Monday, August 20, 2012

Followed


Before the advent of the Internet and its various social networks, the notification, You are being followed, meant something sinister, intriguing, perhaps even menacing.

Being followed in those days meant someone, often a man wearing a Fedora, was “shadowing” or “tailing” you, hopeful you would lead them to some information they sought or to keep an eye on you to make sure you didn’t get close to a secret they were trying to preserve.

Being followed as you drove meant in effect all the above examples, but by car, where you stood the potential risk of being shot at, rammed off the road, or otherwise inconvenienced.

If you were a character in a Western, someone who more often than not was either of a non white race or a mixed breed, implying those individuals had some preternatural ability to “read the signs,” which in turn meant you could not fucking get away.  True enough, even while you were believing in the plausibility of such abilities, you also wondered how they with such frequency allow us to get away with treating them as the did.  In many ways, those fears are at least mitigated by what you have come to think of as the revenge of the casinos.  Gambling on the res puts money in the pots/Slip it to the white man, use tight slots.

Now, the common use of the term, You are being followed, means someone with a self-published book about tofu or prayer is following your posts on Twitter or Facebook, which is not so much sinister as it is boring.

On the other hand, You are being followed is a reality that will not go away, and from which following, there may be the equivalent of drive-by shootings, which is to say acute embarrassment as a result of vulnerability.

You are being followed by everything you have ever published, a warning that might seem small potatoes relative to the potential for your vulnerability to be exposed, but it is not in fact the public you are concerned about.  You are concerned about you.

Not too long ago, a literary agent sent you a note questioning how you could have “let” which is to say “encouraged” a particular author to submit a particular manuscript, believing you’d been the last of your sort to have “signed off” on the work as ready to go.  The agent was relieved to hear you were in fact not the last of your sort to have had dealings with the author.  As for you, there was the matter of feeling a pang for the author in question, understanding all too well the urge to have a work worthy of submission in the first place. There is the second place, which is having the manuscript “at” a publishing house, a third place of that publisher saying Let’s roll.  There are fourth and fifth places, too, but the point here is that after a time, you will happen upon something and, taking the full hit, wonder how it was you let that work go in the first place.

Soon, as though it were wearing a Fedora or driving some sleek foreign car with shaded windows, it is following you. Rather, they, as in some of your habit words, are following you.  Sentences beginning with “it,” the over use of and to connect independent clauses, unnecessary adverbs, forgetful use of very.

Clunkers of sentences follow you; making you wish you’d taken greater care to “shake” them, because there is danger they will find you, then        begin tailing you yet again.

There is, to be sure, a wide verge, a sort of no-writer’s land, between compulsive hanging on and being followed.  This wide verge is also a place you find yourself from time to occasional time, wondering at the fortuitous confluence of elements during the days you wrote that particular whatever it was, causing you for a few moments to think you have some relation with language and thought, after all.

At the moment, you have completed a final proofing on the second printing of your most recent title, feeling a bit smug from the effect of having knocked off a few Fedoras of a few sentences beginning with one of your least favorite words, “it.”

Stuck somewhere in the middle of a sentence or, better still, sandwiched deep within a paragraph, it does not seem so bad, nor will one or two of those follow you about.

Still, a writer cannot be too careful.


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