Juvenalia

I used to have a WordPress blog that a few times a month I’d use to post aggressively strange sherds of prose and dialogue that I’d shuck from my mind with a goofy, happy violence. When I appeared on the Longform podcast in 2013 to talk about my work at the Believer magazine, the host, Aaron Lammer, surprised me by asking about this blog, and he evinced some surprise at how “out” it was in light of my work, which was to help edit and publish essays that were as coherent as possible. I liked Aaron’s deployment of this word, out, which I thought he used in the same sense that jazz afficionados use it, to talk about particularly free, improvised solos that stray into the “wrong” notes, riffing off scales that are harmonically distant from the chords the rest of the band is playing.

When I asked my friend Max to help me make a professional website, he suggested that I import all of my old, bloggy, out prose improvisations into this site, assuming I wanted a place to keep posting them, since like the blog, it’s also built on WordPress, and would easily absorb them, and one day WordPress might shut down all its free blogs and then I’d lose that archive of youthful linguistic freakouts and experiments. I kinda grudgingly agreed, and figured they could all live here, under the banner of Juvenalia, but reading back through, even though some of them still make me laugh, I guess they’re also terminally embarrassing. Isn’t the point of this new website to get people to buy my book, subscribe to my email newsletter or podcast, offer me a new teaching job or some exciting freelance work, burnishing my brand into a gleaming white-hot cube that eventually burns and blinds and crushes and destroys the entire Northern hemisphere of Earth? Posting cryptoërotic flash fiction to my personal website would not help me achieve this goal.

Every day I have stupid thoughts that in the past I’d post to the blog, that now I usually have the urge to tweet. Pretty much every day I have an intense pang of desire to tweet the single question, What’s up with life?? But I never do. The stakes feel too high. If I posted what’s up with life??, what if someone important saw it and thought I was stupid? What if no one liked it? What if what’s up with life?? is somehow offensive to someone and I can’t see it, and won’t realize until it’s too late and after posting it I am totally canceled?

I’m sure I say some mortifying things on the old blog, hopefully nothing cancel-worthy. But I do miss the feeling that I could post some out riffs and within 24 hours a core cabinet of like 11 friends would read them, sometimes even commenting, or forwarding me my own post from their Google Reader to tell me they liked it. Maybe I will, in my burgeoning middle age, loosen back up and start posting nonsense to my website again. If I do, it will show up here.