Saturday, July 7, 2012

I'd Rather Be Eating Cheetos With Hannah Horvath





Now that Season One of HBO's "Girls" has finished, how will I live without its creator, writer and star, Lena Dunham's quick-witted dialog every Sunday night? How will I live without her overly personal, too-true-to-life scenarios?  Come to think of it, how did I EVER live without "Girls?"

I particularly relate to lead character, Hannah Horvath, because she is a writer. In "Girls" we see her as a struggling essayist, doing things like working on a book called "Midnight Snack" and attending the book release party of her former classmate who Hannah proclaims is a horrible writer.  But the lowest moment of Hannah's writing life is when she bombs at a book reading where nobody relates to her essay or even her feeble attempts at breaking the ice with jokes. She leaves the reading feeling embarrassed and socially misunderstood.

As a writer in my early twenties, I didn't have a Hannah in my life to commiserate with during my lowest writing moments.  I was the youngest member of my short story writing workshop, and I created a character named Iggy who was the same age as I was to keep me company.  He was an antisocial punk, and I brought him everywhere and stayed in character all the time.  During the class, all the students had one twenty-minute break.  Everyone went downstairs to the lunchroom to network and to have coffee.  But I always chose to stay in the empty room alone, eating my small bag of Cheetos and drinking a can of Welch's Grape Soda as I read an extremely good collection of VERY short stories called "American Short-Shorts." 

Because of the personal nature of the stories we brought into class to workshop, there were very few male participants, and the ones who did attend could have been straight out of an episode of "Girls."  There was "Wench Man," who referred to all women characters in his original stories as "wenches"; there was "Abomination Man," who when asked to comment on a story during the one and only class he ever attended had no comment except for: "I think that writing fiction in present tense is an abomination";  there was "Sci-Fi Man," who attended every single class yet never brought in a piece of his own until one of the very last classes where he was condemned by some for bringing in a polished sci-fi piece and for not conforming to the purpose of the class which was to workshop your raw, unfinished stories each week WITH the group; and finally, there was "Reba McIntyre Man," who used to frequent the record store I worked at and had asked me if he could please, PLEASE, have the life size, stand-up, cardboard display of singer, Reba McIntyre, which stood near the Country Music Section.  I remember carrying that silly stand-up (which was taller than I was) all the way from the record store and through the turnstiles of the subway where we had agreed to meet so I could give him the stand-up.  It was Reba McIntyre Man who also gave me some crushing news after which I really could have used a friend like Hannah Horvath to lean on.

For some background, an older woman in the workshop had brought a piece into class that she said was a short-short. When we went around the room, she got all positive reviews until she came to me. I said I liked her story but felt that, in my opinion, her short-short would have fared better as a traditional short story and not as a short-short which is a very difficult format to write in. I knew this because I had been extensively reading the "American Short-Shorts" book that featured stories by writers who excelled at short-shorts. About a week or so later, Reba McIntyre Man ran into me at the record store and told me that this particular woman had just thrown a party and invited everyone from the entire class except for me!  Even Sci-Fi Man had been forgiven and invited, and so, years later, it makes me wonder:  Should I not have been honest about her story?  And if this had been an episode of "Girls," what would Hannah have done?

I thought back to the episodes and recalled the one where Hannah goes home to Michigan and sees her college friend perform at a club as a singer and dancer for one final time before the friend packs up all her things and moves to California to try and make it in show business. Hannah tells her date how horrible this girl's performance just was, especially considering she's planning to uproot her entire life and move to California when she really isn't that good!  And of course there is the book release party episode I mentioned earlier where she continues to harp on about the awful writer who wrote the book. She criticizes her best friend, Marnie, for buying the book because it's written by such a dreadful writer!  I know, in my heart of hearts, that if Hannah had attended my short story workshop, she would have given that woman the same critique I had.  After all, I was just being honest about her piece, and if she had listened, I could have spared her many years of rejections and of wondering why all the magazines had never accepted any of her short-shorts!  But that's okay because, again, I know that Hannah would have done the same thing that I did and have not been invited to the party either. Instead, Hannah and I would have hung out together that night, read magazines, ate her favorite cupcakes, my Cheetos, and had a Party of Two.

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