Real Friends #2: Fame
Mean Girls, Paramount Pictures, 2004
by Elias Tezapsidis and Anthony Strain
This is the second in a monthly series of conversations between two writers attempting to also be friends! Hilariously, this sort of exchange is the sort of thing they derided seeing online a few years ago, but oh well, 2018!
We were talking about fame as push/pull mechanism, I think? Sometimes waiting to be famous seems like waiting to be diagnosed with a terminal illness. As in, I don’t know how anyone expects it or stands it once it happens. The most fascinating famous people are always the ones who either don’t know how they got there or, once there, made another name for themselves with their horror about how they turned out. Beyond the big martyrs of Monroe and Cobain are newer flesh like Lil Peep, whom we discussed as having probably the correct relationship to new fame––treating it like just another danger to be balanced. Lindsay Lohan, whom we both worship, has also been good at it––going on Letterman and saying “Good luck with my dad” for instance. I can’t even remember what the question was but that was a great moment in fame.
Both Peep and Lindsay, because of their youth, had a sort of parental verticality. We’ve talked abt Peep’s mom’s eulogy and how you can easily tell where he got some of his gravitas. You said she was too defensive, but I loved that she told the haters to fuck off. The famous person in question has to have some kind of accountability or obstruction they didn’t ask for––parents, addiction, mental illness, legal trouble, whatever––so at least you can see their life being hard sometimes. Nothing turns me off more than breezy live-laugh-love celebrities––or civilians, for that matter. People in Hollywood weren’t always this obsessed with their careers and their images, I don’t think, and it’s unspeakably boring now that they’re all clean-living ethical idiot-bots. Even the ones who use their power for sex, haha!
But you also blind-itemed a Twitter person. Their career is still on the upswing but I think Gary Indiana, in writing about another writer I won’t name, subtweeted her years ago. He said something like “you can write for yourself or you can write to yourself but you can’t do both.” The person we were subtweeting is still trying to do both, and to be fair their editors––all of whom are their close personal friends of course––are still letting them get away with it.
Blake Butler tweeted a Lou Reed excerpt I hadn’t seen. He (Reed) said he didn’t like performing and when asked why he did it then, he (Reed) said “because I don’t like it.” Fame as outlet for masochism probably does not resonate with kids who want to be famous, but then neither does masochism itself.
If looking for love is like looking for fame at all, it’s that at a certain point you realize you will not die of thirst. That it’s ok to want something, once permissions of love have been granted. So many of Lazi’s observations in Notes of a Crocodile—and she’s such a great narrator, never afraid to jerk you into a fabulous non sequitur, like when she compares and contrasts Mauvais Sang and Betty Blue, for instance, or the relationship between Derek Jarman and Jean Genet—are as scabby, or stabby, as crocodile bark, but still sweet. Qui knew that the reptilian can be not only a mode deployed against love-bites, but that it gives you teeth as well. Only the truly bitten ever get to bite back, in celebrity or romance.
I love Lazi’s stalker phase. Nobody should be a stalker, but everyone should have a stalker, at least for a few days. That’s what my overdeveloped eye for the inappropriate goes right for, anyway.
Sometimes it only feels like love if you’re following the person around like a dog. And that’s fucked-up. It’s like you make a name out of being aloof and then ideally you find the one person who makes you want to break character. But just because you can love someone doesn’t mean you should. Since you and I have each other’s romantic histories memorized, we know both of us would swell up and die if we ever fell into anything that wasn’t ultimately some kind of trap of our own devising. (Although it is both rewarding and hard work, homewrecker is still not a career.)
But there’s still hope, I think! We’ll learn, if we want to.
No, I’ve got it now. Waiting to become famous is like waiting to fall in love. There’s no telling that kind of time. You’re gonna need a clock with more hands, and probably a body.
Hey. So, in brief this has taken me forever to get to because I am spending my days working on text and when I am done with work, I can only watch garbage television. Well, this is not fully true, because I am also watching quality TV (Thank god for the Kings and The Good Fight, I think it is now my favorite show, possibly because it connects now to The Good Wife as a universe. I miss Alicia Florrick. Is this basic? Probably, but it is important to acknowledge excellence, and that show was riveting.)
I also suffered a technological issue, which demanded I give up on the phone on which I had screenshots of Qio Miaojin’s “Notes of a Crocodile.” I have developed a new habit where it makes more sense for me to be reading for pleasure not in print, because I make it less arduous for myself. I think that since I started writing, I began approaching text as a writer, which has been the biggest detriment in my life by making reading less fun: I am always keeping notes on stuff to steal, appropriate or attempt imitating.
I think it becomes interesting when all of our references are the same, but also, it can’t not be limiting, right? I either love or am sick of hearing about everyone you mentioned in your prologue for this week, and while you can certainly anticipate a personal email in which I ask whom Gary Indiana was subtweeting, it is important to make another connection here: the Lohan / Miaojin lesbianism one.
I need to declare that my love for Lindsay used to be unconditional, but there are certain acts in her recent arc that have made even me no longer care. A huge part of her appeal to me began when I lived on Ludlow and she passed out in dive bars I could watch from my apartment: she was real. Her messiness was tangible, her pain was relatable. Of course, I am not saying that messiness itself functions as the core appeal; it was rather the combination of being a star and being a mess that made her fascinating. A few things have changed since then, though. Most importantly, to me, is that she somewhat denied her queerness, playing it off as a part of growing up and experimenting. This was a person who was very much, very obviously in love with a woman for a long time, and to me, that was annoying. Additionally, she has not done anything great in a very long time, I guess since being the subject for the T magazine cover story where she joked about her personal assistants threatening suicide in the Pacific Palisades.
This creates an intriguing and apposite parallel for what we planned on discussing for this week: the work of Qio Miaojin. The extremes of expressing romantic love, the mindgames and the fuckery that goes into making love so tragic and beautiful and painful, as we have both been experiencing in recent memory. Right?
I found some of my earlier notes on the book, the ones that were not in electronic form. Do you work in notebooks? I used to keep a few notebooks around, now I know that in earlier eras, I kept my thoughts more compartmentalized: I had one notebook for “feelings,” (UGH) one for observations, another one for ideas. Now, I am finding that beyond our electronic communication, and when I am not working, I am less ambitious? Or rather just tired.
That is a sentiment that I loved seeing on paper in “Notes of a Crocodile:” the idea of repetition, futility, attempt to excel and for what? What’s the point really? That, in addition to what I consider to be my new favorite genre: the queer coming of age Bildungsroman. I think most of the fiction I have enjoyed in the recent past is that. Ioannis Pappos, Edmund White are recent in my head, but there is more.
Miaojin hates institutions, but still actively partakes in them. I think that is what’s crazy-making in our lives, too. Her list of institutions are education, labor and marriage. With smarmy truisms like “College-now there’s a system. Though it’s not quite death, it’s a pretty close second,” it’s difficult for the reader to not be entertained and depressed. But being depressed might be a prerequisite to appreciating this sort of writing, if one isn’t it might be a baleful vibe the page exudes. There is a line you have about modern depression, and how it’s the norm, for today.
I think contemporary vexation is inevitable, its creative recompense is artistic intelligence.
I feel like producing one strong tome, lithe as it is, similar in strength to “Notes of a Crocodile” should suffice, to a degree. Unless a writer keeps experimenting with new subjects or explores new realms, if this makes sense. But when it comes to hyper-specific personal fiction, how many lenses do each of us have? I think not that many. Cogitating meaningfully is too exhausting, if done excessively I fear it transitions to spurious territory.
*threatens to chop off finger and send it to you if you disagree*
[Next time: Romantic Mess-Ness. What will we watch/read? I think we should read Eve Babitz’s Hollywood. It s good, if you’re interested.]