Great interview with David Simon (aka Mr. Laura Lippman), about “The Wire,” of course. But it kicks off with a bang:
NICK HORNBY: Every time I think, Man, I’d love to write for The Wire, I quickly realize that I wouldn’t know my True dats from my narcos. Did you know all that before you started? Do you get input from those who might be more familiar with the idiom?
DAVID SIMON: My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.
Yeah! Fuck them all to hell!
(Regrettably, the rest of the interview will cost you eight bucks. I won’t spend it, but I feel I got my money’s worth already.)
brian stouder said on August 11, 2007 at 4:07 pm
I confess I was put off by that opening salvo, but I was won over by the last part of the free stuff –
—I want a homicide detective, or a drug slinger, or a longshoreman, or a politician anywhere in America to sit up and say, Whoa, that’s how my day is. That’s my goal. It derives not from pride or ambition or any writerly vanity, but from fear. Absolute fear. Like many writers, I live every day with the vague nightmare that at some point, someone more knowledgeable than myself is going to sit up and pen a massive screed indicating exactly where my work is shallow and fraudulent and rooted in lame, half-assed assumptions. I see myself labeled a writer, and I get good reviews, and I have the same doubts buried, latent, even after my successes. I suspect many, many writers feel this way. I think it is rooted in the absolute arrogance that comes with standing up at the community campfire and declaring, essentially, that we have the best story that ought to be told next and that people should fucking listen. Storytelling and storytellers are rooted in pay-attention-to-me onanism. Listen to this! I’m from Baltimore and I’ve got some shit you fucking need to see, people! Put down that CSI shit and pay some heed, motherfuckers! I’m gonna tell it best, and most authentic, and coolest, and… I mean, presenting yourself as the village griot is done, for me, with no more writerly credential than a dozen years as a police reporter in Baltimore and a C-average bachelor’s degree in general studies from a large state university. On paper, why me? But I have a feeling every good writer, regardless of background, doubts his own voice just a little, and his own right to have that voice heard. It’s the simple effrontery of the thing. Who died and made me Storyteller?
“pay-attention-to-me onanism”. Hmmmmmmm
(well, I understand the concept when it is said that one has written a seminal work, but sheesh!)
I will have to watch for Believer at the bookstore
Jeff said on August 11, 2007 at 6:58 pm
As someone edited to within an inch of his toleration, i still feel very guilty about giggling manaically for five minutes after reading that. I’m also a minister, y’know.
But honestly, what reader does the average editor think of? The kind of which Simon rightly says “intercourse the penguin.” (Thanks to Monty Python for the modification.) If that’s the reader, then they need a brisk smack upside the head, if not the more vigorous solution Mr. Simon proposes.
ashley said on August 11, 2007 at 9:06 pm
I found some interviews with Bunk, Lester, and McNulty.
Danny said on August 12, 2007 at 11:33 am
Eventually, I will take some time and turn my uber-critical gaze to the task of scrutinizing The Wire. Though I am kinda suspsicious that I will find the ‘hood described therein to be unrepresentative of B’more and that I will find this unsatisfying.
So, watch out Simon, if you think you know my city. You better be right, bitch, or I going to tell you and everyone gathered around your “campfire” to sit down and shut up.
< / surly balti-moron mode off >
Alan Gutierrez said on August 13, 2007 at 1:12 pm
After reading this I’m inclined to change my writing style. It makes it much easier to write about New Orleans when I don’t have to concern myself with the Limbaugh listening population.
Marcia said on August 13, 2007 at 1:43 pm
some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture.
Hey, that’s me. Fuck you right back, even if I do like your wife.
Danny said on August 13, 2007 at 1:46 pm
kerril said on August 14, 2007 at 1:06 pm
What Marcia said.
Laura said on August 16, 2007 at 3:57 pm
In defense of the missus — that’s from the end of the interview; I guess it’s on the website because it’s provcative.
I think the larger point is that it’s the editors, with their reductive view of what those “average readers” want, who end up insulting their intelligence.
Plus, a lot of his best/oldest friends are surburban white people with lawn furniture . . .
Laura said on August 16, 2007 at 3:58 pm
Provocative. I’ve had a really long day.
nancy said on August 16, 2007 at 4:09 pm
I probably should have leapt to the genius’ defense ere this, Laura, so I apologize.
To me it was obvious what he was saying, and anyone who’s gone through the editing process knows what he’s talking about: The wussy editor who believes the first time people see a word they don’t understand, or a cultural reference they don’t get, they tune out. They have no faith in their own subscribers. It’s the old albatross joke, the one that says a copy editor’s job is to change the phrase, “the act hung like an albatross around his neck” to “the act hung like an albatross, a large, white bird, around his neck.”
Obviously it’s a judgment call, and everyone will call it differently. But I appreciate those who can craft a compelling narrative without gooping it up with too much explanation, attribution and other gum in the works. I trust the river’s current will carry me to my destination, even if I don’t recognize every tree along the way. (Not that that makes any sense.)
Marcia said on August 18, 2007 at 8:03 am
Laura, Nancy, I was totally kidding. I thought it was great.
Nancy, I thought you at least would realize that while I may fit that demographic, I pride myself on NOT BEING ONE OF THEM!
P.S…Laura, there is now an editing feature to the comments. No one would have ever had to know about that provocative thing.