How Lana Del Rey Taught Me To Love My Tired Words and Wild Kingdoms

Right after my book sold, my agent asked if 55,000-65,000 words sounded good to me as a word count in the first step of negotiating my final contract.  In my head, I was like, "Girl, how many pages is that?" but I hate feeling like I'm some kind of big old dumb dumb so I quickly replied that this would be totally manageable and like, I could totally write more as needed. And this week when I surpassed 30,000 narrative words written that amounted to more than half-formed ideas and a handful of orphan metaphors, both of those things were still true. The artist at work.

But the other truth is, for the most part I don't know shit about shit and had absolutely no concept of how many words 55,000-65,000 really is in the context of a book. And because at my freelancing peak, I was publishing 4-6 stories a week that  came out to about 10,000 words total on average, I was like, "Shit, I'm going to finish this book in like a month and then go smoke cigarettes and wear leather in fuckin' Paris for the fall!"

La Tour Eiffel, etc.

But what I didn't take into account was that my freelance work is not thematically linked nor is it going to dwell inside a bound physical object that people invest more than eight minutes and zero dollars in. I produce at that volume to accommodate the metabolism of social media, not to live on someone's bookshelf or in their Kindle as a single work threaded together by well-established themes. I want people to want to share my book with their mom in a way I don't expect them to with my stories that have titles like, "The Dickonomics of Tinder."

As I worked on multiple essay drafts at once, I became acutely aware of my tendency to repeat the same metaphors and turns of phrase. As it turns out, there are just not that many fucking synonyms for "fragile" and "clumsy" can be used to describe everything from foreign words mixed in with one's tongue to the way a particular kind of woman stands still. Worst of all, I discovered some latent interest in restoring the monarchy because I want to describe everything (fucking everything) as some kind of kingdom. Wild kingdoms! Tastefully appointed kingdoms! Kingdoms in the valley of the shadow of death! It was like that time Oprah told everyone they got a car except I was handing out like, land and castles and standing armies.

Just as I was prepared to give up hope (not really, but this story needs an arc), I found deliverance in an angel.  Her name was Lana Del Rey and she cannot stop repeating herself to save her goddamn life.

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An article in The Verge about the lyrical universe of Del Ray reads:

To be a fan of, or even just have a healthy interest in Lana Del Rey is to enter a world and mythology every bit as dense and geekable as something by George R. R. Martin. Since breaking out in 2011 with her langorous first hit "Video Games," the aggressively self-styled singer songwriter has gained legions of fans, many of whom are inspired and egged on by the foggy relationship between her lyrical truths and biographical facts. Blue hydrangeas are the dizzying Carcosa-spirals of Lana Del Rey fandom.

I was like, "You had me at dense mythology and aggressively self-styled and foggy relationships!"

A guide at NYMag from 2014 actually delves into an exhaustive guide to how much she repeats herself. Like, girl cannot stop talking about Elvis or her own death or blue hydrangeas or America or dads ( in all their glorious forms). Here are four gifs that kind of sum up her catalog nicely:

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I mean, Lana Del Rey is problematic as hell but her music doesn't sound like something coming from a one-trick lyrical pony. These references create history and texture, placing her songs  in the ecosystems of her evolving but persistent obsessions and the sustained physical presence of certain objects. When you think about it, it ends up seeming strange that other artists aren't repeating themselves as often. Are there environments so fleeting, their moods so fleeting?

Now, I am well-aware that pop records are not essay collections and that my mileage may vary. I do believe in rigorous reflection on word choices and that I should actively expand my linguistic horizons. But I am also the most consistent presence in my book and if I related to the subjects and people I explore therein in the language of magic and monarchy, then it would be dishonest to go pillaging in the depths of the English language and shoving clever metaphors into stories where they don't belong.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to write another 10,000 words in time for me to make it to Paris in the fall because even though she loves America, you can just tell that Lana is secretly French as fuck.

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Me and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Just Chilling'

So it is NOT infrequently that I feel like a terrible swamp baby for having the career I do, writing sometimes incendiary and exhibitionist things on the internet while I still have living parents. Bless their hearts, they still think I hung the moon. BUT, I always get a suspicion that their friends and my grandparents don't fully understand that I actually make my entire living as  a writer because they aren't as familiar with freelancing and think you're either smokin' cigs over a typewriter at The New York Times or you're NOBODY. Well, lo and behold, the tables have turned. readers digest mentionThere on the left corner of a page in READER'S DIGEST, I am quoted on the same page as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Reza Aslan who wrote an interesting but academically 'meh' book about Jesus but got yelled at about it on Fox News so is famous, and ROSEANNE who was cool on TV but is maybe a monster on Twitter? Willie Nelson is on the opposite page, probably high as fuck.

Reader's Digest is where grown-ups go to know what's hot and cool and relevant. And well, that's me motherfuckers. That's me and my clickety clacking on the internet until this book I'm writing comes out. Buy it, its made of paper and feelings and fame!

The Millionaire Matchmaker Told Me I Can't Marry Zayn Malik and All I Got Were These Amazing Gifs of Myself

It has been two months since Patti Stanger came into my life and tried to crush my dreams. Until now, I was too busy chasing that paper and taking a lot of selfies with my cat to really reflect on her advice to me. Turns out, it was some ridiculous noise about how I need to stop being "unrealistic" about marrying a member of One Direction and straight-up lies like, "Finance guys are great. They have a future and finance guys make plans, because that’s what their job is." Yeah, they make plans to work themselves into early heart disease by working 90 hour weeks punctuated by cocaine binges wherein they blame Obama for their growing irrelevance instead of their crap job performance. Fortunately, I got some siiiiick gifs of our time together that I would like to share now:

Alana laughing at the idea that I would need to babysit the likes of Harry Styles and Zayn Malik, who are not just men but gods(dot gif):

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Alana explaining how she dyed her hair (dot gif):

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These gifs taught me a much more important lesson than Patti did:  I have a great laugh and my gesticulation is on point. Now that Zayn is free of One Direction, he can plural marry me and Perrie Edwards and we can defy all the naysayers and do each other's hair and use our money to go anywhere but the Strip House that Patti recommended.

Later Zayn

After spending the last few days devouring defenses of teen girls who love One Direction and crying with recognition at the innocent fun and joy the band brings its fans, I have only a few thoughts about the value of boy bands, particularly in the lives of girls. At a time in life when boys are often behind girls in maturity and girls are aching for partnership and romantic understanding, boy bands are the avatars that serve as stand-in boyfriends when peers won't cut it. They love the objects of their affection deeply and without condition. The reality is often that the boy band members are actually a fair bit older than the teens and have carefully polished responses that awaken teen desire but they fill an important gap in the lives of girls who crave more than the sexual and fleeting attention of their peers. Zayn Malik seemed to be a gentle, sensitive person who would make an especially great boyfriend for young girls because of his profound love for his female family members and his commitment to his girlfriend turned fiancee (though that's been called into question lately.) He is also preternaturally beautiful and damn if the boy doesn't know how to dress.  It is understandable that he will be missed. We'll miss you Zayn, we hope its not goodbye forever.

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