy one’s oral freedom before the taste of ass attacks with a vengeance. There’s a toilet…I don’t want to say anymore. There’s a pool in the backyard. It’s filled with piss and baking powder and there’s something living inside of it. It has scales, but then it also has these massive blue lobster claws and orange eyes that follow you. We don’t swim anymore. When we tried the piss turned out to be acidic and turned our skin purple before the thing, whatever the fuck it is, started tickling our feet with it’s tentacle mouth-appendages. We found out later that that’s how it sucks blood from us. So, like I said, we don’t swim. On the wall someone’s smeared the words, “why?” in feces. We’re not sure why, we just, we’re just…not sure. Everyone discusses their novels. They discuss what inspired them. Where they wrote it. What type of computer they use for their writing. How much weed they smoked, or didn’t, during the original drafting, but no one can answer a simple question: why did they write in the first place? Anyone who dares open an honest dialogue about creativity is forced to sleep with Stephanie the lesbian vampire who lives in the attic and insists on sharing cute pictures of her cats until the body eventually shuts itself down out of a feeling of self-preservation. On my way out to work a scorpion stings my foot and for the rest of the day I have to drain the puss into a waste basket. And when I come home, another floor has imploded and no one has bothered to fix it.
My house is a house that no one would really want to spend time in, because it’s a house that nobody knows or understands or comprehends or appreciates. It’s a house that demands apathy for self-preservation.
Yet as I write, my book has at least one review on Amazon and GoodReads, and I’m having an actual book signing at a library. And I’m already working on my next novel.
My house is a house that smells like ass and is falling apart. But it’s mine damn it, and it’s home.
If the reader is interested in reading my book, they can follow the links found under the “Books by Jammer” link at the top of the page, or else they can follow the links I’ve provided here in this bottom of this essay.
Self promotion isn’t my strong suit, but hey, if you’ve got something then don’t hide it. Thanks for reading: