Sunday Reflections, Cottage Edition: “Uncategorized”

by maxmosher

I am writing this beside the lake on Snake Island. I even brought down my computer cord in the vain hope that the electrical outlet hidden by the truck of a tree down here (traditionally used by Dad to listen to opera) would power my computer and turn my screen from a near-mirror reflective surface into something viewable, but it was not to be.

It is my second morning up here and my body and mind have slowed down. Before we ate dinner on our first night, I declared I would go swimming, and I bravely marched right in (although the water had to reach my nipples before I plunged my head under). I finished my Edith Wharton book for WORN and wrote a not-very-good draft for my column class. The boys (my brother and his friends) arrived with much fanfare last night, and since my parents don’t know when next they’ll have three strong, young men up here (four, if you count me) we’ve been coerced into putting in the dock today.

Now, our dock used to be normal. When we first started coming to the island, the marina had boats (big, deep, fabulous out-door-motor boats, one which I vividly remember as golden pine) which you had to, with effort, clamper down into and then, with more effort, climb out. Then they switched to long flat pontoon boats, essentially mobile decks on water. While these made it easier to get in and out, without falling in between the boat and dock and getting mushed to death, docks began getting larger, higher and stronger, so as to not fall apart when bumped by the pontoon.

We are surrounded by South African neighbours on either side who are under the impression that Snake is some WASPY watering resort like Nantucket or Cape Cod or the setting of countless weepy teen shows in which white thirty-year old actors, pretending to be 16, look at lakes wistfully. Both of our neighbours’ docks are modern and metallic and intimidating, although when we were let off on one, I noted that it still rattled and shook. But since we can’t take advantage of their neighbourliness all summer, we had to put in our dock, a simple straight line, often at an angle, which is ten feet shorter than the South Africans’. We suffer from dock envy.

Along with flipping through The New Yorker’s fiction issue, and back issues of Vanity Fair and Vogue, I indulged in my tradition by starting to read The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne, the sole mystery by the creator of Winnie the Pooh and the enchanted Hundred Acre Wood. In the witty introduction, Milne laments the prevalence of weak writing in the genre:

“I remember reading one in which a peculiarly fascinating murder had been committed, and there was much speculation as to how the criminal had broken into the murdered man’s library. The detective, however (said the author), ‘was more concerned to discover how the murderer had effected an egress.’ It is, to me, a distressing thought that in nine-tenths of the detective stories of the world murderers are continually effecting egresses when they might just as easily go out. The sleuth, the hero, the many suspected all use this same strange tongue, and we may be forgiven for feeling that neither the natural excitement of killing the right man, nor the strain of suspecting the wrong one, is sufficient excuse for so steady a flow of bad language.”

Later, while explaining how a writer most famous for stories about a pudgy philosophical bear came to write a mystery, he writes that “the only excuse which I have yet discovered for writing anything is that I want to write it.” I have recently been thinking of this very thing. One of the things I hated about academia was the process of never-ending narrowing and the fear that, by the end of a PhD, you would be an expert on one specific topic while knowing nothing of anything else. I got onto a queer history stream and then could not escape it, even though I have many other interests and find arguing with Foucaultists exhausting.

So now I’m pursuing journalism, which I thought would better reward someone with my eclectic interests and knowledge, but during my first column-writing class, my teacher told us about the importance of finding your ‘bailiwick’, your beat, the area that you cover. Bloggers, despite not having to get their ideas approved by an editor, are also advised to focus on a specific subject, in order to nurture a readership and keep them coming back.

Good advice, but, yeah, I’m not going to do that.

I could write about politics, but then I would post about once a week. Entertainment and pop culture? Same thing, maybe twice a week. While I’ve reignited by love of fashion, I would be hard pressed to find five topics about style to post every week (and anything I do come up with should be run by WORN first anyways).

So, instead, I’m going to write about anything and everything I want to. I noticed that, unless otherwise specified, wordpress labelled your posts “uncategorized” and I kind of love that, so I’m sticking with it. One day Jane Lynch and Glee, the next Elijah Harper and Meech Lake, all “uncategorized”. I’m trusting that if I find something interesting, someone else hopefully will. 

Writing is about gut instinct, even when it’s writing a blog.