Readers' Submissions

Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 277

  • Written by Dana
  • February 19th, 2011
  • 4 min read


I WAS WRONG

Attn: Dana fans, bamboo fans, electric fans, and solar powered fans–

Lately I have been mouthing off in public (bars, Skytrain, cellphone, and street food lines for hibachi chicken breasts) about a book called The Secret Miracle: The Novelist Handbook by Daniel Alarcon. The book is formatted around questions and answers. A question is posed around some aspect of the novelist's writing life and/or the art of the novel. Different novelists (about fifty) then offer personal responses to the questions.

Typical chapters are:

Structure and Plot Reading and Influences Character and Scene

In the chapter (5) titled Writing, this question is posed:

"How Do You Measure A Successful Writing Day? Is There A Word Count You Shoot For? An Amount Of Time You Demand Of Yourself?"

Some of the responses are:

"A good writing day for me . . . managed to write two or three pages."
— Laila Lalami

"Lying on the couch thinking through your characters is a very productive writing day." — Chris Abani

" . . . a single . . . paragraph." — Haruki Murakami

" . . . a paragraph or two . . . " — Chris Adrian

"Sometimes it's five hundred words," — Edwidge Danticat

" . . . I feel lucky if I get one {page/day}." — A. M. Homes

and the winner is: "I generally work between five and seven hours a day. If I can get one decent page out of that time, I consider it a good day." — Paul Auster

Thank-you Mr. Novel Writer (aka Paul Auster) for telling us what you consider a good production day. I consider this crap. I challenge any adult human to find another activity, avocational or vocational, in which these lameass production numbers would be tolerated.

I was mouthing off about this on my cell phone the other day while taking the Skytrain from Mo Chit to Nana when a Thai gentleman (suit, paperbag, flip flops) said:

"Excuse me sir, I couldn't help but overhear you. My name is Vongsak Nathikanchanlab and I am a lawyer specializing in labor law in the Chonburi part of Thailand. I have successfully defended some cases that may interest you.

Example One: A Miss Boom-Boom of the Rodeo Bar of Pattaya was fired for not meeting the monthly quota of eight 'outs'. She had only brought one barfine to the bar that month. Her defense, and our case, was that one quality 'out' was more important than eight lameass customers who demeaned her dignity. She was an artist. Sort of a physical novelist of the copulating sort. I won the case for her.

Example Two: A Thai Airways pilot was fired (I worked with his union on this) for not making the required number of daily round trips between Bangkok and Chiang Mai (3). Before being fired he was making one round trip in two days; up on one day and back to Bangkok the next day. His argument in court which I presented to the Bangkok Labor Law judge was that quality always trumps quantity: not just in novel writing but also in piloting commercial aircraft. For him to fill up his legally required log book with uninspired flight time entries would benefit no one including himself, his employer, and the aviation industry. I mean no one required Galileo to come up with one great astronomical idea per day. That would be ridiculous. He, my client, was not just a pilot; he was also an artist.

I am proud to say that I won the case for him: we established Thai pilot work rule legal precedent, and helped the Thai pilot union with bargaining language. Now, basically, pilots only have to fly when they feel the urge.

At this point, I said:

"Vongsak, I'll buy another whiskey bottle and bucket of ice for us and why don't we go over to that booth to do some more talking."

"But we are on the Skytrain."

"Oh yeah–ok, let's get off and go to the Mothership bar, I need to hear some more about this."

And so it went on into the night as my new best friend labor lawyer Vongsak Nathikanchanlab recounted example after example of astonishingly low, stunningly hard to believe, plank-in-the-face improbable labor production figures being successfully defended in Thai courts. I have to say I learned something: I had not idea that artistry (real or imagined) always trumped production expectations of any kind. So, Mr. Paul Auster, novelist and artiste; I apologize–I was wrong. When you said: "I generally work between five and seven hours a day. If I can get one decent page out of that time, I consider it a good day."

I wasn't qualified to comment. But now, thanks to the education I have received from Vongsak Nathikanchanlab I understand and I respect you. And if there ever comes a time when you can't reach your personal goal of one page per day you can always get a job as a brainless low-spark skank at the Rodeo Bar in Pattaya.

Sincerely yours, Dana (note: it took me eighteen days to write this)


Stickman's thoughts:

I'm scratching my head…