Letter Day 103: Esprit de corpse

February 8, 2009

Did you read this shit: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/02/02/skydiving.death/index.html

How messed up is that kid going to be?

Baffled in Burlington, On


Plenty, BIBO…plenty. How boring is the rest of this kids life going to be in comparison?  How do you match the excitement of plummeting earthward at 200 miles a hours in a malfunctioning parachute, trying to steer the busted tarp one handed, whilst a freshly corpsed colonel whispers  the secrets of the dead into your ear. You’ve essential cheated death and taken a life your first time out of the box: you would need to perform an abortion while jumping coyote gorge on rocket skis to get the same kind of murder sex thrill. You could strangle two orphans, while hanging from a failed coaster safety harness, mid loop de loop, and still not match the intensity of that initial Thanotic rush.

I give that kid six weeks before he’s shooting heroin and throwing tombstones off busy highways overpasses.  It’s what I would do.

*****

I need some titles for children books I plan on writing someday down the road. I find it easier if I start with the title and plot accordingly. Can you help a brotha out? I’ll mention you in two forwards and a endnote.

Judd McKenzie


That is not really my area of expertise, Judd, but I will give it shot.

Try these on for size:

Antoine the bedazzled ocelot: a tale of fashion furpaws and animal cruelty

Lisping ponies get shot

Rimjobs: the specialest kind whistling that only mommies and daddies can do

Ricky NoParents and the picnic of sorrows

Fractions for factions: the Jihadist guide to imperialist mathematics; Death to America edition

Rainbows are great.

*****


You seem pretty dependant on the “Like” “As” and pre-fixless metaphor crutches. Why do you feel the need to compare things so much? Is it so hard to just say what you mean?

Alton Benis

Baltimore Public school system


I don’t know, Alton. I suppose I just love the boozy inclusiveness of a good metaphor; the way it wraps an arm around the big ideas and walks the worst of the heavy off.  Without them, matters of consequence can only be discussed by liars and the immensely patient: and I lack patience.

For instance, saying: “Bad sex is like putting on too small boots, in a burning building, in the dark” covers a lot of ground, and is colorfully ambiguous enough that the listener can fill in the details from personal experience: you are not trying to explain, you are trying to evoke. I’m rarely trying to hammer a point into someone’s head; I just want to layout where I’m at, and let them find their equivalent locality.

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4 Responses to “Letter Day 103: Esprit de corpse”

  1. sulya Says:

    My understanding (though high school English is a long way away at this point) is that typically when one uses “like” or “as” one is engaged more purely in simile than in metaphor…

    Metaphor, as I understand it, seeks to compare or make parallel two things with the tangential happening of blending them somewhat while simile tends to leave the meaning of its two parts in tact – seeks only to compare them and through their juxtaposition evoke a whole new idea…

    Thus simile would be: “Bad sex for a woman is like being confused with a light switch, a radio and confronted with the rhythm of a backfiring car.”

    The metaphor might be: “It was as though her lower half had become a light switch, her top half the dials of a radio and that all switches and dials of her person were being played upon with all the delicacy of a backfiring car. This was very bad sex indeed.”

    In the former, there is just comparison – in the latter, her body has become something new, a strange combination of things.

    In my opinion Valliant uses both simile and metaphor very effectively and is able to communicate meaning, invite participation and pathos, more clearly than most people who bother to shape words into sentences for pleasure.

    More importantly, how can we ever “just say what we mean” when we are describing feelings or the ephemerality of experience – should we even be self-aware enough at all times to know what it is – without it sounding like a grocery list?

    He could simply have said, “I have had bad sex.”
    “I love toast”
    “I enjoy being irreverent and un-politically correct.”

    And while there is certainly a place and time for that sort of blunt clarity – there is very little art in it if it’s the only note we play… Any utopia built on this dream of always “saying what we mean” without the benefit of either simile or metaphor would send me to an early grave after suffering a series of crippling strokes hot on the heels of binge-drinking and the over-eating of incredibly fatty, sugary foods and gnawing on leather in wanton despair…

    But maybe that’s just me…

  2. sulya Says:

    Hell (Yes, I am more worked up about this than I expected, perhaps it is the low-grade fever I am sporting at the moment) – there would be no such thing as sympathy or empathy were it not for the power of “comparisons”… “Saying what we mean” doesn’t mean f-k all if the person we’re talking to doesn’t understand what we mean and has no frame of reference from which to grow that understanding… Okay… I think I’m done now…

  3. Mary Land Says:

    “you would need to perform an abortion while jumping coyote gorge on rocket skis to get the same kind of murder sex thrill.”

    You just tanked the world market for rocket skis and coat hangers with that sentence. Congratulations. I guess?

  4. Pollyanna Says:

    I just read a very entertaining car review; I was reminded of this BE entry by the following section:

    The Honda [Insight’s] petrol engine is a much-shaved, built-for-economy, low-friction 1.3 that, at full chat, makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner. It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.


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