Friday, May 13, 2016

Is Poetic Justice Another Term for Irony?

You first heard the expression "Biter, bit," from a dapper-looking high school creative writing teacher who wore double-breasted suits ever since he'd manage to lose and keep off sixty pounds he had absolutely no use for. 

He said you seemed to write "biter,bit" stories one afternoon when he treated you and another wannabe writer to chocolate milks at the drugstore directly across the street from Fairfax High School.

Every now and then, when you are in Los Angeles, you mean to drive past the intersection of Fairfax and Melrose to see if the drugstore is there, perhaps even find a place to park and see if the drugstore still has a lunch counter, thereupon to complete yet another of many cycles in your life, of orbits having been completed, of what once went around coming one more time around. 

In that sense, Los Angeles is filled with such places for you to drive past, a sentimental journey, a return to a place where a memory or vision first appeared. But such is the nature of Los Angeles that it grows ruthlessly, bulldozing, rebuilding, paving, tunneling into its and, in consequence, your past. unearthing glittering heaps of irony. There is story to be had whether you return in the present moment, of driving the writer's vehicle of curious reverie.

Biter, bit, which now sounds like a novel involving mad dentists, is a concept which in your case does manufacture more thoughtfully developed incidents and events sometimes referred to as story. One of the great shortstory writers of the twentieth century, John Cheever, often used it, now that you think of it, Someone who has taken large bites out of the world about him or her is suddenly confronted with an unthinkable prize or targets or temptation.

The expression biter, bit is a neat, two-word trope for karma, being hoist by one's own petard, which, until you found out what it was, you wanted to own one of, for the simple reason that you liked the sound of the word. Petard. All it means is a fucking device, a bomb. Blown up by one's own bomb.

Although you still use the expression, you've come to favor the longer, more ironic trope, "Taking great aim at his target, he shot himself in the foot," of the more reductionist "Shooting one's self in the foot," both of which pay off on the creative writing teacher's use of biter, bit, the perpetrator perpetrated upon, the shooter, shot. 

Hello and welcome to the world of PJ, which even Cliff's Notes recognizes as poetic justice, and since you are on the subject of the biter, bit, and the often ironic ways of poetic justice, there is in fact a time when you were paid by Cliff's Notes  to substantially revise and add study questions to a title of theirs delivering to the reader the substance, implications, and relevance of a novel you'd not yet read. Thinking back on the experience, you can say with some emphasis that writing the Cliff's Notes study of the novel gave you a leg up on the novel when you actually read it.

In all the ways in which biter, bit exemplifies karmic justice or poetic justice tinged with irony, you see in yourself a cadre of characters, of men and women in effect auditioning for roles in the concepts that light up the interior regions of your brain pan, urging you to go ahead, develop full stories in which these individuals may participate. 

He or she who does is done to. This is good information for a writer to have about the work he wishes to engage and, to the self or selves he cannot avoid engaging if he wishes to have any shot at succeeding.

You could ask what succeeding means, but you are fearful this will turn out to be of a piece with the revelation that petard is often an exploding device, one that blows up in close proximity of its creator.

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