Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: One Line, One Kill

I've written four short stories this month, or at least a good skeleton of four, and I've found each has at least one monologue followed immediately by an ironic one-sentence reply. For instance, this from a piece I'm calling “Physic:”

“The first great war was at Ilion, the fields before Troy. There the Greeks besieged the Trojans. It inspired sundry plays and poems, including the original European epic, The Iliad. Homer, Europe's father of poetry, lavished praise on the warriors of both sides, and began the long tradition of valuing war above all other things. The honor among combatants, the glory of success in battle, the beauty of death in fighting, the riches of victory – these things are sewn throughout all the cultures that speak a European language. Among the Greeks were the faceless Myrmidons, who Homer described as literally bloodthirsty. While other men were lions, the Myrmidons were wolves. They were the fiercest, most effective fighting force of the heroic army. The conquering army. Even when Achilles retired to his ship, they fought on. But if the wolves had retreated, the war would have been an utterly lost cause, and European history would have a far more interesting focal point: what happened to the great warrior wolf pack that left battle? What did they leave it for? What did they do instead of kill? The Myrmidons are dead, but the Last Wolves of Ilion still run. They are we, and we will not answer Agamemnon's call.”

“Who's Agamemnon?”

Stifle your desire to tell me how insipid the monologue is and notice this sort of thing seems to be in everything I'm writing these days. Checking short stories from a few months ago, I see it again and again. The phenomenon occurs multiple times in my novel, and its first draft was composed four years ago.

You could call it a bad habit. I've come to cherish this gag, partly because it can be actually funny, and partly because it's a biographical note. I've been dropping what I considered hefty knowledge and heftier thoughts my whole life only to have idiots ask who Agamemnon was, or asking if the U.S. wasn't a democracy, or worst of all, “Yeah, but…”

I've never met a “Yeah, but…” that I didn't want to shove in front of a moving train. Maybe that's what this habit is about. Not shoving those migraine-inducing questions onto the tracks, but reminding them that we are standing on a platform.

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