house of leaves & writing having something to do with love

I’ve mentioned a few times here, and on the podcast, that my favorite series of books is The Familiar, by Mark Z. Danielewski, which is supposed to run for 27 volumes but was cancelled by the publisher two years ago after the fifth volume was released. Production was expensive and readership was kinda low. But while The Familiar’s readership was kinda low, it was avid, and Danielewski’s been kind enough to keep us appraised, if sometimes cryptically, about what’s going on with the series, mainly the side-projects he’s embarking on in hopes of boosting readership so that maybe The Familiar can be picked up again.

            His current project, of which he’s shared a few glimpses over the past year, is to write teleplays adapting his first and most popular novel, House of Leaves, into a TV series. Apparently there was a deal for it some months ago (I’m guessing it was at Hulu, though Danielewski hasn’t said) for an adaptation to go forward, but Danielewski backed out when he saw that the contract gave them total rights to make spin-offs and sequels at their discretion. To change things.

            Danielewski’s currently wrapping up a book tour for his most recent release, a children’s picturebook called The Little Blue Kite (it’s the book that’s read to the children in The Familiar), and earlier this week he launched a Patreon, asking for $3 pledges from fans, so that on Black Friday he could release (and find some kind of financial sustenance by releasing) teleplays for the first three episodes of a House of Leaves adaptation.

            I’m sure he’s got a strategy in mind and I’m guessing it’s to generate so many downloads, so many shares, that he can use those numbers as leverage with a streaming platform to say, “Not only do people desperately want this to happen, they want me at the helm.”

            Not sure if Danielewski, like his novelist colleague Michael Chabon, wants to become a showrunner (Chabon is currently overseeing the new Star Trek series), nor do I have any strong sense of like the degree to which he wants to involve himself in the world of TV. He’s got a small daughter now, and my understanding is that the world of TV writing is hugely lucrative, so I’m all aboard for Danielewski doing what Gore Vidal and, it seems, Bret Easton Ellis did: disappear from the literary world for a few years, amass a comfortable fortune writing for one screen or another, and then return to literature when you never have to worry about money again.

            Danielewski’s been re-posting, in his Instagram stories, all of the people who are posting about their pledge to his Patreon. They’re fawning, ecstatic, and I snagged my toe on one particular fan he reposted who said that (s)he was grateful to Danielewski for releasing this bundle of teleplays on Black Friday—a time of year that’s particularly lonesome and painful for so many people.

            That’s really staying with me.

            I’m still routinely over-the-moon with excitement about some or other piece of art in the weeks or months before its release. Happened in 2019 with Don Winslow’s release of The Border, Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Leonard Cohen’s Thanks for the Dance and—perhaps the biggest reward of the year for me—Scorsese’s The Irishman. If I were lonely on the holidays, and an artist I really admired and with whom I felt a serious connection decided to release, direct-to-consumer, some bundle of their work, I would be overwhelmed with gratitude.

            So I’m gonna do that here—not because I think I’m any kind of substantive artist or anything like that; it’s just that I mentioned in the last post that the whole Thanksgiving holiday, for all of its headaches and resentments or whatever, put me in a kind of effusively loving/thankful mood, especially at the end of the night, when I was reading at Blackbird Ordinary, and I know that the beauty of the day was almost entirely to do with the brokenness of things. People trying to make the best of rough situations. Absences and compensations. It was about nothing being perfect but everyone being together in that imperfection.

            To say that my work is simply “imperfect” is, I think, a wildly charitable assessment, but let’s go with it, and use today, Black Friday, as another opportunity to celebrate brokenness and imperfection.

            Also, among those essays I was reading at Blackbird last night (which were all from Martin Amis’s latest collection, The Rub of Time), there was some heavy meditation on writing, on the craft and the purpose of it, and what the author seems finally to settle on is that writing, at its best and most pure, is an act of love. A gesture of reaching out toward people, communicating, making both parties feel a little less alone because we can confide things in silence, without having to look at one another.           

            Ahdunno. Anyway. Today I’ll hopefully mark the occasion, and compensate for some recent radio silence, by inundating you (and maybe your poor mailbox) with scribbles.

            Happy Holidays, guys. Thanks for being here.

            (And, if you’re down for it, I’d be delighted to know that you’ve become a Patron for Mr. Danielewski’s project.)

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