Usually I just post here to pimp something I wrote, or something I like. I’m generally happy with what I write. Immodestly, I give myself a B in a world with a lot of B- in it. I’m not rife with false modesty most of the time.
In this months esquire (I presume, I’m reading it online), Jason Fagone has a biographical piece on Jason Rohrer, an eccentric game designer behind a few very odd, and very smart games (notably, Passage). The topic is interesting enough, but the quality of Fagone’s prose just depresses the hell out of me.
It’s easy for me to get all hyperbolic about things I love. I’m inclined to go off about books and music and games and things I love. I want to share things that turn me on. All people do it. I do it a little more ridiculously than some. But Fagone’s achievement in this little, unassuming article is astounding to me. I don’t really expect people to get a kick in the gut from it the way I do. I think part of my “holy crap” reaction to it is because stylistically, he writes exactly how I want to write.
So every turn of phrase in this piece, every quote he expertly threads, every picture he paints is something I wish I’d done. I imagine it must be what it’s like when a college band guitar player accidentally stumbles on B.B. King practicing riffs while sitting on a park bench in New York.
The kicker, the real nut-busting gut check, is the final two paragraphs. After telling an intriguing and occasionally enthralling tale of Rohrer, his passion for games-as-art, his unexpected involvement in a Spielberg project, and his obsession with meadows (seriously), he ends with this (apologies for the big cut out):
Then Rohrer met his wife, Lauren Serafin, in Ithaca. She was just like him, the daughter of wealthy business owners, harboring similar dreams of escape. A heart exploded. They searched a Web site listing the food co-ops across America. They crossed out the co-ops in towns with expensive real estate and landed here, Potsdam, a place where they could focus on the experiences of their lives instead of their materiality, and where Rohrer could finally have his meadow, assuming he could make the people of Potsdam trust that this meadow was a legitimate and good and dutiful and logical thing and not some lazy indulgence, not a deadbeat’s excuse not to mow, not an eyesore, at least not to him, because he cared about it, cared enough to carve it out and defend it, fight for it, believe in its potential, this odd form of expression he had chosen to love–the weed smells and the insect noise, the butterflies, the berries getting ripe and fat and falling and staining the ground purple, the smell of the compost pile spoiling, the apples and peppers and banana peels dissolving to mulch.
Christ, can’t you see this? This lush green atmosphere dying so gorgeously all around him? And Rohrer with a laptop, sitting cross-legged in the dirt, inventing a new way of showing the world what it means to be alive?
Let me be clear: journalists do not get away with this. We don’t get to go all Faulkner and completely lose our objective distance and dive headfirst into the obsessions of our subjects. But Fagone does, not because he gets a pass (I had no idea who he was until an hour ago), but because he has set up such a carefully crafted piece of writing that when he hits the magic three-word sentence that triggers the complete OMFGness of the piece: “A heart exploded,” he can cross right over the fucking line in the sand and directly channel the passion and madness of his biographical focus and leave us with gigantic “holy crap” ending.
I hate Fagone because I could not get away with this. I can’t write the first 1500 words well enough to set up those last 5 sentences, and I can’t deliver those five with that kind of rocket fuel.
Fuck you Fagone. Now I have to buy your god damned book.