In the winter of 2012-13, on the brink of his 50th year, the author Dan Conover had taken just about enough shit from the people who know best.
And so he broke every rule that came to mind.
On one level, that might be the best summary of this book that I’ve ever managed to write. Because looking back at it now, I think the reason this book was just so much fun to write was the sense that the old rules no longer applied. If I could think of it, I could do it.
And when you’re writing a book in which imagination and action are quantum events, like the classic double-slit experiment into the nature of light, then there’s something nice going on between your subject and your tone.
Like most timid 21st century humans, I belong to the species homo obsequitur, the Man Who Complies. Admittedly, that does not appear to be the image most other people hold of me, but seriously, what do they know? Just because I regularly break some rules doesn’t mean I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to understand and follow them. It’s just that given enough time and alertness, you stop being contained by rules. If anything, you contain them.
And here’s an example: The rules say you’re not supposed to start a sentence with a conjunction.
I was raised around some great rule-breaking people. They didn’t have homes. They traveled around in VW minivans, hopping from one counter-cultural outpost to another. They didn’t watch TV. They grew their own food (and weed), fermented their own wine, made their own fun. They built stuff, fixed stuff, and generally delighted in fucking with stuff that other people considered unfuckable. They were spectacular bullshit detectors even as they mucked about with some of the silliest New Age bullshit you can imagine.
Like a lot of kids, I rebelled against my upbringing. Ran off, joined the Army. Got out, went to work for respectable little newspapers. I remember being excited by the prospect of wearing a tie to the office. Having a business card. I even bought a house in the suburbs in my early thirties.
But I can tell you the exact moment when my entire life changed. I was in the smoking room on the second floor at the newspaper in Charleston, S.C., and a couple of aggressively shallow senior editors had just stalked out to go ruin somebody else’s day. As the door shut behind them, alcoholic unhappiness trailing in their wake like the stench of a morning-after ashtray, it occurred to me that not only was everything they’d just told me a complete load of bullshit, everything on which those statements were based was also a complete load of bullshit.
And at that moment, I recalled those wonderful, wandering hard-ass truthseekers from my childhood, and saw myself through their eyes. Didn’t like what I saw, either.
From that day on, I stopped trying to fit in quite so much. I let myself think and even say things that I knew weren’t going to do me a damn bit of good. Two roads diverged in a yellowed smokeroom, and I took the one less covered in the same old phony shit. I don’t know that it’s made all the difference, but I’m certainly enjoying myself a great deal more these days.
So it’s a round-about trip from there to Another Goddamn Novel About The Collapsing Quantum Multiverse, but here’s the point: Even if there is a Very Large Number of alternate lives we could inhabit, here we are. Now, what are you going to do with it?
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