To Essay; a Short Story

I am  a poet, an editor, a teacher, a thinker, a human-being. I am what I like to call a lover of literature. I sometimes say that you have to love literature too much to love it enough–I like to say her for literature. Diatribes and tirades are my forte, a strength I acquired as one of several rhetorical strategies in my satire, particularly the Menippean form my satire takes, even if the traditional length might be eschewed. Here then is one such diatribe, although this particular one is a work in progress, for it is not complete in the way I would like it to be, and I have adopted a form I like to call the fictional essay. It does though say something of what the expositor needs to say, even if it is not entirely all that I would like to say. It does say it the way the expositor usually phrases himself, myself phrased as I like in the many voices of the many selves of this Self which I know to be a totality, I am we, as I have read and heard and said before in these and many other words. It was Milton from whom I heard it first–how many selves must there have been in Shakespeare, is in each of us on the many stages we perform on in our lives, this cosmos that is ourselves, that is I,me who I am when I am where I am however I might be with whom or without whom without which, what else . . . although this time the expositor does say that there will be revisions, necessary revisions in the near future–look for them. The Self is made up of many selves; a writer (and herein let’s assume that there is commonality between writer and author, although their social relationships, or their relationships to society might diverge . . . anyway, an author is made up of many narrators, many expositors, many lyric or dramatic  voices. Herein then is one such voice, one such expositor essaying his exposition, if you will, let it begin . . . to write in the form of an essay or not to write in the form of the essay for the purposes of writing fiction, what then must I do, must you the reader do to adjust your lens, your receptive apparatus in your mind accustomed to certain conventions of non-fiction and others of fiction, what is an essay and what is a short story, or what is a prose poem and what is a verse poem and how can the literary devices–are they devices–of lyric, of exposition, of narrative, of drama . . . of even film-montage-like descriptive passages in the course of the writing, how does montage in film merge with narrative in fiction, we could depart here and discuss, what is the novel, what is epic, what, what and more than these whats. I have in the past attempted to write silent film screen plays . . .)–what then is a writer, and if a writer, then a reader, even if the reader may be the writer in another role–how many roles in the character if reader can a person create, roles, characters–we must build a character.

I have met far too many educated people, themselves fancying themselves readers, not just good readers, but great readers, those they would count as lovers of reading; yet, as herein stated, there are far, far too many for whom reading is more superficially skimming the pages–and I do not mean that they are not (how should it be said) absorbing the factual information of the text, but for whom penetrating the text is beyond them, either because they have never been taught to (trained to?) do so, or they are in actuality so impossibly lumpen in their pursuit of reading that they could not penetrate to the other levels of the text if they desired it above all else in life. Attention to plot in the most pedantic sense of plot–or that sense which leads one to believe that plot is above all else the most important element in fiction; or that being able to list the details of what has happened is the greatest indicator that one has correctly (they would say) endeavored the text. I am not always certain of this, but do think of it from time to time . . . and if the Rangers do not beat the Blue Jackets tonight and clinch a playoff spot, they will likely lose the rest of their games and give the Red Wings or the Bruins hope of making the playoffs because without a Ranger collapse (or an Islander collapse, or one by the Flyers) both the Bruins and the Red Wings will not make the playoffs . . . now who is the expositor, you might ask, wondering this in texts that do not name the expositor, or the narrator when it is narration that takes place, might seem an appropriate preoccupation, but I tell you it is not appropriate if by appropriate we venture the necessary. It is not necessary for you to know who the expositor is or whether it is a man or a woman–you could, if you were bold enough and arrogant enough to say that by the diction in the text you could tell if the expositor were a man or a woman, but I disagree. It is also of no consequence if the expositor is a native born American or not, or whether this native or non-native were Christian, Muslim or Jewish. Is he or she Asian or no, is also not an appropriate question to ask? X could be his or her appropriate reference, the name X–however, it would be contrary to my intentions herein if I were to name–yes, name–the expositor by using the upper-case X, this in itself saying something other than the expositor having no name, which I am not saying. I am not saying he has no name, just that you do not know his or her name and that it is irrelevant if you know the name or not. I know I have said this before, in these and other words, other words I too have read from others who have commented on the same thing in the manner and matter of writing narrative and exposition.  Do you ever wonder who the narrator of a novel is? Do you confuse one for the other, narrator for author? How barbaric of you.

I do suspect that these readers read with an axe secretly or unconsciously (a latency, if you will, waiting to spring upon the unsuspecting) hate reading and literature and only read to examine and reexamine the factual details in the telling or the exposition or the drama, so they can point out flaws in the text. I have met far too many of these nihilists, these iconoclasts from the former Republics of the Soviet Union, most of whom are of a class of educated, irrespective of the level of education, who are convinced they know more than actually do or could and so continue to make one and another mis-step (or mis-Take) in their reading without ever realizing it. I have never met narrower readers in my life; and should I be bold enough to say that there are no stupider educated people from anywhere in the world than there are from the Soviet Union, as if their education system could have handled literature, the latter itself when great can only be opposed to everything and anything Soviet. There is no one I have met from the Soviet Union who does not imagine that he was savvy enough to have side-stepped the formative effects of the Soviet propaganda machine, even more extensive than that of the Nazis–many of the Nazis having been absorbed by the Soviet Union to help correct where both went wrong in their totalitarian schemas. Yet, how do I really know this, other than in the few examples–perhaps misfortunately unfortunate (or should that be inverted)–how does anyone know enough of anyone. No Russian from Russian, and I  mean Russian-Russian, knows enough Russians to say anything absolutely about anyone he might call Russian, certainly not enough of anyone who was not Russian,. ethnically Russian, but then this is what we do, and we do do this often enough when we talk in terms we judge to be positive. Positive stereotyping is acceptable, yet it is stereotyping no less than derogatory stereotyping would be. In fact, most of what I hear coming out of the mouths of black people about black people uses the same rhetorical forms and structures as those of racist remarks or diatribes. Positive stereotyping of black people by black people persists, as it does from most if not all of formerly oppressed groups, repressed when oppression was lessened or loosened. Most people from any people are monstrously full of shit when it comes to talking about their people, and that’s if the people are teachers, doctors, lawyers, professors, film directors, actors or comedians, but especially bus drivers, librarians, laborers, police officers, nurses, bookkeepers and construction workers, whether the people are black or white, Asian or European, African or South American, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Animist, Atheist, Shinto or Zoroastrian; shit, shit and more shit, streams of shit flowing from our mouths whether we are Chicano or Lakota or Canadian. You can imagine what I have imagined written said thought examined lamented, no?

What passes for critique among those who allegedly studied literature is heinous enough–you have to have known some like these in your endeavors at university, no?  But what comes out of the mouths of the average Russian speaker who was educated in Soviet Universities I cringe when I hear–and we still have residual prejudices that stem from the cold war against Russians, andmost Americans have very little idea what a Russian is or how many different peoples there are in the former Soviet Union who speak one kind of Russian or another, not helped by how full of shit many of the non-Russian Russian speakers are here and how willing they are to bullshit their way through or around American ignorance . . . too many Russian-hating non-Russian Russian speakers from one fucked-up former republic of the Soviet Union or another. Sapir once said that ideas need an infrastructure for them to accrete around, and too much of what I have as a foundation in the love of, the study of, the reading of, the writing about and the critique of literature virtually no Soviet university Student understands or can pause long enough for him to see if he can understand if not accept. When I say trite follows trite follows the insipid into cliches–it makes me sad in more compassionate moments. In others, I would seriously love to beat them with sticks. And I am talking mostly of the very, very pretentious non-Russians, just as the most pretentious and condescending French speakers in Paris were not the Parisians or other French-French, but the assholes from everywhere else in the Francophone world. The French in Paris I had no problems with; the North Africans were a pain in the ass. The same was true in Barcelona, Spain.

Ah, What if . . . the good ones, Plato reminds us, are the ones who are content to dream what the wicked actually practice. I know the pathetically insipid among America’s Protestant fundamentalists would disagree, and I do understand the transformation that  Christian ethics imposes on the ethics of antiquity . . . and I do understand that there will be too many who will read this and mis my points . . . as there will be too many who will miss mine–points, points and more points. I will continue this in time, revising as I go along. For the time being, allow this to stand in total for what I have felt in face of what I have always considered an affront to art, to literature, thus to Beauty and to Truth. Most of what I hear coming out of a non-Russian Russian-speakers mouth is either inanely positive in spitting back one or another received idea about literature, or it is a simplistic conclusion based in ignorance or resentment or arrogant condescension which always seems to follow the gross assumption that the person providing the simplistically arranged negative critique knows enough to be making such statements, an arrogance I find more prevalent among people from the Soviet Union than elsewhere, at least from among university educated. I guess I have also heard too many inane opinions about literature from the supposedly educated here in New York, and whenever a high school teacher found herself or himself in a graduate English class because they had to take some English literature classes as they were obligated to finish a Master’s degree, at least in teaching English, which so many of them did rather than complete the masters in English literature coupled with the appropriate number of teaching credits from the department of education, as if that were a discipline of knowledge–it is not. Lumpen brutish minds, all; the opinions expressed in class about literature and what they found disgusting about Whitman, for example were frightening. I have a blog where I vent my spleen, if you will permit me, I do love Baudelaire and regret never having made it to his grave, although I did make it to the church where he was baptized in Paris. So, beware your responses my hypocrite brothers, the internet betrays just how collectively stupid we really are.

The expositor is not alone. I am not alone. How could anyone who reads be alone? I can imagine though that there are too many people for whom the structure here will confuse them or confound them, and these will be people who will number themselves among the educated, many of whom will actually have completed a university degree at least at the Bachelor’s level. Pathetic, I can only say in response to how horribly degraded our common literacy has become, semi-literate or less parading around as literate enough for too long. So then what am I trying to say–to try is just what an essay does, is it not? To try is to trial, put on trial is to try, as in to try a case in court, which is exactly what those academic essays did, put the thesis on trial, no? Quizzes in French schools are called les essais, no? Where did I hear that, when did I imagine that I did hear that?

 

 

 

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