Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Writing like Mike Christie
A while ago I read that Hunter S. Thompson used to type out The Great Gatsby, from beginning to end, word-for-word, as a writing exercise.
I was having trouble getting anything done last week and I decided to try this technique myself. But instead of The Great Gatsby, I picked up my copy of The Beggar's Garden by Michael Christie.
A few months ago I got to interview Christie, when he won the Vancouver Book Award. I was already obsessed with his writing, but meeting him ballooned my admiration into full-on, pseudo-creepy hero worship.
Anyways, I decided to start with my favorite story "Goodbye Porkpie Hat". It was amazing to slow down and really experience every sentence. Seeing it in a Word document gave me a chance to track the word count, to feel the actual length of his paragraphs and to really dwell on every sentence.
By the time I was finished, I felt punch drunk, like I could channel Christie's manic, weird energy into my own writing. It gave me a jolt, like a swift kick in the ass, and I tried my best to capitalize on that feeling.
I'm not sure if this will make sense to anyone else, but I figured I'd share my experiences. I dare you to find a book (or story you love) and try typing it out. If it doesn't inspire your writing, at least it will allow you to spend some extra time wallowing in another author's work.
Anyways, I've posted some especially beautiful passages below the jump. Hope you enjoy them. And if you haven't yet, do yourself a favor and read this book.
Christie describes smoking crack:
"Crack melts at a tepid eighty, and if you heat it too fast, it just burns off with minimal smoke. Smoking it is one thing I’m good at. I don’t really feel the crack craving people talk about; I would describe it more as a healthy interest than anything else, like I’m fine-tuning a hypothesis, or conducting a sort of protracted experiment. I know it sounds strange, but I feel if I could get high enough one time I would quit, content with the knowledge of the actual crack high, the genuine article. Unfortunately, a paltry approximation is the only high I have been able to afford so far."
Christie describes getting beat up:
"The woman tells him to leave me alone. Her cropped shirt reveals an abdomen stretch-marked and harbouring unearthly wrinkles in the texture of a scrotum or an elderly elephant. The man is yelling now. Blurry and ill-advised jail tattoos populate his arms, and I watch them wave above my head. I wonder if any woman who has told her boyfriend to leave somebody alone has ever meant it. If ever, I conclude, it is a statistically insignificant proportion. Amidst his racket, the urge to smoke another rock comes over me in a bland revelation, like I need to do the dishes. I hear rats scrabbling inside the wall and I try to think if I have ever seen a rat look up, into the sky I mean, and wonder if it is possible for them to see that far. As I’m trying to stand, the man kicks me in the chest with his fungal shoe and I feel a crunch inside my shoulder and it begins to buzz, and I bring my other arm up to shield my face."