Two boys, who had just read some of my writing for the first time, were impressed enough to want to ask me questions about it. That’s a pretty good indication of how young they were.
One of them remarked on my use of metaphors. His eager face did not match his friend’s which had the same confused look as mine did. I was already starting to like the second kid more than the first. He added to the favor by saving me embarrassment by asking “what’s a metaphor?”
Even though I had no idea what he was talking about I lied like a Mafia lawyer. I re-engineered the conversation by explaining that metaphors were like skunks. They are pretty, but to make anything useful from them is not worth the effort.
Unimpressed, the first kid charged on asking “Didn’t your English teacher ever tell you about them?”
Rescuing my new friend, to whom I hoped the question was directed, I allowed as maybe mine probably could have and might have even tried to when I wasn’t paying close enough attention to block the attempt. Anyhow, it didn’t matter. My know-it all English teacher had never written a book. I had a couple under my belt and will likely have a couple more as soon as I can sneak them past the attendants.
Boy #1 shook his head in disgust, probably at the newly appreciated fact that English class wasn’t all it was pumped up to be. I hated to see him so disappointed so I told him the only thing a writer really had to know was how to tell a good story and what a decent sentence sounded like.
Boy #2 was smiling again. He figured he had ignored enough English teachers to be well on his way to a good career in writing. I fueled his hope when I told him that things like metaphors and adjectives were just there because they fit. It would be up to the legions of unpublished English teachers in the future to explain anything more detailed than that.
That’s the way it is with books and teachers, and even some writers. Unable to produce anything original they make careers out of dreaming up stuff the author never even thought about. They make authors seem smarter and deeper than God made them by being dumber than God hoped teachers were. We, of course, know better, in both cases.
There are more books about how and why Shakespeare wrote his plays than the old Bard ever wrote in producing his collection of works. Mainly he just stole a lot of common old stories and changed them just enough to fit the times and get a few laughs or tears. Don’t tell that to the experts who have explained all of the inner meanings of them.
I can comfortably continue pecking away knowing that, maybe someday, my books will be accredited to a brilliant wordsmith who could say ‘this’ by saying ‘that’. The less effort and thought I put in the better I’ll do. Can you imagine how many theories I can kill if I write “The toast was burnt until it was completely black.” Instead of “the hunk of charcoal on my plate was inedible.”? I’m going with the charcoal, and will continue with every vague or broad sentence I can conjure.
Like it or not, considerably better than ninety percent of what is written, anywhere by anybody, is going to be totally forgotten in a couple hundred years. There just aren’t that many Bibles or “Iliad’s” being written any more. How long do you suppose people will continue to struggle through ‘War and Peace’ or anything Dickens ever wrote?
The best I can hope for is to, for a short time, catch the interest of some teacher who has run out of real homework and decides to burden her students with the task of explain what Porter Starr Byrd was really saying when he wrote his greatest book. I’ll be interested in finding out myself.
Boy #2 won’t care and, by not, will be a couple hundred years ahead of his time. Boy #1, with his attitude, won’t matter.