Just a few: Please Ignore Vera Dietz, Looking for Alaska, Catch, Sweethearts, The Absolute Value of -1, How to Say Goodbye in Robot.
These killed me, in that good way - the way that makes you feel alive. And, largely, it's what I'm trying to do when I write: give the reader (and myself) something genuine. Something real. And for a long time, it was nearly impossible. I was afraid to put what I really thought down on paper. I was afraid of going there - wherever that might be. I was afraid of making people angry. Of hurting their feelings. I was afraid of making a certain kind of joke and I was even more afraid of not making a joke. Because being real - being me, for everybody to see - will probably always feel uncomfortable.
And now I'm writing a book that isn't very funny at all. Yes, it has it's moments - but mostly it's kind of a sad book about a brother and a sister. And as I re-read pages, as I start to tinker a little bit, I'm worried that it's gone beyond feeling and into a place nobody wants to find themselves. Cheesy. Melodramatic. Worthy of a Dashboard Confessional song. You know.
And then I remembered something from graduate school - an essay first. And then I found the book it was in, still sitting on my shelf. And I read it once again. It dealt with irony and writing and religion. And it ends this way:
But as for [David Foster Wallace's] notion of who the next literary rebels might be, I'm banking on his being right. The scandalous move right now is to have hope, to look out at the world in love in order to discover it anew in whatever way you can, in whatever form you can....risking all the while cheese, corn, schmaltz. The scandalous and radical move right now is to infuse our post-ironic age with hope, and with love, risking, as it always and ever should be, your own heart. - Bret Lott, The Best Spiritual Writing of 2002
And maybe it is sentimental to write with such hope, even if the book is ultimately sad. But I like the idea of writing with a chance of being cheesy. I like the (possibly cheesy) idea of risking my heart in my work. Because, hopefully, the reward becomes the sort of book I love to read.