The Stupid 365 Project, Day 26: More About Disposable Razors

October 27th, 2010

The feverish response to yesterday’s post convinced me that there’s much more to be said about disposable razors.

But not today.  That was a cunning trick, a sifting mechanism designed to eliminate the thrill-seekers who are actually looking for interesting content, so I can speak privately with the small coterie of taste and distinction who clicked their way here to spend some quality time with me. Virtually, of course.  Let’s not get any creepier than we need to.

Which is already pretty creepy.  Here I am, pouring out thousands of words a week to people I can’t see, essentially alone in an exceptionally fine room in my extravagant but tasteful abode — think marble everywhere, but without too much gloss, arched ceilings, leaded windows overlooking the long fall of lawn to the lake (isn’t that a euphonious phrase?), past the swans’ nook and the unicorn pen — where was I?  Oh, yeah, me, sitting here all by myself in this dump, scraping desperately for content, and the first month isn’t even over yet.

Okay, I’m used to conjuring words with my fingertips and following them toward whatever I mean that day.  But usually, they’re in the service of an ongoing story with, you know, characters and stuff.  Most of the time I can get away with leaving lots of space on the page by writing long exchanges of short dialog.  But not in this case.  No, this is density city, every page overpopulated, filled only by a more or less continuous dredging effort.  It keeps reminding me of something, and the something it keeps reminding me of is analysis.

There, I said it.  This is like getting shrunk, except a lot cheaper.  To be specific, this is like the early-middle period in analysis, when you sense that you’re losing the doctor’s interest, no matter what hair-straightening, shameful secret you’ve hauled up out of the dark, so you begin to invent stuff.

The shrink I saw longest had sat through Montgomery Clift in “Freud” 273 times and he had the whole, full-press Sigmund thing going: the couch that put you at an awkward angle so you couldn’t see the doctor, the professorial leather chair for him.  Oh, and a couple of modern touches:  the discreet box of Kleenex and the absolutely requisite bad abstract-expressionist prints that looked like a triangle had vomited onto the canvas.

The thing was, when he was interested, he sat forward, and when he sat forward his leather chair creaked.  Well, even at fifty minutes, an hour of analysis is a long hour.  I didn’t need the Kleenex, and the abstract expressionists (was there ever a more desiccated artistic movement?) held no interest, so the whole experience became an exercise in making his chair creak.  He’d sat motionless through some of my most harrowing material, so I began to see whether he had limits.  And once or twice an hour, on a good day, some wretched invention would produce a creak.  Twice, over a span of about a year and a half, I actually got him to clear his throat.  I was pumped for a week.

I’ve written perhaps a million and a half words of fiction, so my powers of invention are (at the very least) well-exercised.  But shrinks are a hard audience.  They’ve heard everything.  (This is why psychoanalysts’ conventions don’t book standup comics.)  I gradually became aware that the chair wasn’t creaking any more, so I did what you have to do, sooner or later, in analysis:  I told the truth.

And I mean the whole truth.  For forty minutes I lay there unwrapping my soul to its diseased and moldering core.  I held nothing back.  I released the inner Hieronymous Bosch.  I touched the third rail, psychologically speaking, part of me squirming in embarrassment, part of me seeing myself as Patient X in the paper that would change psychology forever (“an act of courage on the analysand’s part that literally brought me to tears”), and part of me listening for the chair to creak.

And I heard snoring.

I was the doctor’s last patient of the day.  My sessions ended at seven.  This was February, so it was dark at seven.  I got up off the couch and turned off all the lights in the office and very quietly let myself out.  I took a piece of paper from my briefcase, since I had come direct from work, and wrote DO NOT CLEAN on it and closed the door to trap the page at eye level.  I went home.  I had a beer, or four.

The best of all possible worlds.  My analysis was over.  I had gotten it out of my system, and no one had heard me.  But don’t think for a moment I’m going that far here.  I’ll write about disposable razors before I do that.

13 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 26: More About Disposable Razors”

  1. Beth Says:

    Instead of analysis, Roman Catholics have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, something of which few Catholics take advantage.

    Like the psychoanalyst, there isn’t anything a penitent can tell a priest that he hasn’t already heard.

    I suppose, in both cases, we should take comfort in knowing that we aren’t responsible for an original sin. We are normal in our abnormalities and predictable in our weaknesses. That has to be better than shocking the people who have heard it all.

  2. Bonnie Says:

    Funny, I always felt I had to entertain my first therapist. Of course I see now it was an avoidance technique. Luckily I found one later who was better at getting me through the difficult stuff. Reminds me of something the fictional Dowager Duchess said about Peter Wimsey, something like he would charm and entertain his executioner.

  3. Laren Bright Says:

    Sounds like hi brain was freud by the end of the day.

  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Beth, right, confession/reconciliation was the first analysis. I’ve always attempted to sin in an original fashion, although I’m certain there’s nothing in that area that’s new under the sun.

    Well, of course, you’re right, Bonnie. It is an aversion. I once went to a therapist for about six months and then my wife went to him, and all he wanted to talk about was how entertaining I was. I felt like I should have sent him a bill.

    Laren, if you were capable of feeling pun shame, you’d be shriveling right now. And once again, I can’t think of anything to top you.

  5. EverettK Says:

    Damn. I was SO disappointed. I was really PUMPED for some more dish on the best razors (I’m getting tired of electrics and am looking for some real slice-n-dice action!)

    TIM SAID: This is like getting shrunk, except a lot cheaper.

    In proofreader mode, I thought there for a second that you’d written, “This like getting DRUNK, except a lot cheaper.”

    Sheds a whole different light on the blog…

  6. Larissa Says:

    Yeah…I’ve been there too-the act of saying a lot of nothing but doing it in such a charming and energetic (read: fast and loud) method that the average person has no idea what hit them…but they think they liked it?

    Glad to see you made it through the whole ordeal-I think if I had bored my therapist to the point of sleeping I would have considered myself cured! There’s nothing to be upset over-that guy just proved it. 😀

  7. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Oh, Everett, I’ll be returning to disposable razors over and over again in the 11 months (and counting) that remain to me in this foolhardy enterprise. I actually went to a shrink drunk a couple of times and had a much better time than when I went sober, but I couldn’t remember what I’d told him. (I did practically everything drunk at one long stage of my life.)

    Riss, the thing isn’t so much what you say as how you say it, but in print you lose all those lovely tools — no matter how fast you write it, they’ll read it at their own speed, no matter how you modulated your voice, they can’t hear it, no gestures or body language carry. You’re stuck with the word in neutral type. Would someone remind me why I’m doing this?

  8. fairyhedgehog Says:

    This was hysterical.

    It’s odd though. When I read fiction I just read it for what it is but when I read autobiography I’m always wondering which bits are made up – or in this case, if any bits are not made up! Who cares, though, when it’s so funny.

  9. EverettK Says:

    Tim said: “…but in print you lose all those lovely tools — no matter how fast you write it, they’ll read it at their own speed, no matter how you modulated your voice, they can’t hear it, no gestures or body language carry. You’re stuck with the word in neutral type.”

    It’s definitely true that it’s a problem, but there ARE tools that can be effectively wielded to combat that. Some authors, of course, are better at it than others. I just finished Lois Bujold’s latest release, and was once again reminded of how good she is at that. She tends to write in a “close 3rd person,” almost giving you a first-person account. She frequently intersperses italicized thoughts from the viewpoint characters, uses m-dashes (double hyphens) to insert disjoint phrases or side-thoughts, and uses relatively good (and brief) descriptions of hand motions and head motions that really help to convey the characters attitudes. Once familiar with the characters, much can be conveyed with a simple tilt of the head and a raised eyebrow, or a hand turned palm-up. True, there’s not much you can do to control the SPEED at which the reader reads, but you DO, to a great degree, build the road that they walk upon.

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thanks, FHH — every word was true. I may sugar things here and there, but they’re factually true unless clearly marked as otherwise. For example, SPIRIT HOUSE, which begins here tomorrow and continues through Halloween night.

    Hey, Everett, it’s true that you can color the way a reader encounters written prose, but I personally find it much easier in fiction, where the attitudes and actions of the characters create sort of filters and you have so much lovely leeway in dialog — hesitations, false starts, obvious lies, etc. I’m still finding my way into this form, though. Maybe, by the end of the year, I’ll have more sense of how to shade the prose for maximum reader affect. Right now I’m concentrating on forming complete sentences.

    SPIRIT HOUSE begins tomorrow, and I didn’t do another blog about it. Aren’t you proud of me?

  11. EverettK Says:

    Ah. You were talking about writing in the BLOG, not fiction in general. My mistake (first one this year…)

    As for being proud of you about not blogging again about Spirit House, I’ll reserve judgment until after the first of the year. God knows how many blogs you’ll get out of it AFTER the fact. 🙂

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Curses! Foiled again! I intended to do a full week’s follow-up to “Spirit House.”


  13. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I’m sorry. Was that rude?

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