Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Writer Is A Liar

WARNING: Sugary Cynic has spent the last week or so in a state of sleep-deprived delirium that is starting to reach its apex. Also she's had to read far too much David Foster Wallace for postmodernism and then tried her hand at some very long-winded prose and is now talking about herself in the third person. How the hell did that happen? Anyway, here is some writings, they are long and they might suck. Read at your own risk...I suppose third person is at least better than the royal We, right? ...right?

A Writer Is A Liar: A Random Bit of Literary Spewing

A writer is a liar. Not even just a liar, writers are the best liars, consummate even. Because to tell a good story, you have to lie. It’s not up for debate, if you’re telling a story and you don’t want to put the room to sleep, odds are you’re going to lie. No story, no matter how truthfully fantastic, can work without a bit of tinkering, even if it’s on a purely subconscious level. Let’s say you went to the dentist, right, and the waiting room is this weird pale blue color like that blue-raspberry cotton candy that never tasted as good as pink cotton candy and when you actually see the dentist he looks a bit like Steve Martin. Kind of the same hair, a little around the eyes. And you think of that movie, Little Shop of Horrors, it was silly and so cheesy but it had Steve Martin as this crazy sadist dentist and he has this great song where he sings about how he loves inflicting pain and kicks a puppy and hey, your dentist just hummed something. Was it like the song from the movie? No, not really, sounded more like that old Johnny Cash song about the boy with the girl’s name but oh well. So you have a dentist who kind of looks like Steve Martin and hummed a snatch of a song that might have possibly maybe been the one from Little Shop of Horrors but was more likely “A Boy Named Sue.” Dang, you really wowed me with that one. Seriously, no one cares. That one guy even invented a place he needed to be right then so that he could avoid listening to you.

So how would a writer, a good one, tell this story? Well the pale blue wallpaper bullshit has to go. That doesn’t help with anything and actually makes me kind of nauseous because I always thought blue-raspberry cotton candy was nasty. Now you went to the dentist, ok, and this waiting room looks pretty standard except for a suspect stain on the wall near the door. It’s a faded rusty orange that almost looks like dried blood. Ridiculous to think about anywhere else but at a dentist’s office, well it puts scary thoughts in your head. So you finally get to the see guy and sweet holy hell, he is the spitting image of Steve Martin. But so what? Don’t worry, it gets weird. He’s priming his creepy dental tools and I swear to you he starts humming the dentist song from Little Shop of Horrors, the one actually sung by Steve Martin in the movie as the sadist dentist! Seriously, what the hell is up with that? I’m lucky I left with my lower jaw intact.

So it’s not exactly the truth. It’s sort of the opposite of truth. It’s like one of those candies with caramel in the middle, a candy-coated lie surrounding a gooey truth center. Except there’s two problems with that: now I want chocolate and no one knows what the hell Little Shop of Horrors is anymore. And people barely know Steve Martin for that matter. You need a better story, something relatable, universally true. There’s a girl, because there’s always a girl. I’d call it a cliché but like all clichés it is born of truth and the truth is that there is always a girl. So the girl is downtown one day with her friends. No, night, actually. Downtown looks so much better at night. And it’s cold, because for some reason I’ve always felt more things are possible when it’s cold. Like the time I stood outside and my breath fanned out in front of me, hanging in the air for an impossible amount of time and when I looked up I saw a shooting star that might have just been airplane but the story works much better if it was a shooting star I caught at the corner of my eye as I stamped my feet to stave off the chill. So the girl is downtown one cold night with her friends, taking in the shops and the noise and the crowds and the excitement that comes with just getting out and doing something, you know. Even if it’s something as insipid as window shopping, you’re still out in the world. The girl did in fact think window shopping was insipid, because that’s why she wandered off from her friends to have something exciting happen to her because what kind of crappy story are you telling if this girl adored shopping and she and her friends tried on clothes and gossiped and went home. That’s almost as bad as your dentist story, c’mon it’s like you’re not even hearing what I’m telling you. So this girl wanders off on her own because the gossip is boring and the dresses are so far out of their price range it really is just depressing. She meanders off to the fringes of the brightly lit center of all the shopping and noise and finds this store. A music store maybe and it would be great for her to browse old albums that she knows all the names of and suddenly look up to see the face of a boy who’s like her and left his friends who don’t know or care who David Bowie is and the second their eyes meet they know it’s important and new and amazing and that exact second, “Modern Love” by none other than Bowie himself is piped through overhead and this moment crystallizes in time to span a century.

But who the hell goes out and buys music anymore? A music store like that only exists in movies and memories of people quite a bit older than you. People see this and they know it’s crap, manufactured indie cred like a movie that tries to make you think if you search hard enough you can find these offbeat, oddball places and maybe but not in your neighborhood. Not a chance. Our girl instead wanders into a big chain store that sells movies and music and videogames and is on its last legs because there isn’t one thing in that store you can’t download for cheap. And she is picking through stacks of old Jackie Chan movies from when he didn’t speak English and did all his own stunts when a boy who maybe also appreciates pre-America Jackie Chan sort of accidentally-on-purpose brushes up against her to reach for a copy of Police Story, mumbling an “excuse me” and suddenly at that moment a garbled song is piped through overhead. It almost sounds like “Kung-Fu Fighting,” which would be pretty funny, given the situation and movie material being pawed through but she can’t quite tell and she looks to the boy and is all “is that Kung-Fu Fighting?” but he doesn’t seem to hear her and leaves and really this is where the story would end because she’s not weird enough to follow him out of the store but if you want a good story, one that if it isn’t believable is at least interesting, our girl, depressed a bit, goes to leave the store but the manager catches her arm and tells her not the forget the DVD, her boyfriend already paid but left it for her and that can’t be right but holy hell it’s Police Story and sticky-noted to the back (who carries around sticky notes?) is: Actually it was “Working At the Carwash” lol followed by a phone number. Crazy, I know. And the girl will run back to her friends with this incredible story but a few things will be tweaked, she and the boy will share several knowing, smoldering glances and it will have actually been “Kung-Fu Fighting” that was playing because it’s a better story that way and the only way you can make a better story is to lie.


  1. Brilliant! And so true...that is to tell the truth in a story by lying about it. It is how much of history is written :)
    Your story reminded me of a lit prof I had who had us read classic lit not just to analyze it but also to understand the author's state of mind as they wrote.
    Well done kiddo!

  2. I love you. I know I don't say it enough, but I love you like the dickens, me lass.

  3. Ron: Thanks :)

    Simon: D'aww :) I feels the love


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