Friday, October 28, 2016

Story (ies) Time

I have been told, by people who would know and have no reason to lie to me, that when they read this dross that I befoul the internet with, that they can hear my voice in their head while they read it. I took, and continue to take this as a huge compliment. Not that I want to be inside anybody's head but my own (and even then sometimes I wish I could exit stage left from it), but that they know me well enough to let me take over the narrative voice that they (and we all) carry around with us. Hopefully, in your head there is only one voice providing the background narration to your life. If there are more than one, then perhaps professional help might be in order.

That narrative voice is important, it might tell you to remember to buy onions for the fantastic soup that you have planned for dinner, or it might tell you to go up to that girl and give it a shot.  Either way it should be your voice doing the narration. A madder than a March hare German philosopher by the name of Schopenhauer claimed that in all of human history there were only about 25 books that people should read. His theory was that when you read a book, you allow the author of that book to take over your narrative voice, and in part your way of thinking, That is a very over simple way to put it, but Schopenhauer was a fucking genius, and me, well not so much. It is that theory of his that I always think about when people tell me that they can hear my voice when they read me. It is a little scary, and a little bit of an ego boost, and gods know I need an ego boost (that ladies and gentlemen is what is otherwise known as sarcasm).

It is also a great responsibility to know that my vast readership of 4, maybe 5 allow me the privilege of taking over the controls, even if it is just for a little while. I don't even have to promise not to break anything. I try to at least entertain these people because of the trust they place in me should not be either abused or misplaced. I am quite certain that I fail more often than I succeed, but I hope at least that the successes are enough to keep my place in their heads. The stories I tell, even as poorly as I tell them, are designed to keep people entertained. I know I can't compete with the multitude of cat videos on YouTube, but I give it my best shot. I understand the occasional attempt to send a cat into space is much more of a draw on one's attention that the ramblings of a semi-literate, mostly drunk, fool with too much time on his hands, but seriously how many cats have to die (never too many) before we realize that jet packs strapped to their backs are a bad idea?

And it is those ramblings, those stories told with (mostly) good intentions that are the point of this blog. There is a fundamental difference between MY story, and my STORY. The former is mine, something that happened in the drudgery that passed for my real life, and with the name changed to protect the guilty, the innocent, and the damned, I relate to the best of my ability. That narration is easy, it follows the semi-logical lines of the actual real life event. Some embellishment is bound to take place, but in the general outline the story is true, or at least true enough to pass muster.  On occasion the story may wander off into semi-fiction, and that can sometimes be attributed to either a faulty memory brought on by took much alcohol, or a desire to spice the story up a bit to make sure people are still paying attention. The MY part of it is the important point. It didn't happen to my mate R______ who is probably under surveillance by all sorts of law enforcement groups (and probably the IRA as well), or my other mate N____, who is dodgy as fuck, or to Ladislaw, who is probably currently waking up and trying to focus blurry vision on the note I left that reads "you were brilliant, not-Alison says hello lover."

The second part is if something is my STORY. Meaning it is made up out of mostly whole cloth. A figment of my imagination, and I do have an imagination. Something that has almost next to nothing in common with the day to day drudgery that masquerades as my real life.  It is something that I try to make original, but struggle with that idea because I wonder if anything is ever truly original. It doesn't star any of my dodgy or not so dodgy (although they are much fewer in number) friends. The setting is not the shit hole town I presently occupy, nor are the names going to be the same (if I bother with names at all).  It is a STORY plain and simple. No real hidden meaning, because I am not that clever, and usually no moral because I am not particularly moral.  These types of stories are truly designed to exercise my imagination, and see if maybe I can move to Paris and slowly starve to death while living the Eric Blair dream of my childhood.

I am no great shakes at writing either type of the above dramas, and I am acutely aware of that shortcoming. It is a painful one to realize, but at least I don't delude myself into thinking I am the second coming of Charles Baudelaire.  However, a recent event has lead me to re-think my (limited) ability. I clearly came to this writing thing late in life, but then again so did Raymond Chandler. Age is not exactly as limiting to writing as it is to playing football, either the American kind or the real kind the rest of the world plays. That event was the reading of another person's attempt to tell a story. I was not exactly the intended audience for the story, nor do I expect the person particularly values my opinion(s) either about literature or anything else. Which is perfect because I don't value their opinion either. It is a relationship based upon mutual indifference with a dash of distaste. It is quite lovely in its own special way.

I obtained my copy of the story this person was trying to tell, and was appalled at the poor quality of the writing. At first glance, I thought that I had missed the first page because the opening paragraph (which is generally important) made no actual sense. I soon realized that wasn't the case, and they had started the story with an very awkward beginning. Awkward beginning are fine if you eventually grow out of them, like your teenage years. Sadly this story did not achieve that desired result. It started somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and proceeded to get worse.  The actual writing, I hesitate to sully the word style by calling it such, seemed to be written by a 12 year old. It was so bad, that I remarked that if a college professor of mine had read it, he would have written "shouldn't this be written in crayon?" at the top of the page next to the giant F and the "poor even for you" that generally graced papers that displeased him. It was abysmal.

That sin was bad enough to warrant this person being shipped to at least the fifth circle of Dante's hell, but it was then compounded even further by the content. Sometimes poor style can be salvaged by good content, it is a bit like the Ugly Duckling child's tale. Sure, the duck is bloody ugly but with a little polish it can be turned into something beautiful, or it possesses an inner beauty that shines through the not so pretty packaging.  This missive compounded poor style with the additional sin of poor content. The content had potential, much in the same way I used to have potential before I settled into the middling career with dodgy friends while living in a shit hole apartment that I currently occupy. It was potential that was sadly so far gone that it was never going to be realized. The poor style and the poor content were finally joined in the "poor" trifecta by the story trying to be something that it was not.  It was told as a "MY story" type of story, but it lacked the one key component that was required. It was full of outright lies.

Not that lying is a hanging offense, as far as I am concerned if you are going to lie you should lie with some degree of aplomb, and a fair amount of extravagance. However, this story was not a blog post, or the opening pages of the great American novel. Its purpose need not concern us here, but it was something that the MY was important to. This person, whom I can not allow myself to call a friend, had mixed up the MY story with the my STORY.  They had told, quite poorly, a STORY something that had not happened to them, but maybe to one of their dodgy friends (if they have friends, dodgy or otherwise).  Or maybe it had happened to some random stranger, and they overheard that person telling the tale of woe and regret on the bus. Making matters worse was the story was really supposed to be true, it wasn't a loan application or anything like that, but it was written in a context and to a group that you really shouldn't lie to (like the IRA).

It boggled my imagination that this person would believe that any right thinking human being would consider their story to be anything but absolute junk. I am not enough of a friend to this person to tell them, gently or otherwise, that what they wrote is donkey shit. We are all a bit touchy about our writing, and I didn't want to come across as just plain mean, but I was truly appalled. Both as a reader, and as, using the term very broadly, a writer. It takes a lot of courage to write certain things down and place them in front of the "world", but it takes a different kind of courage (maybe a more gentle courage) to tell someone who has tried to write a story, that the story is shit, needs to be completely trashed and rewritten, and that you really expected better from them (especially if the qualifications they brag about in the story are true). I can only hope that somewhere, someone (other than me of course) has provided this service for this person. My other hope is that somewhere, someone will do the same for me when I commit the same sin. I only hope they are gentle when they do it. 














2 comments:

Tissa Alt said...

Hello!
I`m excuse that I`m writing to you here (I`can`t find your email adress) and I`m sorry to trouble you.
I have seen your old comment about Stanislava Przybyszewska and Hillary Mantel`s book "The woman who died of Robespierre". As I know, you was reading this book at that time.
I`d like to ask you - do you have this book in word or pdf-document? Could you please share it? I can`t find this book anywhere, unfortunately.
My email adress is tmb2508@gmail.com
Sorry again and thanks in advance!

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