If I had something to write about, it would be funny. Like knee-slapping, call-up-your-friends-and- read-it-to-their-answering-machines, life-is-so-LIKE-that funny. Or maybe it wouldn’t be knee-slapping funny, but a few people would read it into answering machines.
It would have a coherent narrative and an easy, witty cadence, but one that would require some effort to assimilate to. Sometimes you would have to turn back a page to completely get the really important thing that references the seemingly less important thing from a while back.
The structure would be original enough that it would stand out (like 2nd person narrative, or divined stream-of-consciousness or footnotes that make you cringe at their cleverness and the annoyance of having to read them because they are all so damn brilliant), yet traditional enough to evoke many early 20th century classics. Whatever it would be, someone would describe it as like something else on steroids or crack or speed.
I would use the word noumenon, which I heard someone use in conversation the other day, incorrectly supposing it had something to do with the character of the mailman on Seinfeld. I would end sentences with prepositions and assign commas wantonly. If I had something to write about, it would acknowledge the universal decline of morality, the ascent of reckless prurience, and the centrality of family as a force to be reckoned with. It would speak reverently of holidays, of home-cooked food, and the empty feeling one gets when eating leftovers alone.
As a gentle aside, it would condemn capitalism, but not from a Marxist standpoint.
If I had something to write about, it would have authority figures who abuse their authority, victims who manipulate others with their pain, children who speak wisely but out of turn and are therefore largely ignored, teenagers who make foolish and deadly decisions, liars of the most obvious sort (politicians, lawyers, talk show hosts, whatever), a naive soul who makes a whimsical choice that ends up affecting thousands of lives for better or for worse, I don’t know which yet, and a Fuller Brush salesman either full of bile or leaky optimism.
If I had something to write about, it would speak longingly of Vermont in winter, at that very moment before the first snowflake floats gently, indifferently, to the clenched earth and you can’t help but anthropomorphize autumn in your mind as it slinks away like a rejected party guest.
It would be short enough to read before going to bed but long enough that it couldn’t be read in one bathroom sitting. It might be accompanied by a line drawing, but not by me, since I’ve never been able to capture the symbolic essence of anything.
It would have a title, but it would not be taken directly from the piece itself. It would be fiction without being a fictionalized memoir, although the characters would be embellished from people I like to think I know. It might possibly have a defrocked homosexual virgin priest with my cousin Patrick as the thinly veiled model, which would really piss off my mother because she hates it when I suggest that Patrick is hiding from his intrinsically divergent sexuality in the clergy. Maybe if I merged him with the Fuller Brush salesman my mother wouldn’t notice the similarity to Patrick.
I would use a pseudonym and to hell with my mother.
If I had something to write about, it would lead an author of moderate influence to drop me a kind, electric-typewritten note on 100% cotton bond paper with the PEN insignia at the top saying that he liked my work, and I would call him and thank him for it and we would meet at the Yale Club for a drink where he would put his hand on my knee underneath the table over his second martini and I would flee not because I wouldn’t want to have a fling with a married, significantly older published author, but because I hadn’t shaved my legs in weeks. Or maybe not; maybe we would retreat to some discreet midtown hotel, hopefully the Royalton. I would feel guilty either way.
It would be mentioned in passing by boutique bookstore employees and by a certain female New York Times columnist over lunch with her editor, but not in her actual column.
It wouldn’t be hailed, but it would be respected; it wouldn’t be included in an anthology, but someone might print it out and stick it in a folder labeled “stuff.” I wouldn’t get paid for it, but someone would see it who would (and who could) pay me for the next thing I wrote, which would take me longer than expected because I would have trouble accepting that I could write anything worthy of getting paid for. I would discuss this with my shrink, who listens to me talk all the time about wanting to be a writer, but never expresses the slightest interest in my writing. I’d spring for a new, more expensive shrink.
I would learn a little something about myself at some point along the way, maybe, but I would soon forget it.