On Black Friday, while the rest of America was beating the shit out of each other to get their hands on TV's that were discounted by 10% or some such happy horseshit, I was driving my brothers home to Crystal Lake. Normally I take I-90, but it was so fucking packed that I had to take the back roads, mostly using Algonquin. That's a nice, quiet country road, and I enjoyed blasting through there at 90 mph while listening to Alestorm.
Never mind that, though. I was severely hungover, but my mind never turns itself off, not when it's not in blackout drunk phase. No, as I drove down this isolated road, I saw decrepit houses with miles and miles of flat land around them. I zoned out on Alestorm, and I could see these buildings as the quiet monoliths of the Suburban Prairie that they are.
The atmosphere is astounding. I wish I was good enough as a writer to capture these quiet, atmospheric settings. I tried with this piece right here, but I still failed to communicate the feeling I experienced that night.
You know who was really good at capturing that kind of feeling? Andrew Dominik. I can't speak for the director as a person (nor for the writer of the book, which is on my reading list but I have not yet gotten to it), but he directed THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, and there are scenes in this movie that are exactly what I want to accomplish in my fiction. He can do it with images. I need to learn how to do it in imagery. God, I envy him this ability. If I can do with words what he does with visuals, I would be very happy, indeed.
The TV show FARGO is also pretty good at this kind of atmosphere.
Shit. My new book, DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN, is out today, and it has already gotten a lot of attention from people and writers I respect. Yet I don't think I'll ever be the writer I want to be. I learn a little bit every day, but I get the feeling I'll be learning this trade until I inevitably die at my keyboard. I heard Robert Parker died at his typewriter. I can see that happening to me, and I can see myself being completely unfulfilled upon my death.
Maybe that's OK. Like Rufus says near the end of BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, "They *do* get better." A close friend of mine told me a while ago that when he read my work when we were in high school, he thought I was an absolutely shitty writer. Yet when he read my recent work, he saw leaps and bounds in improvement until I was pretty good. Maybe that's the best I can hope for.
But I'll never settle. Not until they pry my cold, dead hands from the keyboard.