Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Banged Shins from Texting Shopping Cart Users


When you exaggerate something, you are in effect putting your thumbprint on it.  To extend the metaphor to a more acute contemporary focus, you are investing the person, place, thing, event with a barcode of your own scale of variation from reality.

Things begin to get dicey when you reckon your own vision against reality or, indeed, your vision against someone else’s vision.  Idiosyncrasy creeps farther into the picture when you consider that fiction, which is supposed to be a depiction or evocation of life more or less has to be bigger than life in order for readers to be at all interested in the depiction. 

Characters have to be bigger than life even when they are represented as being average.  John may be an average guy, but if we look closely, we’ll see that somewhere along the way it was necessary for us or for his creator to have exaggerated his averageness.  John was more average than Fred, who was pretty average to start out, but has now lost something in the comparison.  Someone from the sidelines may argue if you claim John is smarter than Fred, accusing you of exaggeration. 

Your best approach is to dramatize a scene or two in which John and Fred are opponents in two or more different contests, something as dissimilar, say, as chess, where John more often beats Fred, and poker, where Fred is more likely to be tucking away sheaves of money that was once John’s.  This puts us back to arguing which requires the greater intelligence, chess or poker.  Are they not, in fact, representative of differing types of intelligence at work?

And here is yet another potential for mischief:  Do you in fact exaggerate more when you are describing  from Reality awful events or pleasant ones? 

Questions abound when the subject of exaggeration arises.  Such questions focusing on a standard of representation almost impossible to measure with any reliable response.  

All right, your longtime pal, Leonard Tourney, is six feet four.  Being a scant six three yourself, you are aware of Leonard being the taller, thus it is no exaggeration to say he is taller than you.  The only potential for exaggeration there would be if someone were to say he was considerably taller than you.

At last, we’ve got some standards to work with.  Two or more things—the number is important because of the potential for immediate verification of the representation—demonstrate similarities or dissimilarities.

Question:  How alike are peas in a pod?

Perhaps after hand shelling a thousand pods, you’d have a more informed notion.  When, after observing of two things,  that they were as alike as two peas in a pod, you might be challenged with the not illogical question of how alike peas in a pod are in actuality, you could with all √©clat present yourself as a judge on the basis of having investigated the peas in a thousand pods.  Silly may be an exaggerated judgment to make on someone who would set himself as an authority on peas in a pod, particularly with such a relatively small n-sampling.

You mean a great deal to me.

How much?

Lots.

Can you be more specific?

Thus a call for an exaggeration.

There are critical moments when, after asking for and receiving an estimate of a cost of a particular service or maintenance, we are presented with what we consider an exaggerated reality of a fee.  When we take a vehicle in for a regular servicing, even though we tend to have some idea of what the charge will be, we are on some inner alert for the news of a larger-than-quoted fee.  On the other hand, let’s say the original estimate is $175 and the actual invoice is, say, $127.50, we are suspicious that something has been  overlooked.  The final bill should be more than the estimate rather than less.

You are a firm believer in creating your own landscape in your narrative, even though it may be a city you know, a particular type of institution, or a specific local.  These say nothing of characters, which you may have based on actual individuals you know, but who are definite exaggerations to fit the narrative.  Your descriptions, at the least, are thematic exaggerations, set into place with the glue of your attitudes and experiences.

The standard joke  for the city where you now live is: “Many old people come to Santa Barbara—to visit their parents.”  Directly north of Santa Barbara is a former lemon-growing area, now an urban and suburban buffer between Santa Barbara and the sprawl the university has taken, and the college town, Isla Vista, that has evolved.  The joke of this town—Goleta—is:  What’s the difference between Goleta and yogurt?  The answer:  Only one has a living culture.

These are exaggerations meant as snarky elitism.  Your current joke for Santa Barbara, certainly parts of it, is:  A place where everyone feels more entitled than you.

Exaggerated as this may be—and in many ways it is exaggerated—nevertheless, it is the theme of your next novel.

When your shins get banged too often by a shopping cart, maneuvered by a texting shopper, you switch markets, or you write a novel about entitlement.

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