Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hey, kid, get away from that paragraph! The shouting elders.

Back in the days when you had shed your cocoon and had begun to become aware of the increasing number of outer things to study, things such as grass and flowers and trees, which could yield such succulent surprises as sour grass to chew, snapdragons to play with, and the Ceratonia siliqua tree which produced the remarkable snack of St. John's bread, you were increasingly aware of elders whose mission in life seemed to be intoning "Hey, kid, get away from that_____" filling the blank with an appropriate noun.


This awareness of shouting elders came at a time close enough to your learning how to read that you cannot say for certain which came first, the warning or the reading. No matter, it is a certainty that until this very day, March 9, 2010, you had not conflated the two, the shouting of warning or the learning to read.

Many paragraphs in your life--entirely too many--had that built-in tone of voice that conveyed "Hey, kid, get away." In a sense, you are now traveling back to your youth, a whimsical sort of Captain Nemo, going under the surface of reality to such exposures to those two wimpy kids, Dick and Jane and their wimp dog Spot, as in "Look. Look. Look. See Dick run. See Jane run. See Spot run." In comparison to some of the paragraphs awaiting you through grammar school and what you had come to consider a death camp, junior high school, Dick and Jane and Spot were an idyll. After all, they did get you through the vocabulary and verb tenses. And yes; it is true; the "Hey, kid, get away!" voices that inhered in all those dreadful paragraphs of all those dreadful text books did move you inexorably toward the notion of constructing your own goddamned paragraphs to do with as you damned well pleased, which more often than not was to construct a story in which something of consequence would happen to someone of some consequence to you.

Equally true, there have been equivalents of elders and contemporaries telling you the equivalent of "Hey, kid, get away." to your paragraphs and stories, but these have imbued you with a stubborn determination to mostly plod forth, hopeful of shedding that youthful outer coating of rebelliousness merely for its own sake, the teen- and twenties-years surliness, and those tendencies linking admiration for other writers to a path that was more derivative than you might have wished.

Your paragraphs have a goal in life, a mission they hope to realize. Each of them that goes forth is much of a piece with an actor, who has been waiting in the wings for a cue to enter, delivering not only a series of lines and a logical vector but an attitude, a voice, a presence. Your paragraphs are, without having articulated it as such before, wanting to steal the entire freaking scene with their presence. This has nothing whatsoever to do with delivering the punch line of a joke or a "J'accuse!" indictment but rather the entire package of meaning, feeling and presence that contributes along with the other paragraphs to delivering a story that in its turn fills the reader with its presence. Your theoretical, metaphorical paragraph is synecdoche personified, the long arm of the law, the American Olympics team, the part standing forth as representative of the whole.

Go, paragraphs!

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