Striving For Second Place
Welcome to robbneumann.com!
I"m sure you've played the "desert island game," right? If you knew you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only bring one movie... which movie would you bring? Which CD would you take with you? What book? Why?
It's an interesting question and I think we instinctually like those kinds of puzzles because it gives us a chance to figure out what we think is important and helps us determine what the people around us value. I like those kinds of mental puzzles myself, but over time, I've started to feel like learning what someone's second book, CD, or movie would be is even more fun. Or third. Or fourth.
My favorite movie is "2001: A Space Odyssey." I watch it at least once a year and enjoy it every single time I see it, but I'm not sure if I would want it to be the only movie I'd ever get to see again. It's too much to think about for more frequent viewings. There are too many big questions hidden in its prolonged battle of will between astronaut and computer. Having just "2001: A Space Odyssey" to watch would be too rich of an experience for it to be my only film, just like eating steak with every meal might be fun the first few days, but would get old pretty quickly (old and heavy). So, even if I really enjoy steak, I think I'd be happier in the long run with a simple bowl of noodles and pesto every day instead. As much as it would kill me to never see "2001: A Space Odyssey" again, I think I'd rather watch "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" every day.
I've been interested in writing for a long time and I think, like most would-be writers, I've entertained the idea that somewhere in me is the Great American Novel. Obviously, this idea might be native strictly to Americans, but bear with me for a moment. The thing is, as moving and amazing as "The Great Gatsby" and "A Farewell To Arms" are, I rarely want to reread them. They're beautiful and affected me deeply. They're almost sacred. I'm glad I've read them and I probably will revisit them again (I've read "A Farewell To Arms" several times), but I don't want to live in just those worlds. I would rather read "The Windup Bird Chronicles" or "Written On The Body" over and over again instead, living in those odd worlds, breathing in that unusual air.
It's not always about the best, greatest thing. Lessor things can be just as affecting and touch you in more manageable, but still powerful ways. Watching Dave Bowman grapple with his own morality, then transcend it as he becomes something greater is a powerful visual journey. And yet, witnessing Matthew's quiet, unspoken longing for Elizabeth as his friends and neighbors slowly get replaced by alien pods is kind of amazing too.
What does it mean to aim for creating something that would be someone's second, third, or fourth pick? Is it okay that I want to write a book that you wouldn't think of when its time to pack up for your extended stay on that desert island? I'm okay with being your fifth pick. Your sixth. It would be an honor to be your "oh, yeah..." when you revisit the question you discussed with your friends, late at night, and then still dismissed for something loftier after further consideration.