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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.’

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“Like teeth spilled from the sky’s broken jaw…”

I’m challenging myself to record one song each day this month, as a part of The MayDayChallenge. Here’s number one:

  • “Moldy Drywall”
  • Where the nail hung into / the moldy drywall
    I hung the icon / of the blessed virgin
    Her tears bled my breast / of its self pity
    No more will I succumb
    To the want of my impotent heart
  • I lay my back upon / the dusty hardwood
    My eyes found escape / through the curvéd skylight
    The lightning carved lines / betwixt the red clouds
    The earth drew the rain
    Like teeth from the sky’s broken jaw
  • Sleep crept toward me from / the furthest corner
    I turned my head to view / the encroaching shadow
    My throat offered up / an Ave Mary
    As the silt of forgetfulness
    Swallowed whole my dissolute self
  • In dreams madness swelled / with salty vengeance
    Rusted centipedes danced / on bleeding parchment
    I felt my lust and hate / gather hot beneath me
    My devils clamored
    While angels drained the pitch from my veins

More Writing Shop-talk (boring warning!)

Here are a few words that are on my rewriting “watch list”, which I try to minimize / synonymize in each successive draft:

  • Look
  • Just
  • That
  • So, very, really
  • Something
  • Said
  • Walk
  • Actually
  • Suddenly

These words (especially just) are used often in casual conversation, so they just tend to slip in when one is first ‘telling’ the story.

But writing, imho, should actually be a grade above the casual. Also, I’ve seen a lot of first drafts where writers use double modifiers on the subject, I.E.:

The stairwell sent him quick, dark echoes…

It’s a matter of taste, but I think that the second of the two modifiers should always be an uncommon word, or else the prose comes off as really, very predictable, or something.

Most importantly: while editing, concentrate on the tone and rhythm of the narrative itself, and let all the rules and such attend to it like servants.

If all we did as artists was follow rules, then this game would have long ago been over.

we are storytellers first, and writers by way of revision


“Being known is like a crumbling of my jurisdiction.”

I’m experimenting with merging music and fiction. This is the first in a series:

 

And for blogging points, I will include a new meme:


What Our Gravity Sustains (ballad)

Lyrics:

  • I’m feeling like the heartache
  • That you hide from me and that I hide from you
  • I’m feeling like the words we don’t wanna speak
  • ‘Cause both of us would rather fall to sleep than see this through

  • But I know we know we will wake up
  • Wake one day to realize our shame
  • Ain’t nothin but the bastard child of two dark stars
  • Both doubting what their gravity sustains

  • But as they spin they know they will blow up
  • And swallow every sorry stone that called them sun
  • It makes me wonder if our nova won’t one day
  • Wind up as the screensaver of a cheap desktop

  • But there you snore, and here I lay, sleepless beside you
  • Counting all the ways in which a man can be wrong
  • And thinking of the luckless loopholes that we’ve knotted
  • Way too tight to get free or give up

  • So I’m stuck with you
  • Yes I’m stuck with you
  • And by God that gives me peace