Saturday, January 10. 2009 Finding Myself on the Web

Googling oneself — masturbation or just another way to say: I’m a self-indulgent narcissist?

I was awaiting the results of the 3-Day Novel Contest as though it were a biopsy, obsessively searching out all links that would help me decipher when the winner would be announced. Jan Underwood, who previously won for Day Shift Werewolf , said in a podcast that she got an email New Year’s Day which made me question the veracity of the Contest’s official Tweet.

Before 11/4, I was constantly bouncing from Huff Post to Wonkette, Politico and of course Nate Silver, as though by visiting often enough, I would influence the outcome which would be determined based on the number of hits (Luckily this may have been the case). Afterwards I applied the same magical thinking to the 3-Day – like it might increase my chances if I checked the website and googled early and often. (Except of course the Election delusion was shared by millions who wanted the same outcome whereas with the contest every one of the 500 suckers who paid their 50 bucks wants to win.)

I kept thinking about how my life would change if I won, how the novella I’d submitted might be really good, how there was almost no chance of marketing a novella unless I won, how I’m destined to never win anything, how the producers of Who Wants to Be Millionaire just weren’t that into me and I never got my shot to sit in the hot seat across from Meredith, how I showed early promise but let it slip away and time is running out and maybe HRT would be worth it even with the cancer risk…

And there I was distracting myself on the Internet. Out for a metaphorical drive past a place I used to live. It’s not surfing. How the hell is it surfing? It’s driving. It’s aimless driving with free gas on a highway with infinite exits. I typed my name, Pogo (the name of a story I’d written over 20 years ago – my entire published oeuvre) and The Quarterly (the legendary literary magazine in which it was published – known primarily because of its famous editor.)

Previously I’d done this and brought up links to used copies on Amazon, maybe Powell’s and a blogger or two who was looking for old issues.

But somewhere on the second screen there was this:
• [MS WORD] Undervisningsbeskrivelse
Fra The American Way – an Introduction, (Prentice-Hall 1984) Kearny and Crandall, The Rugged Individualist artikel. Marion Stein, Pogo, The Quarterly 1989 …

Danish is sort of like English with extra syllables, plus enough of the doc was in English for me to figure out that it was some kind of syllabus and in a unit entitled: Nature versus Man, in a course with readings from Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Arthur Miller, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, there I am – or rather there’s that story I wrote so long ago featured in a literary mag that featured writers who were also up and coming but unlike me, actually arrived.

Google translation clarified that it was a secondary school. The document was to let parents know what the kids were reading. ¡Fijate! — as they say down south. How did the teacher even come across that story printed twenty years ago in a magazine with a circulation in the thousands?

I found my way to the school’s website and the personnel page. There was a thumbnail of the teacher – graying curly hair, forties. But I imagined her in her twenties, maybe during the gap year that those social welfare types get, trekking through Asia with various friends and lovers. In Chiang Mai, she stays at a backpackers hotel run by a German and his unstereotypically assertive Thai wife. Her friends are out hiking, but she’s getting over the effects of some bad seafood or maybe Ecstasy and sits the day out. There’s a bookcase with free exchange and a rooftop patio with comfy chairs and a startling mountain view. Nothing in Danish except Lonely Planet, but that’s okay. She loves English literature. She picks up a weather beaten copy of The Quarterly, Issue 9 and starts to read. There are a couple of pieces she really likes, so she holds onto the book and it makes it’s way to her home. She moves a few times and it always winds up on her bookshelf. Then one day in the late summer before the kids come back to school she’s working on the curriculum for her English class and comes up with an idea. There’s a story she remembers reading years ago that would fit in. Where was it again? She goes to her shelf and picks through several English language anthologies. Oh there it is! Oh yes, that will do.

So it isn’t exactly lunch with Scorcese and a discussion of my screenplay. It isn’t winning the 3 Day or even getting my shot on Millionaire, but it’s something. Somewhere out there, this story was floating like a note in a bottle and it was found, and miraculously, I found out that it was found, and in a moment of everyday despair, I was rescued.

God I love the Internet.

BTW, I emailed the teacher to ask her how she really got the story and why she picked it. I’m waiting to hear back.