Good Advice

Still reading through The Believer‘s Music Issue, I came across this great bit of advice in Gina Gionfriddo’s epic essay on the literary and psychological merit of Nine Inch Nails:

“In his controversial primer on fiction writing, John Gardner advises the miserable, misanthropic writer thus: If you see the world as a pit full of baby skulls, that’s fine; in fact, you may be seeing it clearly. But you do yourself no favors by taking up residence at the edge of the pit and writing – however accurately and beautifully – tome after tome about what a pit full of baby skulls looks like. Gardner advises that we address our writing to what can be done: how is a person to stay alive in a world where there are pits full of baby skulls?”

I’d like to paste that statement on the walls of America’s high schools. It’s not just for writers; it’s for everyone who sees the world clearly and is saddened. It encapsulates my own general take on the Universe: Yeah it’s crappy. Did you expect something better? Quit complaining and do something to improve it. Gionfriddo continues:

“[Reznor’s void] is, like Gardner’s pit of baby skulls and the Gothics’ torture dungeons, a room in our psychic house – let’s say the psychic basement – that we aspire to live with, but not in. Put a lock on it and you’re dishonest and naive; move your bed and stereo down there and you’re lost.”

I’ve seen a lot of people who have put locks on it (most Americans prior to the 1960’s, the Catholic Church), others who live in it (Goths, metalheads, drug users), and very few who successfully live with their psychic basement.