went to an event at housing works tonight, meghan daum in conversation with emily nussbaum, which was fantastic. daum has a new collection of essays out, and it was great listening to her because i’ve been having an incredibly difficult time committing to a new writing project — i know what i want to work on (i have two potential projects, one’s a [potential] novel [in three parts] and the other’s a collection of essays) — i just can’t seem to commit to either. with the essays, though, before the event started, i’d been thinking that, maybe, i’d set them aside because, maybe, i wasn’t ready to delve into those depths yet because, maybe, i’m not ready to rustle up the necessary courage to place myself into very uncomfortable, sometimes painful situations. maybe, i’m not ready to be that vulnerable just yet — but, then, the event started, and daum and nussbaum started talking, and daum kept saying things that just made me think, yes! i totally agree with you! — and now i’m sitting here thinking that, you know, i’ll probably never be ready to write these essays, but, clearly, there is a part of me that strongly believes i should write them, so maybe i should just trust that and go with it.
and i should be writing, at any rate, so why not?
anyway, some things she said during the event in my usual paraphrasing:
- the motto of life in LA: ”i ended up not going.” (i laughed because this is true.)
- ”i like the personal essay because it can be so many things.”
- the difference between a memoir and an essay: a memoir ideally concentrates on a specific period of time or a specific experience. an essay is free to go and explore different things.
- the worst thing we can do in today’s cultural climate is not live up to certain emotional standards.
- we’re so wedded to the redemption narrative, this obsession with character arc.
- to confess something is sort of to ask to be forgiven.
- pursuing “authenticity” (whatever that means) is a romantic pursuit.
- LA is a great place to live if you’re not in the entertainment industry. NYC is a very provincial place — just because you ride the subway with everybody doesn’t mean you know everybody. LA doesn’t take itself seriously, certainly not in the way SF does. you can have a very specific experience in NYC, but LA is like the rest of the country. it’s like the midwest, just hipper.
- ”i want to live everywhere.” and, “i don’t like to travel, but i like to move.”
- ”there’s no muse like a deadline.”
i like listening to people talk about the differences between NYC and LA, not in a combative one-is-better-than-the-other way but in an observational way. i mean, i come from both places (i was born in queens, lived most my life in the valley, moved out to brooklyn 2.5 years ago), and i was that kid who wanted to get the hell out of california and out to NYC for years — and i admit that i was very strongly on the “NYC is better than LA” side until i moved out here and decided that i didn’t hate LA as much as i thought i did. (i wouldn’t move back, though, but i love to visit.) (clearly.) (i’m going back in 2.5 weeks.)
but, anyway, i think it’s fun, this coastal comparison, and i’m excited to fly out in a few weeks, and maybe i’ll actually get tattooed this time. almost got inked today but didn’t — i just can’t get myself to pay NYC prices when i know i’m going to be in LA soon. it just doesn’t make sense. so i went and bought a bunch of books instead. which is better in some ways, but i spent the amount i’m allowed to spend on books for the month, so that means i’m done buying books for the year! which means that the last book i bought in 2014 was meghan daumn’s the unspeakable, huzzah!