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I started this column in January as an experiment, but as anyone who read my previous four installments knows, it, uh, didn’t work. OK, it completely bombed and I didn’t get what I wanted at all.
As it turns out, this was a very lucky, somewhat miraculous break.
Here’s what I wanted: to try some different kinds of writing in order to expand my tiny bouillon cube of literary facility into a boiling broth of bibliographic excellence.
Whew. So, with my sights on genius, I set out with a somewhat stuffy, slightly pontificatory (this should be a word), certainly convoluted review of Mick LaSalle’s “Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood.”
Because I hadn’t written a column in a while – and not a single one under my new, married-woman name – I was a little nervous.
It also didn’t help that I needed to sound brilliant, like a person whose views on 1930s cinema carry immense currency, huge cow-sized piggy banks full.
My views on 1930s cinema being somewhat narrowly defined by this one book, what I needed was to sound like someone else.
After that first attempt and in a fit of anxious inspiration, I decided even being someone else wasn’t enough distance from the actual salty cube of me.
I decided to take on the persona of six monkeys, a half-dozen swinging Semnopithecus.
I thought this was a fantastic idea, really clever, but in reality, I am nothing like six monkeys. Some weeks, I might remind my husband of six totally different, equally frustrating women, but I never have six tails.
And so, clumsily pretending to be a cartload of monkeys, I wrote an advice column, a “Dear Annie” with a furrier, less house-trained Annie. The advice was essentially from the monkeys to a slightly outdated version of myself, one of last year’s human female incarnations of Kelly LeVan / Kelly Dolejsi.
Now, although I don’t recommend writing as six monkeys, I admit I enjoyed it. It’s freeing to be someone else, and absolutely intoxicating to be collective of beasts. They had no morals, no fears and, probably best of all, no need to sound smart.
Stuck with nothing pithy to say, I could discuss the dreamy titillation of tick removal.
I could praise the putrid fluff of my 12 armpits.
Of course, fun as that is for a lonely existentialist armed with a keyboard, readers didn’t seem as thrilled.
At CB Fox, at the aquatic center, all around town, community members would tell me, “I miss ‘Thinking Makes It So.’” I would tell them breathlessly about my new column, and they’d respond, “I miss ‘Thinking Makes It So.’”
Irritated and stubborn, I persisted with my experiment.
My next two columns promoted a play I am still revising. Members of the Los Alamos Playwrights Circle presented staged readings of our work in April, and I – with tons of help from my talented director and cast – presented the first three scenes of my in-progress play, tentatively titled “Watching Vera Date.”
For the columns, I entreated the monkeys to interview a couple characters from the play. They first interviewed Ed, the older Bonelli brother in the script, who mainly revealed that he thinks the entire play is about him and his varied failed attempts at undressing his wife.
For the second column, the monkeys planned to interview the younger brother, Jack, but he was unavailable for comment.
Instead, they printed the details of the staged reading, a short interview with Vera Similitude, one of Jack’s coworkers, and a story from Andrea Consuela Suma Bonelli, who is not in the play. She went on and on, creating the world’s most unnecessarily extended metaphor about eggs and cakes.
I wasn’t pleased with these columns, and I chalked it up to my nearly complete disinterest in writing anything but the play. I found it very hard to pull myself away from the script, the rehearsals, the blocking, the acquisition of props and refreshments and people to be in the audience.
And yeah, I think that was part of it. But now I know the other part that made the writing so laborious, as difficult as catching centipedes and training them to lie down in the shapes of letters on my screen.
I am not six monkeys.
Maybe other writers can really take on other personas, much as actors do, and make them alive and lovable. I don’t think I can.
Furthermore, I don’t think Los Alamos wants me to.
I have never been so shocked as when I realized that my readers seem to prefer me over monkeys.
This has been my greatest revelation of the year, even greater than my discovery that I feel really great writing plays.
Whether I’m a poet, a novelist, a journalist, a playwright, a LeVan or a Dolejsi, my readers seem to want to know what I have to say – my own honest, weird thoughts.
Thank you, Los Alamos, for recognizing my voice, and telling me to use it.
E-mail Kelly Dolejsi at kdolejsi @gmail.com.