September 19th, 2008

Writing Ballistically

I notice that I use the word "reward" in my Hilbert post, almost casually. That word could demand a whole thread unto itself. What does the reader get of value from having read? Should the author worry about that?  There is the "commercial common sense" factored in somewhere for the writer who makes a living at it, but there is something deeper also.  All writing, perhaps especially fiction, is a measure of the writer(I avoid the word "man" even though the alliteration beckons). All writing is also subtle, whether, intentionally, brilliantly, or merely unavoidably, banally. Every piece of writing is a piece of ethics, and a sentence is like a bullet shot with varying degrees of accuracy in the direction of truth. The reader athlete chases these bullets down hoping some of them will lodge in his heart.

Cornering the Truth

There is another school of course, that all writing is telling lies artfully. That idea only partially obscures the issue, because truth must be factored back into the word "art" somewhere.

I do have sympathy for the idea that "the more one says, the farther one wanders from the truth."  Using a map analogy, once one is at ground zero, one should know enough to shut up.

I remember hearing or reading somewhere something like.  "Well, I had the truth cornered once for about 5 minutes on January 9th, 1953, but since then I haven't got a clue."

Imagined continuation: 

Well, I found the truth lying in a corner of my abandoned study, the old study no bigger than a closet, the one I boarded up the week after I unintentionally backed the car over my favorite cat .  I'd left all my current projects there to moulder as well.  The Truth was dressed rather nattily I thought, or perhaps tastelessly, as I am no judge. It seemed drowsy.  Drugged, napping, who knows?  The Truth definitely  was pinned down however between an old vhs tape player and a book case. Maybe it was starving? In one hand it held Kant's Critique and in the other hand an old Benny Hill tape. I wondered if the Truth were best kept dead or alive, settled on the latter, and opened, as much as possible, the room's one small, almost painted shut, window.  A breeze lifted dust as the room freshened. The Truth's eyes focused a bit and it requested a mirror, but before I could fetch one, the sound of a good humor man's jingle was heard from outdoors. I looked away briefly, and then, when I turned back, the Truth was gone....