I took a short fiction course at Georgetown a few years back. I hated my own writing and almost everyone else’s writing (but mostly my own writing) in that class. Georgetown breeds terrible writers because (1) aspiring wonks generally make awful communicators, (2) aspiring congressmen learn to pose in press release prose, and (3) college sophomores are an insipid demographic.
So earlier tonight I’m trying to think of great kid writers I met at Georgetown. I knew/know some good writers — impressive college op-ed good, you know? Not so impressive that I can actually recall any such Hoya op-eds offhand, sure, but whatever. It’s writing good enough for whatever argument you’re having at the time or whatever you’re feeling at that moment.
Jennifer Nguyen (llcooljen), though — when Jen Nguyen rocks a mic, she rocks the keys right. Read her blog. I feel like our generation has this very distinct voice: West Wing meets Gawker meets Kanye, all sorts of irony and aspiration and whatever rolled into a ____, burning slow. We’re jacking Cee-Lo Green and Ana Marie Cox. It’s good shit really, but aren’t you weary of cynical gibberish by now? That post-b-boy pose is mad stressful, no?
Jen is cool; her writing is diffident, but really she’s just honest. She says “goddamn it” every few sentences, e.g.
I saw the world in writing — a world of heightened senses and an attention to peculiarities. Mid-project, I experienced, processed, and saw everything in prose — when a leaf fell from a tree, I extrapolated some ridiculous life metaphor from it, immediately translated the appearance of the leaf into a series of adjective ridden, multiple clause descriptions. The color, the shadow, the sway and swing of its fall, the way it looked in comparison to the backdrop (and its respective hue). It was, by far, the most pretentious period of my life, yet the world is more beautiful when an experience is liquidated into prose (as opposed to tripping on a pile of leaves and thinking, “God damn it, nature. God damn it.”)
I get that authenticity is the writer’s buzziest schtick, but fuck the hipsters and the Caulfield quotes they rode in on. Every day, I’m reading articles, short stories, interviews, whatever, and I just want to know that someone isn’t trying to sell me their style — their effort to sound distinctly moronic so that no one will ever accuse them of being conventional. Writing is a convention. Experimental fiction, bite it.
Compelling exposition reads like:
When I was an elementary school student growing up in Houston, Texas, I wanted to be a Girl Scout. I wanted to see what the inside of the neighborhood club house looked like. I would later find out that it merely had four walls and an old, questionable couch rather than butlers carrying around decadent finger foods like corn dogs. Mostly, I just wanted to see what white people did on the weekends. The lone five or so white girls in our neighborhood were all Girl Scouts and they seemed to have Babysitter’s Club-esque fun. I would later find out that white people in Texas sold cookies, canoed, went to church, and voted for George Herbert Walker Bush.
I think I was about 10 when I asked my father if I could become a Girl Scout. My father, a Vietnam War Veteran and, thus, an embittered conspiracy theorist proceeded to tell me that the Girl Scouts was a large scale government operation whereby little girls sold cookies in an effort to fund and expand the United States military. Please imagine receiving this very serious exchange, conducted in Vietnamese, during your formative adolescent years. Suffice to say, I did not become a Girl Scout, but I did attend Georgetown University. Yes, those two are related.
From then on, I opted to sort of live the Girl Scout life vicariously through the consumption of their cookies. …
I remember reading Jen’s thesis. My former roommate, a good friend to Jen before I really knew her, read it before I even knew what it was about. He, if I remember correctly, kept nagging me to read it afterward, and so I did. Her work was a creative piece about her and self and herself and her parents and Vietnam. I don’t remember everything, but only because finals and my job search were both in full effect at that point in my life. Point is: her soul is too old for undergrad, her voice is too young for cynicism even when she pens it.
I’m serious. Go read her blog. I’ll end with that, lest an extended ode to Jen cramp her steez and creep her out. Homegirl is lost like the rest of us, but she’s confident where it counts: her pen game is on point. The ladies love her.