Now More Concentrated

Sometimes you just have to decide

By Sally O'Reilly


Interior: A study, book-lined and with a window. A man is sitting at a desk. Outside, a streetlamp comes on. The man notices this, puts down the pen he has been holding above a blank piece of paper, turns on the desk lamp and addresses us ...

I have overheard some say I’m not any specific sort of person at all, that I’m a mean average of the most common blandnesses and have never written anything because I have no ideas that fall even one inch outside the corridor of banality.

I say to these people: try being me for just one day. You will see that blandness is not my problem. It is the infinity of possibilities that builds into a great bolus and stops me up. I am so crammed full of desirable options that, come evening, the aggregate force of potentials presses on the underside of my skull and I pass out. My dreams are my only release valve. They empty me out so that I can start each day over.

No, I am certainly not bland. My friends will tell you that I’m enthusiastic about everything. They would say that I’m perpetually caught between possibilities, not devoid of them. I am enchanted into paralysis by the possible. Yes, I have tastes like anyone else, it’s just that my tastes happen to include everything. Take literature, for instance. I love all literature. In fact, I love all writing. I love the classics and the popular stuff; I love the scribblings of the semi-literate and the gloss and puff of advertising. They are all the result of rearranging the same 26 letters, and how anyone can discriminate between them is beyond me.

I always knew I should be a writer; I just never understood how to choose to be this or that sort of writer, or how anyone could hitch himself to a single genre or style, even for the duration of one short story. I spent years interrogating my depths, trying to locate my true feelings. But I found that they are all true to me. I realized that, just as I can love, fear and envy the same person, I can admire equally the narrative and the performative, the abstract and the descriptive, the concrete and the ambiguous, the long and the short, the florid and the plain, the informative and the nonsensical, the fictional and the factual, the experimental and the classic, the authoritative and the anarchic, the archaic and the contemporary, the finely wrought and the low-fi, the unusual and the homely, the puerile and the sophisticated, the comic and the somber, and – most difficult of all – the invented and the appropriated.

I call it openness. There are some, I know, who called it gullibility. And I admit, I can be convinced by any theory, opinion or rationale presented to me. I instantaneously and entirely absorb any persuasive effusion made in my vicinity. I can’t help it. I empathize too much. Maybe I suffer from the opposite of autism, whatever that might be called. Although “suffer” is the wrong word, surely, if I am continually enchanted.

For it is as delightful a notion to me that the earth is hollow as that it is flat; that all is about sex or all is rooted in capital seem equally likely; and that art should be an expressive and singular imaginative act, and that it must present a strategy for negotiating the world as it already is, are both declarations I have stood behind. But I am the first to agree, this can look like indecision. I can often be discovered completely motionless with the ingredients of some situation laid before me – a pen and a sheet of paper, a cup and an array of teabags, a television and listings guide. I need to be bumped in one direction or another. “Have a peppermint one,” Jeffrey would say to save me from a day of standing there, in front of the kettle. How he knows which tea he wants, never mind which tea I should have, is occult to me. The day he taught me to say “Whatever you’re having” was a happy one indeed.

Read the rest of this story in the Winter 2015 issue of Artenol. Order yours today

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