Saturday, February 9, 2013

When to Trash

Everyone who writes throws a great deal of his work away and so it must be. For my part, I trash a good number of posts because a topic which at first seemed of import or humor turned out to be dull. Often too I'll find an article or observation disagreeable, but in dissecting find it better than I thought. Destroying your work is a humbling and edifying experience, though, for doing so requires you acknowledge a failure of execution, conception, or perception. 

Yet there exists a special moment which will always tempt the author to exceed himself. The time is when he, certain of his writerly skills and canny mind, fishes for the extraordinary in the realms of the mundane. Whether there exists a muse to inspire the necessary insight or whether the Chestertonian talent can be taught or inherited, I know not, but the gift is much sought and seldom found. Still, though, this moment of unbridled confidence is not the author's most perilous. That moment comes when he finds a trivial detail which reveals, so he thinks, something grotesque about one of his enemies. How many writers, people could resist such temptation? 

Not enough. This week the bards of the internet stepped forward to squelch any remaining faith in humanity by discussing the artwork of former President George W. Bush. Please note I describe the discussion as faith-squelching not because no one ought to look at the paintings, surely the activity of any former chief executive is worth a momentary gander, but because they're unimportant. They don't reveal anything about him, the nation, or life. So why talk about them?

There is, I think, a desperate desire to resurrect the relevance of George W. Bush because he stirs up strong, positive feelings for many people. Yes, positive. The left prefers to remember a time when they took principled stands against corruption over sinking into the soul-sucking silence of their present sycophancy. The right remembers actually admiring a president (wisely or not) and having their guy in charge. A depressing situation to say the least. 

A good example of just how sad is a piece like this. The liberality I expect and pass over. Not every citizen of every republic wants the executive to return Cincinnatus-like to his farm. Too I ignore the lowly style with its inattention to euphony, rhythm, diction, and tone. Even the cheap shots don't irk me too much. We all have our moments. 

What gets is the grasping, the groping after any and every way no matter how trivial to eviscerate the man. When I read them I don't see vindication or validation in the heart of their author. Instead and with an audible voice I hear her saying, "I miss having principles. I miss feeling like this is right." She loathes Bush like an ex-lover, and like a tempestuous but authentic relationship she remembers it more fondly than the mire of compromises, half-truths, and excuses she's concocted to preserve the image of her new fairy-tale romance.

So maybe I was wrong about when writers should trash their work. They should save and print it all. You never know when they'll reveal themselves. 

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