Monday, 10 August 2009

Literary Smart-Arsery

Just a modest, literary oddity that I knocked together at work today. Enjoy...

Every story, so they say, should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Well, not this one. No, sir! Why, the very prospect of being bound in such a prescriptive strait-jacket is, and should be, anathema to the creative artist. I refuse to be shackled in the stocks of literary dogma, to suffer the bombardment of stylistic presumption, hurled from the prosaic hand of the cosseted mediocrity. This story shall have no beginning. It shall be bereft of middle. It shall most certainly be wanting for conclusion. Only in this manner may a true visionary, such as myself, achieve the rarefied echelons of artistic endeavour that the gutter-dwelling journeymen might dream of, if only they were able.

And do not make the mistake, humble reader, of thinking that already I have stumbled unwittingly into a swamp of contradiction, for it is not so. My intellectual rigour remains steadfast. But have I not, the dry-lipped pedant might smugly point out, already denied my tale a beginning, while at the same time submitting one in the form of the previous paragraph? Ah, my dear fool. That was scarcely a beginning. It was merely a prelude, or an preamble. It was a foreword, or a preface. Or at the most some species of introduction. A beginning it was not.

Semantic quibbling, our bureaucratic friend might smirk, and even if he has a point, which he does not, it is academic in any event, since I have already decided to erase the previous two paragraphs before final draft. This radical manoeuvre will ensure that this work remains, as it was always intended to be, a cocked snook in the face of the emotionally moribund establishment. I maintain that this work shall not have a beginning, and am prepared to adopt such vicious self-censure in order to stay true to this guiding principle. And if my tireless critic musters the energy to look up from his soulless ledger one more time, and points out that the erasure of the previous writings does nothing more than to promote the current paragraph to the status of beginning, then I shall look him firmly in the eye, and inform him solemnly that even if this tale does have a beginning, as he so tiresomely insists, then this only redoubles my conviction that it shall definitely not have a middle or, Heaven forbid, an end.

With some dismay I see that, in my desire to quell the trivial objections of my detractors, I have let this tale meander rather further than I should have liked. While you will gladly admit that such precautions are laudable and entirely necessary to facilitate the maximum appreciation of my work, it is with a heavy heart that I once again hear the reedy voice of my adversary. I see his long, pale finger crooked in objection, and his face spitefully gleeful in the candlelight. But I am not done with yet. I know what he is going to say. He is under the impression that we have already, unwittingly, reached the middle of the story, and once again I must address him.

You may well find, should you take the trouble to scan to this end of this piece, that we do indeed appear to be at a mid-point, or meridian, insofar as there is as much text already gone than there is left to go. But oh, weary cynic, does this define our current position as being, if we must use a dullard’s phraseology, ‘in the middle’? What, after all, is a ‘middle’? I notice our nimble-fingered correspondent reaching for his dictionary, doubtless as a precursor to the mutterance of some stultifying ‘definition’. Perhaps: Middle – the part right after the beginning. If we are too give any credence whatsoever to such joyless literalism we may as well rip up our notepads, burn our libraries, and cast our literary aspirations upon the heavy pyre of industrial monotony. Are we to let the clerks and book-keepers dictate our creative trajectories? Need every sparkling fibre and strand of our imaginations be tallied and totalled by some insect-like civil servant?

If a definition we must use, then I would infinitely prefer something a little more suitable for our needs. Perhaps: Middle – the part right before the ending. And now we see we are no longer in difficulty. An imperious twirl of the artist’s wand, and grumbling logic vanishes as if it were no more than old smoke. Since this story has no ending (and positively will never have one), there can be nothing to precede it. Therefore, only a fool – and here I risk at glance at our beetle-brained critic – would suggest that our current position could ever be described as a ‘middle’. No sir, we are cast adrift, free in the sea of narrative, naked against the elements but all the more exhilarated for it. It is a sea that stretches forever. It has no beginning and no middle and no end, and the whoops of those who find themselves tossed wildly on its choppy waters are the cries of men who are free at long last from the tyranny of tradition. It is a wonderful place, a liquid desert of peace and hope and liberty. An endless oasis of wonder. A paradise.

But wait! Humble reader, do you sense as I do that we are not entirely out of the woods yet? Do you feel the presence of the pedant, as like that of the trapdoor spider, waiting with endless malevolence, somewhere in the darkness? I fear that, despite the heights we have reached, this ink-penned predator will make one last attempt to drag us back down. There is only one thing for it. It is time to bid our farewells before he has a chance to strike. And I should like to thank you, the unquestioning, for accompanying me on this journey. For allowing me to lead you to places that you may not have known existed. If it has been your honour, then so also has it been mine.

And now, hasten, before it is too late! Already I feel the cold jaws of rationality grinding around us. Once again, farewell! I shall face my foe alone, and no matter what spurious mendacity spills from his lips, I shall know the truth. This isn’t over. It can never be over. Just as there was no middle, there will be no end. Not here. Not now. Not then. Not then. Oh Lord, give thy subject strength…

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