Sunday, February 27, 2011


For no real reason, I submit the following piece that I wrote back in 2003.  This was for a short fiction class led by Laurie Weeks, self-styled rock star lesbian feminist writer who contributed to the screenplay for Boys Don't Cry.  Well, she was pretty cool, I guess.

The prompt for this assignment was to consider how other people perceived us, or how we wanted others to perceive us, and then to introduce ourselves as though from the perspective of a fictional other person.  As was typically the case, I didn't follow the prompt exactly, and so my piece actually revealed practically nothing about me.  Unless you think perhaps the narrator is actually a stand-in for me . . . .  (He's not.)

* * * * *


Just the other day, I met a most remarkable person in class.  The fall quarter had just begun, and I, in my third year at UCSD, found myself in the position of being a recently-declared literature/writing major.  I had been making steady progress as a linguistics major previously, but I eventually found that linguistics bore no interest for me, so I simply gave that up, because, after all, my time and talent were precious, and I could see no sense in wasting them on anything I didn't personally care for.  Meanwhile, I had already been taking the lower-division writing series to fulfill a general education requirement in humanities.  The writing classes did amuse me, so, following my estrangement from linguistics, I chose to lend my abilities to the writing department a while longer.

Returning to the topic at hand, I happened to meet this remarkable kindred spirit in one of the upper-division writing courses that I had, for this fall quarter, enrolled in.  This man was, evidently, a writer, like myself.  Now, it would be natural to simply assume that, in an upper-division writing class filled, not so surprisingly, with writing majors, one might find oneself surrounded by, at the very least, the writing elites of the local sub-community, but, generally speaking, I have found that this is certainly not the case.  Rather, most of the students in these classrooms are little more than trained gorillas, with a knack only for mimicry, lazily emulating the most boorishly irreverent yet sensationally sentimental material that manages to shock and confound its way into official favor.  True, a lesser ego could easily find itself drowning in such a homogeneous sea of perverse ambition, but the true writer is one who stands firm and unbreakable against the withering waves, aspiring to be unique, and better, rather than the same.  So it was that I came to notice this man, who stood out from the crowd, a fully-formed human, like myself, apart from and infinitely above the endless puddle of primordial ooze that so bitterly resented us as it still indignantly maintained its defiance of evolution.

As I listened to him read from his assigned "life story" piece about his declination of a high school counselor's juvenile offer of pseudo-wisdom, I alone could simultaneously infer from his account that he possessed an uncompromising soul that truly made him the same as me.  After class, I made sure to follow him, which was easily done, since he walked so coolly and methodically, unlike everyone else on campus who simply raced maniacally from one destination to the next.  I soon caught up with him and wasted no time getting to know him, although, of course, I already knew and understood him quite well, I thought.

As we proceeded to walk, side-by-side, I began by asking him how his parents were.  He turned, briefly raised one eyebrow, and then replied that they were just fine.  That brief moment of hesitation before answering undoubtedly confirmed, to my delight, that we were indeed kindred spirits, for I too hated my own parents.  Having established that we were the same, I felt comfortable pursuing more serious discussion with my new friend, so I next asked him what he thought of the writing classes.  He curtly responded that he was having some amount of fun with them, though he still wasn't sure where exactly these experiences stood in the grand scheme.  Naturally, he also wanted my opinion, and I told him exactly what I thought, about the gorillas and whatnot.  He gave a few subtle nods and seemed to form a mild grin.  Perhaps he had doubted before the existence of another writer in this world, but I could tell now that I had definitely impressed him.  He had to leave shortly afterward for another class or some such thing, but I am certain I will be hearing much more from him in the time to come.


Sam Kahn said...

How'd this go over in class?

Henry said...

Aheh, well, for some reason, the professor really liked it. After returning our papers and opening up discussion for volunteers to read theirs aloud, she finally asked me specifically to read mine. (I was never going to volunteer myself.)

This was right after one girl had read her very funny piece in the absurd vein of Leslie Nielsen's work. It was a tough act to follow, but at least everyone was in a good mood when I started. Then, as I got going, the room got dying, and, like a romantic evening gone rough, then gone ugly, it was as though I had strangled the breath out of the room. It was pretty well gone somewhere around "primordial ooze," with the exception of one audible snort when I got to describing myself as walking "coolly and methodically."

When I finished, there was no reaction at all, as though nobody was sure whether what had just happened had really happened, if it wasn't still happening. The professor finally broke the silence by asking me to repeat how I had described the material we had studied in class.

I responded, "I believe the narrator described it as 'the most boorishly irreverent yet sensationally sentimental material that manages to shock and confound its way into official favor.'"

(In case you're wondering, the exact piece in question was the short story "Peter Shelley" by Patrick Marber, about a fourteen-year-old who loses his virginity to the sound of the latest Buzzcocks single.)

"And is that what 'the narrator' really thinks?" she asked.

"I don't want to speak for him, but that is what he said."

She let me off the hook then with a laugh, and we all moved on. It was only the second week of class, and I'm happy to report that everybody made it out of the quarter okay.

Czardoz said...

Hahaha, "trained gorillas"! My narrator once referred to this rabble as "hairless chimpanzees," but no one really "got it."

Now I want to hear this Leslie Nielsen piece.