The Tin Drum Diaries, Part 12
You all know about my best-laid plans. How they tend to go. (That’s right y’all — they gang aft agley.)
This time, the plan was, I’d highlighted some passage in The Tin Drum I thought brilliantly summed up everything, and the entry was going to be called “Page 384” or whatever, but last night, in the shitty little hours when I’m finding ways to prolong insomnia, I found the passage and read it again and it didn’t really do it for me.
That’s too bad. It would have been nice to really have something to say here, a tidy “I’ll leave you with this.”
Writing these entries is hard. Writing is really hard. My father told me that Henry Miller took up painting at some point and wrote about what a pleasure it was (titles of his books about painting: “The Waters Reglitterized,” “The Angel is my Watermark,” “To Paint is to Love Again,” “Paint as you Like and Die Happy”); an artistic endeavor that’s not also so frustrating and difficult it kind of sucks a lot of the time? Yeah, sign me up (I imagine he said)!
So having something to write about, like this project, has been good. Helpful. Would I be writing otherwise? I could navel-gaze about that but it would ultimately be bullshit — no, I wouldn’t be. Not really. So this isn’t the end, I hope; I just need something new to write about. That, or I could work on the novel I’ve been working on for years, which has twenty pages here and there from several different versions of what it could be, all of which have no connective tissue or chronology, which, you may have noticed, is actually not what a novel is. So you can see where I’m having some trouble.
Someone asked me if my next project would be about reading a favorite book of my father’s; my subconscious might be pushing for that, because Henry Miller would definitely be on the list of authors, along with Dostoevsky, Celine, and Raymond Chandler. That would be a very different kind of project; my dad’s a very different person than my mom.
In the second entry, I wrote that The Tin Drum is up my mom’s alley because it’s “macabre and absurd and upsetting and poignant and European and speaks to the human condition”; that specific aesthetic is so central not only to what The Tin Drum is about and what my mom is about (I wish I could remember which movie it was, but my mom once told me she was disappointed with a movie she saw because she was “hoping it would be more poignant”), but what I was trying to get at in this little Medium project. Not so much the aesthetic itself, but this mom-ness that feels so specific to her and so far from everything else in my life in 2021.
I don’t know if there’s a way to feel less far away; maybe art is what happens when we try. Not many people read this, and of course it’s more for me than anything else, but I am putting it out there, letting it feed into my neuroses, hitting refresh on the how-many-people-have-read-it screen, occasionally sort of attempting to promote it kind of. Part of what’s so appealing about art like The Tin Drum, and my mom’s work, art that seems like it’s piped in straight from the subconscious, is that it’s not trying to please anyone. It’s its own kind of naturalism, in a bizarre way, because it’s just showing what’s there — “there,” in this case, being the inside of the artist’s weird brain.
The thing about dream logic is that it’s still logic; it feels no need to explain itself. The little boy drumming and screaming, glass shattering all over Europe in his wake, isn’t afraid of what anyone thinks about his antics; the only thing he’s afraid of is becoming a normal-ass boring adult.
So ends my tribute. I do hope that this was that, at least — a tribute to my mom, the kind of unconventional one she deserves. I said in my first entry that Flannery O’Connor warned writers about setting out to do something, and then went ahead and did that anyway, trying to pinpoint what it is about my mom, what it is about this book, what it all has to do with art and love and fear and loneliness and human suffering… trying to answer some question by talking about this book that’s a big fat “Who the fuck knows?” If it were up to Oskar, I’d probably just keep going with this forever, screaming and drumming, drumming and screaming.
Thanks for reading. Mind the broken glass. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!