A Fan's Notes on "A Fan's Notes"
by Elias Tezapsidis
[ NOTE: Originally I intended for this piece to be a statement in regards to form. I remembered enjoying Exley’s book when I first read it, and was quick to identify myself as his fan; I thought a literal application of this title would be a fun and easy project for me. I have a very active way of consuming text, in which I scribble and underline frequently as I read. I often use cheesy acronyms, such as “vom,” “wow” and “omg.” I also like to fold the top parts of my favorite pages as I encounter them, so that I can easily find them the next time I decide to look at a book I have read before. Even emoticons are fair game!
There are also cases in which my marginalia resembles the attitude of a teenager, excited to witness inappropriate sex scenes, which is actually why I don’t allow anyone to borrow my copy of Geoff Dyer’s “Paris Trance:” my fan’s notes on that saga are not ones I would like anyone else to see.
Exley’s “A Fan’s Notes” present the same quality in the entirety of the text, and if he felt any shame for making them public is questionable. After rereading “A Fan’s Notes,” I wonder what was wrong with me when I first read it for me to like it. How was I able to read an openly autobiographical misogynistic, homophobic, borderline pedophilic oeuvre? Unfortunately, I hadn’t read it “my way” the first time, because it was a public copy and I understand my side-commentary is not an action I should indulge in, out of respect to other readers who will be reading a book.
The problem was not the content nor the unlikeable protagonist. That is totally fair game in fiction, even desirable in my case. But the autobiographical nature the author jokes around from the start makes it difficult for the reader I am today to enjoy the narrative. I still value and appreciate Exley’s masterful writing and his self-deprecating humor. But flirting with manic depression in a dialogue I have with a book as a reader in which the other side—the narrator/ protagonist—does not listen to anyone and just wants to be “famous,” is especially challenging today, our era of self-obsessed existences whose motives and intentions rarely differ from Exley’s.
This is not really a narrative on “writing on writing,” but rather one on “reading on reading.” In modern circumstances, in which the role of fans’ is so much more active and involved, poses a barrier in my self-identification as a fan of Exley’s. To be a fan of his notes would make me a fan of his autobiographical work. The memoir genre makes the disentanglement of where the work begins and where the art lies an arduous process, especially when the work features someone who lacks kindness, but is convinced s/he deserves it from others.
Nicholas Rombes not only is intrigued by marginalia, but he also understands my misremembering of liking the book! In a recent interview discussing his forthcoming book, The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing, he mentions how our memories of a film differ when we encounter it again. He is totally right: the musical Annie (1982), which my sister enforced during my childhood is not the masterpiece I was able to convince myself it was. The same misremembering can clearly occur with reading.
Make sure you get behind the right note-makers. I hear these two (one and two) are trustworthy! Also, know when to stop trying to make a form statement once you cannot emotionally follow your brain’s dictation. Sacrifice your meticulous work! Embrace failure. Oh, how very Exley. ]
About the Author:
Elias grew up in Thessaloniki, Greece, prior to attending Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was there that he discovered he was too neurotic and OCD for the Midwest and had a low-tolerance for the MN-nice. The move to NYC post-graduation seemed like the logical next step, and since then downtown New York has been home.