Sesquipedalism.com exists for three reasons, unless of course you count sheer vanity—then its purpose is fourfold. First and foremost, Sesquipedalism.com is here because writing is about communication. Writing is about interiority: the feeling that you are inhabiting the consciousness of someone else, or that someone else is inhabiting yours; the feeling of “getting” someone, or being “gotten.” Interiority—essentially a synonym for “communion,” but without all the unfortunate Catholic connotations—and therefore art itself is about experiencing the opposite of loneliness. And regardless of how romantic America has let become the idea of the lonely artist—a miserable wretch creating unappreciated masterpieces which sit moldering in cedar chests for years after their author’s demise—there is one thing of which I’ve become certain: such shit is only romantic when it’s happening to someone else.
The rugose cortices of human beings are riddled with things we call mirror neurons. Mirror neurons explain why yawning is contagious. These cells fire when another performs a recognizable action—they fire as if we ourselves were performing that action. Monkey see, monkey do. A few of the higher primates have them. Not cats. Curiously, when we met three years ago, my cat and I quite literally saved each others’ lives. And I love my cat more than most anyone, but if I yawn in her face, she merely smells my breath. When she yawns in mine, however, I yawn right back. Mirror neurons make us capable of sympathy. Synchronized feeling. Interiority. Earnest art, well-wrought, gets mirror neurons firing. I write to synchronize feeling. I write fiction to feel with my characters; and I write hoping that my readers will feel along with them, with me. Every artist in any medium creates a communiqué through which he hopes to be heard, understood, validated; but he also offers up a world in which his audience might themselves feel understood and validated. Art isn’t just expulsion, it’s a simultaneous invitation. Art is a communal gesture. Thus, I bring mine to the internet.
Reason, the second, for Sesquipedalism’s existence is admittedly shameless self-promotion. Unless one happens to be incredibly lucky, a writer can’t count on the world “discovering” him. We have to insinuate ourselves into public consciousness. And because unless one happens to be, say, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, or J.K. Rowling, who else is going to promote you? In order for my writing to be the sort of art which facilitates communion, interiority, someone besides me has to be reading it. Again: thus, the internet; thus I must become a media whore.
Last, but not least, Sesquipedalism.com is here as storefront. Within the month, my first collection of stories will be for sale (more details forthcoming). Inspired by the recent musical doings of Trent Reznor, I’ve struck out on my own and self-published. And it depends on you, readers, for this venture to succeed.
A TINY PRIMER ON WHY YOU SHOULD BUY
Here’s how art in the contemporary era works. Whether or not music labels, film studios, or publishing houses like it, the art to which they’ve bought the distribution rights is out there for free. Instantly. Often, a pirated version is out there before the legitimate, legal product itself is available. The internet has fundamentally changed the ways in which commerce and art intersect. The RIAA, the MPAA, are impotent in the face of BitTorrent technology; no number of lawsuits will quash the scads of file sharing sites which, I’m sure, will soon (if they don’t already) feature plenty of links to popular novels and nonfiction, thanks to the advent of digital readers such as the iPad, the Kindle, and Nook, and the downloadable texts they necessitate. Eventually, this trend may well mean the death of the record label, the film studio, the publishing house (at least as we know them); retailers like Barnes & Noble and Borders are already in fiduciary trouble,and CD sales are laughably low. But none of this is necessarily bad news.
The reason people are stealing music, movies, and books isn’t to resell it; it’s because they want to experience and explore new art. Whether or not such theft is moral, what it implies is actually exciting: in an age when those folks who fancy themselves highbrow shudder with terror in certainty that art is dead (and cheap entertainment–full of empty calories, culturally speaking–has taken its place), the reality is precisely the opposite. High art is out there, and the desire to engage with such art, couldn’t be more alive. What’s dying is what literary theorists Adorno & Horkheimer called “The Culture Industry” (Google it: no one should be sorry to see it go). Sure, people are stealing Britney Spears .mp3s and Transformers II .mpgs, but what an astonishing amount of this music/movie/literary piracy indicates is that “regular” folks have grown weary of the empty cultural calories America’s been force-feeding its citizenry since the ‘fifties—formulaic summer blockbusters, beach reads, and feel-good-hits-of-the-summer—and they are ready for something more substantial, something different; they’re craving art created for art’s sake, not art crafted for commerce. These regular folks are itching for art that communicates with them as human beings instead of mere consumers. Sick and tired of commercial, not aesthetic or intellectual, interests deciding what you’ll listen to, what shitty sitcom you’ll watch, what you’ll be able to read? Then this is a great time to be alive. Tower Records and Chapters may be going under; but the indie record store down the block is still selling plenty of vinyl to people who want nothing more than for their favorite underground act to put out another record.
It’s important to remember one thing: artists rarely pay the rent by making art. A favorite novelist of mine works full-time in retail and has only recently been able to step back from weekend bartending to spend more time with his craft. The primary goal of every sincere artist I know is, of course, always interiority. Creating culture and sharing it. (And, hell, if an artist aspires to make some money along the way, no one should cast aspersions—even if you love your job as an auto-mechanic or chef, it doesn’t make you a bad person to want to be paid well for your efforts.) Still, since we don’t live in Shangri-La, even taking the time out of your day to create costs money—not to mention the cost of, say, canvas, brushes, word processing software, postage for submitting manuscripts, or time in a recording studio. So, if you are, in fact, excited about engaging new art, it’s your responsibility to make sure new and interesting art will continue to be produced.
If you love a band, subsidize the recording of their next album by buying the one they’ve just released. Go to a show. Tell your friends. And if you’re enamored with an author and have the means to lend support, buy a book—don’t just download the text or borrow from the local library. Help him to afford the time it takes to create. In reality, supporting your favorite artists is a selfish gesture: you want more music that speaks to you, more stories with which you connect, films which exhilarate you? Ante up, and you can be sure that all of the above will keep coming. For art to exist, we may be able to get by without the middlemen—agents, labels, A&Rs—but we’ll never have art without artists able to produce it.And production costs money.
So, pretty please. Explore the site. Read the freebies. And if you like what you see, buy my book.