To the Breech once more

Who should I go after today? I re-read some of my posts and I seem to gripe a lot about what’s wrong with our culture. But Christ, somebody’s got to do it. Everyone’s so afraid of being politically incorrect these days that they’re afraid to state the obvious. Isn’t it possible to see the wrongs in our culture and comment on them without being cruel (unless they really have it coming). Which brings me to the subject of today’s post: retirees and middle-aged ladies getting in touch with their artistic side. Do us all a favor and don’t!

Where were all these people and their artistic urges back when they were in their twenties? Oh, right, back then, they were too busy getting in touch with their nice houses, the nice cars, the expensive clothes and vacations and living a nice comfortable life. They only decide to become artistic when they retire or get laid off or become empty nesters. Now they need a hobby and one that might provide them with a few extra bucks. So they paint schlocky paintings for the country club ladies or the interior designer set, and come and go speaking of Michelangelo. Here’s a common theme among them: After twenty-five years in the insurance industry (insert any occupation) I decided to return to my first love-painting. I took an art course as a freshman in college and loved it, but—and this is where the bull-shit starts. Look, I got no problem with these schmucks taking up a hobby, but keep it at that. You’re not an artist because you took a few painting workshops; you’re not even a good painter. Honestly, the hubris of the baby boomer generation never ceases to amaze me.

But you have to lay some of the blame at the society that not only allows but encourages this sort of thing. And let’s not forget the art galleries that exhibit this junk hoping to pick up a few dollars from the interior designers who in many areas of the country are the arbiters of taste and buy more than individual collectors.

I hope one day to write something positive about our culture. Maybe next time, if there is a next time. This blogging thing seems a bit self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing; don’t you think? Till next time-maybe.

On Writing

Here’s something I’ve learned: the best writers, the great writers don’t pepper their work with a lot of obscure or six syllable words. Instead, they employ a plain, simple language but in an unexpected and creative manner. The constant sprinkling of big or arcane words only gums up the works, gets in the way of what you’re trying to express.

Having written a novel and book of short stories has deepened my appreciation for the great wordsmiths. I get a kick out of the way Joyce or Fitzgerald or Wolfe (to name a few) can turn simple language into the beautiful expression of a thought or emotion without sentimentality.

And here’s something else for all you fledgling writers out there: quit trying to be so damn clever. In any art form, clever is never good and, like the use of obscure language, just mucks thing up. I sometimes look at these on-line literary journals and let’s be honest here; many are just glorified blogs run by recent grads with an English or creative writing degree who now work at Starbucks and need to justify spending thousands of their parents dollars on a worthless degree. “But Mom and Dad, I am using my degree; I’m editing my own on-line literary journal! Now, would you like extra sugar in that coffee?” Anyway, with most of the short stories I read on these sites, I can’t get beyond the first few lines.They’re trying so hard to be clever that they lose me before I can get started. A quote by T. Wolfe: “And it all boiled down to this: honesty, sincerity, no compromise with the truth–those were the essentials of any art–and a writer, no matter what else he had, was just a hack without them.” You tell ’em, Tom. It’s true in art because it’s true in life.

So to all you English and creative writing majors working behind the counter at Starbucks–quit trying so hard to be clever and start being honest and sincere. And quit trying to impress everyone with style or your vocabulary. Anyone can buy a dictionary. And style needs to evolve naturally, otherwise it becomes contrived and mannered. Try forgetting most of what you were taught in those classes. Then the next time some soccer mom orders that cafe grande latte mocha with extra mocha, it’ll be someone else serving it up. And if not, at least you’ll know you’re fighting the good fight. Till next time, muchachos y muchachas.