Friday, August 5, 2011

I Finally Watched the Documentary Bad Writing

I got tired of waiting for Netflix to add Bad Writing, filmmaker Vernon Lott's documentary about bad writing and imaginative writing generally, so I rented it on iTunes. Totally worth it.

The premise goes something like this: Lott, surprised to see just how bad his own juvenile writing is, sets off to find out just what makes bad writing so bad. He interviews Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, George Saunders, and other luminaries. He does not always do such a great job of conducting the interviews, but the revisions and self-doubt tie into the theme, you see . . . And actually it works pretty well. As usual with a post-Sherman's March documentary, the film winds up being as much about the process of making the film as anything else. And since a good bit of the film is also about Lott himself (and a good deal more is hinted at but never revealed--maybe for the best?), the amount of actual information about, you know, actual writing is--I won't say scant, but--not all that high.

But look, I didn't expect it would be. On camera, Lott has a bumbling, self-conscious appeal, and it was really great to see the writers--reminded me so much of grad school (which I liked, to be clear). I realize now, how easily you could do something like Dan Clowes' Art School Confidential for writers--oh the many types of writers. I kind love them all, even the poet in the stupid hat. Those are my people, as the kids used to say.

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