And a one, and a two…
July 2, 2007 § 6 Comments
Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.
You know, I think this might be the problem right here.
I have noticed that, as a general rule, the worst graduate students are often the best writers. Or, if they happen not to be writers, then they are voracious readers of fiction and therefore keenly aware of the subtleties of language. Because they can see the stars, they mistakenly believe that they can reach them, and worse yet, that they should.
It would seem that writer’s block is not only a failing of the ego, as Norman Mailer famously asserted, but an excess of it as well. Before we begin, we are already defeated by our own unmitigated gall. It isn’t nearly good enough to make the bears dance, even though that is all that the university requires. No, it is infinitely preferable to stare at a blank page for weeks on end than to risk a boogieing bear.
The thing is, it’s no small feat to get a bear to dance for three hundred footnoted pages. They are, after all, fairly lumbering beasts, who tire easily and are prone to long bouts of hibernation. In fact, I imagine that it would be quite an accomplishment to inspire a bear to dance, since, if it was up to the bear, it would be lunching on my entrails instead.
(Incidentally, I have it on very good authority that the experience of being eaten by a bear is only marginally worse than having writer’s block. But I digress.)
With all due respect to Monsieur Flaubert, I think it is well past time that we learned to love the bears. And so, I challenge the graduate students among you–and you know who you are–to polish up your kettles and set to banging. Just remember this: they won’t try to eat you until you stop.