Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Something That Happened a Long Time Ago

I am not going to link this post on my Facebook or anywhere else. It is one of those things you want to talk about but you don't know to whom. Something you couldn't even take to a confessor because it's not clear a "sin" per se is what is being confessed.

When I was a junior in high school, one evening after a brisk walk and what I thought was a fit of inspiration, I wrote in one sitting a short story that I have for many years sat in bed wishing I had not. It's not simply that it was a bad story in terms of prose - I'm sure it was, as my prose has never been my strong suit. It was that I gave it to a teacher of mine, who I am to this day friendly with and who gave me plenty of encouragement in my writing, Mrs. J-- I'll call her, and the content of that story, as I came to realize the further I got into teaching myself, was so inappropriate a thing for any student to give to a teacher, literary mentor or not, that I thank my stars I was not called into the school councilors office the next day. I cannot possibly publicly confess what this content was - I will only say that it was in conception supposed to be something like Eliot's Sweeney poems, particularly this one, but conveyed in much more vulgar prose dialogue. 

I took my writing very seriously at that point, and it had come into my head that in literature, nothing should be forbidden. This isn't to say I was advocating moral nihilism at the time - on the contrary, the moral of the story was extremely Puritanical, and it was meant to be a story that conveyed a moral through what I thought was "satire". It is a very strange thing, satire, because it seems for the novice writer the easiest thing in the world - you depict something you hate in an exaggerated way, and are vindicated by righteous laughter. But good satire, and I have come to realize that there is in fact very little of it and much of what is taken for satire is merely expansive sarcasm, good satire is actually very hard to do because you actually have to understand how that thing is actually hateful in the first place.

There is no moral of this story, except for me personally. I think the only way I can every fully purge myself of the shame and horror of having written that story is to become a respected writer and win some big literary prize - or maybe even a little one, just something. I need to be able to look back and say, that was the silly juvenalia of a writer, something all writers have, rather than something uniquely, unendurably, and uniquely shameful.

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