writing on writing

saigon garçon
6 min readJun 23, 2022

all the ways i look back —

photo by author.

As Lapvona hits bookstore shelves, I can’t help but wonder:

Whatever happened to that one Moshfegh book that came before? The one with the least amount of traction. The one that most people disliked? The one forgotten.

“Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.” — Death in Her Hands, Moshfegh

This is how the book begins, and from here, we dive into an existential rabbit hole of what it means to be God, what it means to be a writer. We look at the process of character, their history, and how, essentially, any of us become.

photos by author.

When I look at my work, I look at ways in which I’ve become. An interesting question that I picked up from La Culturistas with Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers (who both recently starred in the acclaimed Fire Island):

“What culture made you think culture was for you?”

photos by author.

This question was originally asked by Margaret Cho to Bowen and Joel, and it has stuck with me. My histories crack a spine in an old textbook way and I’m brought back to 4AM nights torrenting Criterion Collection films from Pirate Bay and Limewire, music hunting on Youtube, and collecting books from used book stores unsuitable for the very ripe age of sixteen. Marquis de Sade. Genet. Denton Welch. Irvine Welsh. Yes, I truly believed I was better than everyone. In my strange Buffalo Exchange mismatched thrift pieces and Urban Outfitter selects, I was, in some way, shape or form, a walking embarrassment. Looking back, I laugh with those that laughed at me.

But in that time, I did, finally, find the fields in which I best frolicked. And to say finally at sixteen may seem like a dramatic stretch, but there was a piercing yearning at sixteen to matter, even if I didn’t know how to. Really, I was looking for some kind of love, even though I had no idea what love looked like. I was no better than anyone. In fact, a majority of my odd and early twentysomethings was all about unbettering myself, making mistakes, doing all the wrong things.

photos by author.

Pink Flamingos. Outlaws. Tummying turds. You could almost taste the terrible stench off John Waters’ characters through the film grain, grit and mucus in every harsh swallow. These were my people. It made it possible to think the unthinkable, placing me outside of the square. Who knew you could be sexually assaulted with a giant lobster? Who knew you could rape yourself? Who knew you could be the filthiest person in the world?

photos by author.

To balance this out, I went full neurotic with Woody Allen’s pinnacle 70s and 80s films. I started with Annie Hall, realizing story structure and form, how characters balance out, charm. How to deliver a line and when to pause before a punchline. All things I carry into my own writing.

Every once in a while I’ll look at Hannah and Her Sisters or Husbands and Wives. For rainy days, I’ll watch Manhattan Murder Mystery for its lightness, its whimsical camera movements by Carlo di Palma, very Italian, rich in the film’s curiosity and taste for newness. We get an adventurous Diane Keaton whose comedic beats and stylistic grace charms us into believing she really is in the caper of a lifetime. With her rekindling relationship with individualism, passion and the desire to fit snugly in another part of herself, she truly is the only white woman I’ll ever love. ❤

photos by author.

I try to come back to these annually, when my head is a block too heavy. And when I revisit them, I think how much has come along, how many new thoughts have occurred and how many have crumpled out and died. I think of thunder, the monsoons that fill the weeks and wash out little futures, rethink habitats and people and which corner of the cafes I should hide in, write in. Worlds pass through me and I’m left to look at my life, let little moments slide down my father’s old abacus and count my blessings.

photos by author.

It’s why I often latergram. It means nothing to no one and it makes no sense to anyone, but when these moments filter down in clacks by the dusty fireplace on childhood Sundays, history makes sense when it sings in echoes. When I double-take late. When I think before I read and read before I think. A photo from years ago will be posted with a newness, a different kind of lens, different people at a different time.

photos by author.

Death in Her Hands is overlooked. Loses importance because we’ve become less spiritual. How can you not think about your existence constantly? I envy those that don’t, who can move their bodies from bed to car, from cubicle to bar. I can’t pass from place to place without my body interrupting the contentment I share with stillness. I’m a sedentary soul sensitive to any caution to the wind. I collect the cautions, overthink them into metaphorical tumors and ulcers, and they take shape in the strangest ways, narratives a part of me, but belong to the realer world.

photos by author.

PROMPT: Ask yourself: What rituals, objects, or tools inspire you to create? Books and notebooks? Art supplies? Paintings or photographs or post-its with a favorite quote? A playlist of music? Your softest sweats?

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