Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Re-entering the real world, slowly

It's evening. I could tolerate about five minutes of the 10 o'clock news, and then I had to go hide in my office again. The anarchists are loose in downtown St. Paul tonight. The police broke out the tear gas when the mob tried to storm Mickey's Diner.

Mickey's Frickin' Diner! What the Hell does that have to do with making a political statement?

A young friend tried to engage me on the topic this morning. "The police used tear gas yesterday! Can you believe that? They used tear gas on peaceful protesters!"

Eh. I was a teenager in the late 1960s. I marched against the Vietnam War. I was very young, then, and naive, and poorly educated by people who found it in their interest to keep useful idiots like me poorly educated. 1968 still lives on in my memory, as does Kent State, as does Sterling Hall and Robert Fassnacht. So the St. Paul cops used tear gas yesterday, and are using it again tonight. BFD. Wake me when they switch to nightsticks, water cannons, and rubber bullets.

"But don't you care?!" my young friend cries in anguish. "Can't you see how George W. Bush has turned this country into a police state?"

Since you ask: no, I can't. What I see are a lot of brats who obviously never read Hemingway. Had they done so, they would understand that if you do not wish to risk being trampled and gored, you do not run with the bulls in the streets of Pamplona.

Likewise, if you do not wish to risk being tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed, you do not run with a crowd that flings bottles and human feces at police officers in St. Paul.

It's only been 24 hours since I returned to The Real World, and already I'm missing the backwoods. It was so nice there, being disconnected from the never-sleeping eye of the electronic news cycle. I completely missed the announcement of McCain's choice of running mate. Instead, I read two books I'd been meaning to read for a while; one fiction and one non-fiction. I caught a couple of fish. I canoed for miles. I read the first half of a very promising manuscript. If the author can finish it in like form, Rampant Loon will publish it next year. Mostly I thought a lot: about who I am, and what I want to do, and especially about the inescapable truth that there is never time enough to do everything you want to do.

So what do I want to do with the time I have left?

I never have grand epiphanies, only low-budget ones about trivial issues. I should like to have a grand epiphany, just once, but the shock of it would probably paralyze or kill me. One tiny epiphany that came to me in the last few days is that The Ranting Room must change.

This realization grew from two questions. One being, What is a novelist? Why, obviously, a person who writes novels. And just exactly how many novels have you written lately? Well, uh, now that you mention it...

The Friday Challenge is a good thing that apparently performs a useful service, and so it will continue, although I've fallen behind on it lately and need to catch up. But what gives this blog whatever semblance of significance it has is that it is the work of a living fiction writer — so it would certainly help things if I was in fact writing and publishing new fiction, n'est ce pas?

But... but it's a blog! It is part and parcel of the never-sleeping information world, and if anything needs more content than I have time to write! So if I have to cut back what I write here in order to have more time to write there (time being terribly inelastic), then what that means is —

Well? What does it mean? Do I look for another site with which to merge? Do I take on help here and open this site to other contributors? Or do I just cut back to the Friday Challenge and one column a week, and hope to hang onto my readership?

Your thoughts, if you please?