The following was written by American author Rick Harsch (who has lived in self-exile in Slovenia for nearly two decades): ‘Every subfamous writer knows it’s unseemly to bitch about having to work for a living, yet is all too aware that if he or she was a paid writer writing would be considered work, and so we subfamers are all in the horrible position of having spasms of acute awareness that in this unjust world in which we both continue to write and on top of that work for a living we are doing double duty while many a self-satisfied untalented schmuck is working about seven hours a week, living off a single novel that hit paydirt, muddling through an academic sinecure that requires an everchanging array of poses suggesting the suppressed pain that is art creation in times of distant tragedies and that worst of all human conditions, the human condition.
How do I handle this problem? Self-delusion is an absolute requirement. I must never fully realize the fact that my time has passed, that even if I were to become a wealthy writer overnight I am still too old to embark on the travels I’ve longed to undertake, and my cardiologist has forbidden me from even taking tennis lessons. And, well, shit, why not get this out in the open—though poor, I actually do live on the Mediterranean.
The other thing I do for this condition is work. I don’t mean writing, of course. Sure, I write, but we’ve already established that for me that isn’t work. So what I do and have done for the last forty years is whatever I have been able to make money. Strangely, the most outlandish work I did was before I had a family, kids and a wife, which is the point at which work becomes the most necessary. But that’s all to the good. I get published now and then, and I never ever want to see another book with my face on it and underneath “Rick Harsch drove a taxi…” Oh, how fucking exotic! Nothing wrong with it that a photograph wearing a sweater sitting with my Irish setter before a fireplace wouldn’t cleanse. I suppose what I want is “Rick Harsch drove a taxi and one time a guy named Earl shit his pants while in the back seat and Rick couldn’t get Earl out of the cab because Earl was built like a medicine ball with a lead core and it was the end of a lousy shift and he nearly had a stroke from the frustration and if that cab is still around somewhere it still smells like the Bowels of Earl.” Yeah, that would be okay.
All this arose in me, this writers at work business, from reading an interview on The Collidescope with Patricia Eakins, with her answering that potent question regarding what she did after her first book was published and reading about how she worked on some textbook that likely had little to do with anything she was interested in and likely because like all of us subfamers needed money and the universe did not care how she obtained it, or whether she obtained it at all. The utopian in me lives and was riled. I recalled the thousand injuries of Fortunato, my greatest enemy.
Today I was sitting with one of my ex-bosses talking scattershot and a memory somehow came back regarding probably the oddest day I had in recent years that had to do with making money, or rather attempting to. A friend of a friend had this sister, see, and she does film casting, and they were hiring extras in Gorizia, Italy, about 90 minutes from here and one thing led to another, and nothing led to money, but I spent a bizarre day with an extravagant dame in her 60s who had seen the world and half the men in it, still sized us all up and let us know the fit, told amazing stories about back in the days her ex, a sea captain, had her on board and all the engineers were in love with her, and Omar Sharif, or some other famous guy, tried to bang her that night in Piraeus.
So what the hell, here’s a topic: Jobs I Have Done Instead of Writing.’
Rick Harsch has told me, George Salis, that I’m too young to have any good stories to share (I’m paraphrasing). Having taught stints in Bulgaria, China, and Poland, I’d have to disagree. Additionally, I’ve had to teach Chinese children online in which I am a clown-for-hire as early as 5 in the morning, forcing me on more than one occasion to live on China Standard Time (CST), which means I rarely saw the sun, such a pale clown needs no white makeup. Luckily, I’ve been able to reduce the amount of online teaching I do by ghostwriting, which suits my introverted personality much more, to say the least. As for work-related stories abroad, the craziest come from China in which I was forced to wrangle multiple classes with about 50 students in a class, some of which hide special needs kids who are not getting the special needs they need. I’ll save such stories for another day, perhaps.
I look forward to hearing about the strange and torturous things you other writers have had to endure with equal parts sadism and sympathy.
Rick Harsch hit the literary scene in 1997 with his cult classic The Driftless Zone, which was followed by Billy Verite and Sleep of the Aborigines (all by Steerforth Press) soon after to form The Driftless Trilogy. Harsch migrated to the Slovene coastal city of Izola in 2001, just as the Driftless books were published in French translation by a French publisher that went out of business a few years later. Rick is also the author of Arjun and the Good Snake (2011, Amalietti & Amalietti), Wandering Stone: the Streets of Old Izola (2017, Mandrac Press), Voices After Evelyn (2018, Maintenance Ends Press), Skulls of Istria (2018, River Boat Books), The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas (2019, River Boat Books) and Walk Like a Duck: A Season of Little League Baseball in Italy (2019, River Boat Books). Rick currently lives in Izola still with his wife and two children.
George Salis is the author of Sea Above, Sun Below (River Boat Books, 2019). His fiction is featured in The Dark, Black Dandy, Zizzle Literary Magazine, The Sunlight Press, Unreal Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in Isacoustic, Atticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on Facebook, Goodreads, and at www.GeorgeSalis.com.
Stay tuned: coming Monday, 13 Jan 20, RABBIT HOLE 3 Call for Submissions!