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Taboo Monkey Blue Blog: Writing on Writing

Taboo's critical literary discussions about Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse, T.S. Eliot, Flannery O'Connor, Franz Kafka, and many other authors. Links to full story texts and critical discussions.

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Dog Shnick Poet
06.02.08 (6:30 pm)   [edit]

Ralph at the HelmI was already in a mood when my hound made her deposit beneath a juniper bush. Diligently. I bent to retrieve her leavings in a thin blue bag - I always keep a roll of her bags tucked into a plastic bone that conveniently attaches to the handle of her leash, so, when we walk, I am never without a bag or two.

It is difficult, sometimes, to collect everything, especially when it is nearly dark. Thankfully, I guess, it is never completely dark here in Boston. It is nearly dark, and it stays that way throughout the night in the city's violet perpetual dusk.

In my squatting position, with my arm carefully inserted to the hilt inside the bag, with my back crooked, with my whole body stooped, I raked out all the blood and guts from the vicinity of my hound's dirty goods from beneath the juniper bush. In addition to my hound's contribution, I also found another dog's contribution, and to that sad old loaf was attached a memo note. Most of the note was obscured by the mess to which its fate was tied; however, the signature was clear: "I AM THE DOG SHNICK POET."

A week earlier, I successfully defended my thesis before a committee of my mentors. Since then, I've been in a mood. I'm not sure what kind of mood I'm in, frankly. Sure, it has to do with endings and beginnings. And student loans. My mood is definitely affected by student loans.

So there I was, on my hands and knees and scooping out old dog work, nursing my strange mood, when I happen to find some verse from the self-styled "DOG SHNICK POET."

I was a little offended, at first. I was not favorably inclined toward the DSP. No - not at all. Instincts told me the DSP had composed his poetry as a protest against poo. Against poo? Is that the best you can do? Your protest against poo is a protest against me, too.

Against poo?
Is that the best you can do?
Your protest against poo
Is a protest against me, too.

Yes against me, too, because all dog owners in da hood be bringing the hound around. And even though I was there, knees in the earth, cleaning the mud, I was implicated by the protest verse of the DSP.

DSP: what do you know about writing? What do you know about protest? Nothing, that's all YOU know.

Then, of course, I started to empathize with the doggerel composer. I mean, who IS the DSP? Like myself, he must have bent down, squatted, rooted around in the dirt, found some poo, and attached his thoughts to the lowest common denominator before anonymously departing into the nearly-but-not-quite dark summer night. His triumphs are small. His goals are modest.

And his words were soiled. I wasn't going to wipe off the poo, and thus his words remained unread, though I suspect they had something to do with creamed corn.  So it goes.  My hound caught wind of an uncut Scottish terrier, and it was time to go.

Copyright ©2008 Joshua Suchman. All rights reserved.
Taboo Monkey Blue Blog: Writing on Writing

Beginning and Transition
04.08.07 (12:08 pm)   [edit]

Road SignsBig changes. Everybody goes through one from time to time, or so we say. But what does your life look like before a big change? You're in cruise control. You're coasting. You're conserving your energy. You're trying to enjoy the scenery. You're allowing yourself to imagine how it would feel to drive on other roads. When you do drive on other roads, you're labeling the experience "a vacation," or "a trip," or "a break," or even an experiment. But all these roads take you back to where you started.

Big changes must be different than investigating a scenic detour back to your life. Doubtless, you've been following I-70 for too long, but sometimes you wonder what would happen if you went the other way entirely. One day you find yourself longing to steer your vehicle away from Exit 32, plow forward on 15 toward the Great White North. That would be a huge change. Cataclysmic. Disastrous. Absolutely wonderful.

Of course you're not going to take 15-N right now, not yet, you need to make your exit, Exit 32. But you will, one day. And soon, you tell yourself, because you can feel the truth inside you. Exit 32 and the comfortable roads that followed were nice, limited of course, but important; you needed to learn those roads before you could hear the sounds of the Real Road, the Road you were meant to take. All that is over, now. You've seen the light, you've heard the word. You'll never be the same, again - you know that much, if you know anything. All you need to do now is find yourself a new map, and then you'll be on your way.

You're remembering with fondness all those other monumental new roads you've taken in your life. Those were frightening, exciting times. Freeing. Startling. Wonderful.

Unfortunately, you're having a hard time finding a map of 15-N. You've seen such maps before, you're sure about that, but for some reason you can't find one right now. You're feeling a little aggravated about that, too, now that you're rearing to go and it seems like obstacles are doing their best to set up camp in front of you. But you're not going to be turned away from your purpose. So what if it takes longer than you'd hoped? Come to think of it, it's probably for the best to take your time. You want to be fully awake, fully conscious, fully ready for the day you find that map and ride 15-N directly to your destiny.

You're laying the seeds of plans everywhere. That Old Life of yours has become more imaginary than the one that's just around the corner: the New Life. And your New Life is so exciting! It almost makes you feel guilty, to be leaving your tired Old Life behind. It almost feels like you're abandoning all those static roads. No, you need to find that map for 15-N before you leave so you can leave a copy of the map behind. You won't need to feel guilty, then. Those people you leave behind can use the map when they are ready.

But you cannot find that map! Maybe there is no map. Maybe you need to design one yourself, though that makes you nervous. What if you get it wrong? What if you think you're heading to the Great White North but you're only doing loops around Omaha? How will you even know when you've made it to the Great White North? And what if you discover that your new thong bikini is useless in the Great White North? Well, you certainly wouldn't want to stay any place where your new thong bikini isn't welcome.

What if you're wrong? You're beginning to realize that altogether too much was happening in your Old Life for you really to find your New Life. Crazy: 15-N? Does 15-N even go to the Great White North? How could you let yourself become so entranced by some fantasy Road, that you lost all sense of reason? Wouldn't it have made more sense to try a couple of test roads before you let yourself get so excited? Wouldn't it be wise to drive along 15-N for a few minutes, just to see how smooth the pavement feels under your tires; after, you could just turn the wheel and drive back, just in time to return to trusty old Exit 32. That's the best way, probably, until the map you're looking for is found.

When you notice 15-N, when that road catches your attention, that's the Beginning. There is no other beginning. The rest of your life is the Transition and it doesn't matter in the slightest whether you reach the Great White North or not. Or, didn't you know that?

Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation.

The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.

But you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked.

Blaise Pascal

Copyright ©2004-2006, ©2007 Joshua Suchman. All rights reserved.
Taboo Monkey Blue Blog: Writing on Writing



Calvin and Hobbes Tuesdays
03.27.07 (5:34 pm)   [edit]

Calvin and HobbesTuesdays are the best days for Calvin and Hobbes.










Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson.

Taboo Monkey Blue Blog: Writing on Writing