Take it off, Baby…But be Sure to do it Slow

Last evening was one of those rainy, semi-stormy times where darkness falls a little too early and the birds go quiet too soon. It was the kind of weather that inspires me to curl up with a good book. Unfortunately, it was also the kind that inspires me–once the curling up has been accomplished–to take a nice long nap. Since sleeping in the evening tends to lead me down the road to not-sleeping at night, I decided to watch TV instead, figuring the blare of the speakers and the glaring images would keep me awake long enough so I could go to bed properly later on. I watched a saved episode of Dr. Who (I never in a million years thought I would like that show, but I can honestly say I find it charmingly entertaining), and then started watching some new show on USA about a U.S. Marshall and the witness protection program. Halfway through the show I knew I wanted nothing more to do with it, ever. But, the ham-handed attempts at character development sparked an epiphany in me; novelists have altered the way they write. And I suspect–whether by example or as a result of accommodating to meet their evolving audience’s demands–television and movies have helped along this transformation.

This revelation came during a scene about forty minutes in where the tough-as-nails (but-with-a-soft-chewy-inside) Marshall preempts a broken heart by telling her groin-buddy that they’re nothing more than that. After proving her prowess at manly distancing tactics, she goes to her car for a private cry. As she quietly bawls, her reflective voice-over begins, and she tells us some people hide to avoid being killed, some hide so no one will see them, and some hide (and I’m doing a little encore performance of throwing up in my mouth a little as I revisit the rest of the line) so someone will finally prove to them they’re worth looking for. Yep. To keep our monkey-in-a-room-full-of-shiny-objects modern attention span, television has resorted to cracking us over the head with hackneyed metaphors in an attempt to reveal every single thing–conscious and unconscious–going on in the character’s head in less than one hour. And it seems more authors are now employing that tactic, psychoanalyzing the protagonist’s entire mindset by the end of page one. Our demanding, instant gratification society has given birth to a slew of plots filled with boorish gimmicks and unrefined pacing.

To me, this spilling of guts seems the most unnatural thing in the world, as if a potential new friend were to come over for a dinner party, sit down and say, “Nice to meet you, everyone. When I was five Daddy walked out for a younger woman and Mommy turned to the hooch. I felt abandoned and alone, with only a stuffed bear named Taco for company. But, Taco couldn’t make my PB&J, so I learned to rely on myself. Since everyone let me down as a child, I now find it difficult to relinquish any amount of control to anyone for fear of getting hurt, which is probably why most of my friendships and all of my romantic relationships ultimately fail. Would you please pass the rolls?” In reality, that sort of behavior would be enough to shock and mortify all in attendance. So, why should it be permissible simply because it’s done in the name of fiction?

It’s the difference between a strip and the burlesque. With a stripper, there’s no subtlety, no finesse. It’s all business and the vast majority of the action happens after all the goods have been laid out. No matter what acrobatic, gravity-defying feat presented us, the best parts are already out there. No more anticipation. With burlesque, however, the removing of the layers is the action. The end result is merely the culmination of the sensual unveiling of that which had once been concealed. It’s why they first called it a striptease. And somehow, many writers seem to have forgotten how to tease. Or, maybe they simply prefer the modern version of the girlie dance.

Me? I’ll take the burlesque any day.

As aware as I am of this phenomenon, I’m not completely immune to the effects of modern life. I’ve decided to slow down my brain and take a literary peripatetic journey; I’m reading Proust. He’s a bit extreme, I know, but extreme times calls for extreme measures–or so they say. I’m about twenty pages into Swann’s Way and kind of enjoying it. The pages-long paragraphs have yet to bother me, so that must be a good sign. At any rate, his meandering writing style ought to help downshift my gears for a while.

By the way, I’m getting the impression Proust was on drugs. Maybe opium? I say this only because I’m pretty sure no one not on drugs would ever think that Tetris-ing one’s body into the shape of the objects in the room could inspire the recollection of the location one presently occupies.

About Avery

I am a roller derbying, dark fantasy author. This blog chronicles my adventures in life, writing and skating. View all posts by Avery

10 responses to “Take it off, Baby…But be Sure to do it Slow

  • Avery DeBow

    Sqt — See, I’m the opposite. I try to insert meanings where none should be.Christina — Saw the video. You were very laconic and un-squirmy. Congrats.Barbara — A license to have a TV or to watch it? Unfortunately, I do love my boob-tube.

  • Barbara Martin

    I agree with Charles about turning off the TV. In fact, although I do have a TV I don’t watch anything on it except DVD movies when I need a change from my writing or reading other bloggers.About 9 years ago I went to London, England to work, and while there I couldn’t use a TV because one needed a license. I couldn’t get a license because all the available licenses for the street were taken. So, I did without the TV for two years. Now, it’s not such a big thing to miss out on whatever is playing. (It helps with the writing as there is more time to do that.)

  • Christina

    I’m suddenly not so surprised when I hear an author was on drugs. I flipped through Stephen King’s book on writing and he was on drugs too. Guess what! I finally got my eyebrow pierced. I filmed the whole thing and it’s on my blogger. Yikes, right?

  • SQT

    I am so literal that sometimes I don’t mind the obvious explainations. I don’t read between the lines all the well much of the time.

  • Avery DeBow

    Yes. But, X is also a freak.

  • Anonymous

    X likes it when they blurt it all out at once. X also skips to the back of the book to see who’s still alive at the end.

  • Avery DeBow

    Lana — I don’t know all that much, either.Steve — I remember hearing something about asthma and it’s potential for having been totally psychosomatic. He sure does have some Momma issues, though. Wow.I’m sure it was pedestrian back in the day, as well, but the instant analysis was so much more charming when Shakespeare did it.”The Wire” is on HBO, isn’t it? I don’t get the good channels, so I’ve yet to see it. And, I like it when you ramble, ’cause I ramble. Self-other agreement and all…Charles — You’re so right. I watched the Golden Compass last night after finishing the book a few days ago (I won’t watch a movie adaptation until I’ve read the original work. It was okay; the book was better. The book is always better.

  • Charles Gramlich

    I do know Steve is right about the Self-analysis dating back to Shakespeare at least, but I think that TV and movies in this day and age have done so much to destroy the craft of writing. Even TV I like sucks when it comes to all the qualities of good writing I appreciate. I really wish the world would just turn off the idiot box for a year.

  • Steve Malley

    Not sure about the drugs, but Proust had a work ethic the rest of us Gen X’ers can only envy: He only ever got hired for one job, wrangled a ‘sick leave’ before he even started and stayed sick for so many years (YEARS) his employers gave up. Man was like the Godfather of Slack!He also spent most of his life in a little cork-lined room (to block out the light), sleeping all day and writing at night. The Godfather of Slack was also some kind of proto-Emo…Oh, and that ‘instant analysis’ thing is at least as old as Elizabethan theatre. Within five minutes of meeting him, Iago steps down to the front of the stage and explains to the audience what the fuck his problem is. No wonder it feels shopworn!Worst part? You just know, *know*, there’s a writer out there chortling over his new TV script, saying to himself, “This is GREAT!” Asshole.Good writing? The Wire. It’s ruined me for all other cop shows.And my apologies for running on so long…

  • Lana Gramlich

    I don’t know anything about Proust, but I agree with the rest of the post.

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