I listen to Marc Maron’s podcast called WTF two to three times a week. He interviews comedians mostly but also all sorts of creative types including musicians (Keith Richards and James Taylor were two particularly good recent installments), playwrites, writers, actors, visual artists, record producers, magazine editors and screenwriters. Besides his quirky “I’m an asshole” style – which I find fascinating – he talks to people for 60-90 minutes a shot usually in his garage in LA and tends to go deep into family history to see if he can figure out what makes people tick creatively – of course all filtered through his own neurotic lens. He does not do short interviews. Oh yeah he recently interviewed Obama.
His interview with Annie Baker a Pulitzer prize-winning playwriter, on 10/12 was an interesting one. I found her mostly annoying but I also thought she had some thought-provoking things to say about writing that I was mostly able to hear through my own annoyance. She said she couldn’t write about her life or the people she knew because it was too close to home – that she needed distance from them. Maron’s comedy is mainly derived from his family and those he knows with no distance from his version of the truth whatsoever so the contrast was interesting.
It made me think about the old trope, ‘write what you know.’ I believe everyone writes from what they know (how could you not, it has to come from somewhere in you, right?), only some distance themselves from it to some degree and some don’t. As an example, in the book I’m writing now I had the following in mind:
When I was 13 I saw a guy put a hit on a bully in the hall right down from my locker. I believe I was the only witness. The bully’s name was Brad and he stole kids lunches in the hall, tipped their books onto the floor, and burned their lockers – you know, the usual. He stole my lunch once. I can still picture him running down the hall, meat loaf sandwich-stained lunch-bag in tow, his long hair flying in the air behind him as he ran past. He was left-back-one-year big. I didn’t have him in any classes but I knew him. We all did. He set fire to my friend’s locker two or three times a week, every week. He never got caught but we all knew he was the one who did it.
I played football with the guy who ‘hit’ him . His name was Michael. He was big, quiet, and scared people just by walking into a room. We both played linebacker on the football team, me the small blitzing LB, him the hulking plug-up-the-hole LB. We never talked.
One day I heard someone paid him $20 to put a ‘hit’ on Brad. The hit consisted of running into Brad and throwing him against the wall, punching him in the face and ribs. I saw it. Michael took him out quickly and efficiently without saying a word, then he left. I left too. As teachers arrived I slipped down the stairs.
I started this book 9 years ago with this scene in my head, and the scene of the protagonist in the principle’s office right after Michael takes Brad out, on paper. The protagonist refuses to tell the principal what he saw happen. The novel starts with this question and one step away from the reality of what occurred. The scene was three pages, maybe 500 words.
So to me everything happens from real life only the characters, as they come to life on the page and in my head, change things. They distance themselves from what happened to some degree, some of the time.
Here’s a few of my recent favorite WTF interviews:
Annie Baker, Robert Rodriguez / Jonathan Ames, Sir Ian McKellen (listen to him speak Shakespeare at the end), Sir Patrick Stewart, Peaches
November 8, 2015 | Categories: Author Interviews, Blog, High School, Marc Maron WTF, Next Book, On Writing, Shakespeare | Leave a comment
There is a lot of versatility inherent in the word piss (Greek ὀμείχειν (omeikhein), “to urinate”). It also has a great sound. It sounds like it’s act when you focus only on the act of urination (onomatopoeia). But there are other uses far and wide for pissing. For example:
- I piss.
- I have pissed.
- I am pissing.
- In the process of pissing, I am a pisser.
- I’ve been pissed on.
- You’re a pisser (meaning funny or encourage-able).
- Don’t piss around (waste time).
- I’m pissed off (meaning angry).
- Go piss off (get out of here).
- I’m getting pissed (angry).
- I’m getting pissed (drunk).
- Let’s have a piss up (drinking session).
- Don’t piss me off (as a warning).
- It’s a pissing contest (either a real contest to see who can piss the furthest or longest, or a metaphor for a game of one-upmanship).
- I’m standing in a pool of piss (either really standing in one or a metaphor for being in deep trouble).
- I don’t have a pot to piss in (meaning poor).
- You’re a piss pot (or a receptacle for piss)
- I’ve engaged in piss play (a golden shower, a sexual act of pissing on another).
- Don’t piss down my back (ruin what I’ve done).
- You are a pissant (worthless person – comes from the 14th century word for a type of ant – pismire).
- Those are piss-ants (large wood ants that piss alot).
- This place smells like piss (olfactory usage).
- Don’t be so pissy (irritable).
- You’re a piss stain (insult).
- He pissed his pants (fear).
- Wicked pissah (really good thing).
- Piss rhymes with bliss – I’m just saying.
Here’s from the King James version of the bible:
2 Ki 18:27 But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
1611 Monster, I do smell all horse-piss; at which my nose is in great indignation. — Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1.
1601 O Jove, a beastly fault! And then another fault in the semblance of a fowl; think on ’t, Jove; a foul fault! When gods have hot backs, what shall poor men do? For me, I am here a Windsor stag; and the fattest, I think, i’ the forest. Send me a cool rut-time, Jove, or who can blame me to piss my tallow? Who comes here? my doe? — Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 5.
A.S.King, in her book Everybody Sees the Ants (an awesome, brutal, wonderfully written coming of age tale) uses a bully pissing on the protagonists shoes as a key plot point. James Clavell, in Shogun has a scene early on of men pissing on the backs of prisoners – a scene that has stayed with me for over thirty years. These are writers using all the tools human beings in all their majesty, their light and their dark, have given them.
Sometimes human nature and the English language come together… beautifully.
April 18, 2012 | Categories: A-Z Challenge, A.S.King, Blog, On Writing, Shakespeare, words | 5 Comments