Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Lightly Sautéed Savant

This photograph shows the face of a writer and editor by the name of Gary Fry. It is being fried. Visual puns of this nature are wholly pointless, but I like them anyway. And who are you to deny a complex man his simple pleasures? Only a meanie would do that...

Although bigheaded I am also lovely. When it comes to the writing of fiction I believe that my own concepts and conceits are nearly always vastly superior to those of other writers; that's the bigheaded part of my personality. However, I am willing to admit that occasionally a writer who isn't me comes up with an even better concept or conceit than my own average standard; that's the lovely part of my character. Which do you prefer? Come on, don't be shy.

It doesn't happen very often that a contemporary writer creates a concept or conceit that has me frothing with envy, but it
does happen. A few years ago, a writer (whose name I have forgotten) casually mentioned that he was writing a novel about a town full of quaint buildings and people that is found up Dylan Thomas's arse. I jumped up and grabbed my shadow by the scruff. "Why the heck didn't I think of that myself?" I thundered. For anyone who isn't Welsh the satirical genius of that idea will probably be lost. If so, take my word for the fact of its brilliance.

The kind of fiction I like best tends to be generated or guided by fundamental concepts that are rather more abstract than those favoured by readers of more orthodox fiction. Crack addicts huddled in sodium shadows don't do much for me; nor am I overly interested in the use of physical props; emotional entanglements and psychological interactions don't move me as much as they ought to. I prefer highly formal, abstract, unique and absurdist logical frameworks. My taste in literature isn't solely confined to works that bear this hallmark, of course, but writers who do tend in this direction (at least some of the time) will always command my attention more than writers who never do.

A few days ago, on August 21st 2010 at 7:59 PM, the aforementioned Mr Gary Fry made an off-the-cuff remark that set wheels of joy in my head spinning. At the same time I frothed with envy. His remark contained one of the neatest, slyest, daftest and potentially most fruitful conceits for a novel I have heard for many years. He said simply, "I have a novel in mind about a guy who invents aphorisms so great that he has to transform world events around him in order to use them. Wilde or what? I'm Shaw it'll be a bestseller."

Imagine! The genius of this conceit is that aphorisms and maxims are rarely true or accurate (think of all the clever generalisations made by such luminaries as Lichtenberg, Chateaubriand, Nietzsche; none of which ever apply in every case and some of which apply in no instances at all). So the potential for genuinely satirical and philosophical absurdist comedy is enormous!

For instance, the lead character might quip something like, "A man who wears a necktie at breakfast is like an aardvark that pilots a balloon!" A completely meaningless comparison -- until he forces it to have meaning by arranging for all aardvarks to pilot balloons. The nightmare logistics of that! A novel constructed along these lines could be a new
Candide, or at least rival the strange allegorical texts of René Daumal.

So full marks to Gary Fry! Now I'm going to have him with onions!

1 comment:

  1. I would challenge you to write a story about Aardvarks piloting balloons, but chances are you've either already done it or would have no difficulty in doing so, so what's the point in challenging you?

    You sire, have your own brilliance, so fret not the ideas of others, even if Thomas's coccyx-located inspiration escaped you.