Tag Archives: artistry

Pretension VS. Ambition

(excerpted from A Resistance of Letters):

I find her seated in the pre-ordained bar, and say this place is a little loud. She agrees. We start to walk, find ourselves at the WTF Cafe. Funnily, I had worked here, long ago. For all of two weeks. The troll owner is not around—but over by the register I sense the residue of the prophetic homeless man, and I smirk. Rene asks what’s up. I ask her:

‘What is pretension?’

“Rhetorically?”

‘I want to hear your opinion.’

She leans back. Her asiatic eyes narrowing into bladed orbs. A couple weeks ago I took her out with Karl for drinks and he told her: “I want to fuck your mind.” She had got offended, and ranted about that later on, but in the moment she was quiet. She does have a voluptuous intellect, barely contained by her 90 pound South Seas frame. When she gets considerate, like now, I usually feel a tingling in my palms. She says:

“There’s the derogatory connotation, which muddies the meaning some. Like, you can be sincere and heart-felt, but if you have a developed aesthetic taste, then you will automatically be inventive with your expression of those emotions, and people might respond to that by calling you pretentious. Because they see your refinement as dishonesty—as a removal from “being real,” or as affectation. And so, by that yardstick, a poet is the epitome of pretension—his works being refined expressions of feeling.

“But that’s not real pretension. True pretension is acting as if you are something you are not, usually something better or higher or more ideal than yourself. And not only that, but you believe in that ideal self so much that you are out of touch, or deny, the lower or more “mundane” self. That is pretension: when your skill is disharmonious with the actualities expressed.

“Why do you ask?”

‘A homeless man once told me I would accomplish something… important. And I’ve always thought to believe him would be pretentious, but to doubt him would be foolish.’

“Well, I think I’m qualified to say you’ll be thought a fool regardless.”

‘Heh. You are, and right.’


Why is you so misunderstood?

Second person is like a second world country—overlooked and under-appreciated, and no one considers themselves to be one.

But what makes second person such a despised literary form? Well, in a story, this didn’t actually happen to you, and so you’re repeatedly reminded that it is a lie, a non-truth, a fiction.

Secondly, I believe there are difficulties with the rhythm of second person. “You” repeats too often, and there really isn’t a synonym for it. The “I” has me and mine, He/She has their names, but you will always have to be you. “You look about yourself, gauging the incline of the foredeck. Something is amiss, you think, but try not to dwell on your worries, turning about to find a lifeboat, then thinking about the others. You consider searching the hold for any stragglers, when a loud crack! shatters your concentration. Just then: the great white whale rises before you.”

The third drawback is when someone, in real life, begins talking to you in second person, they are basically upstaging your own interpretations and actions, and that’s patronizing and infuriating. And they deserve a kick in the shins until they return to speaking of themselves. Even the royal we is stronger than the you.

But—despite all this, I don’t think you should be dismissed out of hand. There’s something to be mined through the second person, especially if the you has a distinct personality, which becomes revealed through the trials and instances detailed in the stream of prose.