Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Writing Well

Even I'll admit that I haven't been writing much lately. Fortunately, I'm not the only writer in the family. Max and Luke have been composing fiction. Let's start with Max's story:

Date: April 28, 2009
Name: Max

Once upon a time, there was a big pokey ball. And the big pokey ball one day hit the ground. And then it exploded. And then they made a new one. But it was different. It was different because the inside of the other one didn't have anything in it. And the other one, it had some stuff in it, and the stuff was metal. And this time, when it hit the ground, it didn't explode. It bounced up, but it made a big hole in the ground. And it made a BIG explosion. And it made a new cloud. And the man in it, in the crane that has the ball, he wished for a wishing diamond. And one day the whole crane got broken. But they made a new one, and it was blacker. And the other one, the ball went bouncing away. So they made a new one. And this time, the metal was darker. And this time, they made a face on the crane. And then they made an even better crane. And this time the crane had two balls. One was little and one was big. And then they made a new ball, and this time the ball was orange. And it was medium sized.

The End

Fine art both invites and resists interpretation. With Max's story, it's easy to get so caught up in the rising action and falling action of the plot that you miss the underlying symbolism. The crane as a Christ figure. The pokey ball as the symbol of post-industrialism. The man in the crane as a communist sympathizer. Indeed, the conflict between capitalism and communism is no less evocative than the battle between Good and Evil. Notice the biblical style. Replace "And" with "And it came to pass," break it up into new paragraphs, and add paragraph numbering, and you have scripture.

He even uses the King James trick of pulling an adjective out of one sentence and forming a second sentence. Instead of writing, "It had some metal stuff in it," he wrote, "It had some stuff in it. And the stuff was metal." No, concerned prigs and marms, that sentence does not need to "be tightened." It's majestic. It's emphatic. The metal is significant. Think about the metal. Ponder it. Revel in it, you sinning fascist. While doing so, notice the sexual imagery, and notice that the sexual imagery is underlying.

Like all art, Max's story is open to multiple interpretations. However, it's important not to get so caught up in critical conjecture that you dismiss the story. It is a story that is not real, but is reality itself. It does not mean, but is.

Now, on to Luke's story:

Date: April 28, 2009
Name: Luke

Once upon a time there was a horse. And it couldn't talk.

The End

I feel the same way about post-modernism that I feel about hip-hop music. When will this derivative self-parody be recognized as the fad it is and go away like disco? I don't want to be too hard on Luke, because he's a young writer with plenty of promise, but anyone can do that kind of thing. "Once upon a time there was a red wheelbarrow, and it wasn't glazed in rain water. The end." Please. I prefer his neo-post-Colonial fiction.