Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On metaphors.

Lately, in lieu of actual writing (where words are put on paper, not including milk, bread, my signature on an Old Navy Visa charge, etc.), I've been generating metaphors. This is like writing, in that it takes creativity and a certain amount of literate brain cells, but it's totally bullshit cheating. A metaphor is not a device I use in my writing, like ever. Because I think it's bullshit cheating. Unless the metaphor so obtuse that I've completely lost the point, and by the end of the book I can't remember if a broken jukebox in a bowling alley was supposed to be like life or supposed to be like death and whether or not that even applies to the kid with the garbage bag taped over his car window, and by the way, was the garbage bag supposed to be a metaphor for his ambition or his relationship with his brother?

See, it's cheating (or trying too hard ex post facto), because it's totally unintended. The kid's kind of a low-life, and one night after drinking too much at Ole's he busts out his passenger window with a brick because he thought he locked his keys in his car, when in fact they're still in his dirty down vest, left back in the bar. So then, fuck 'em. The metaphors, I mean. What should I do, go back and plant busted car windows in other scenes with other wandering low-lifes, so that the image is driven home and it's clear to my three-year-old that I'm using a Literary Technique? Nobody wants that. And nobody wants to read a story wherein every visual detail has a tacit asterisk next to it: *may be a metaphor - be vigilant!

But then, every once in a while a really good one hits me - too good to not repeat. But try rolling over on your beach chair at a Mexican resort and saying to your sunbathing sister-in-law, "I think clouds are a little like life. You're staring up at something that looks like a T-Rex with bunny ears and you're watching watching watching, the bunny ears growing bigger and his little baby arms are turning into something more like pom-poms and then you notice his tail has become larger than his body, and all this is over the course of about 15 minutes and then you look away to take a sip of your Pacifico and you look back and Holy Hell! The T-Rex is something completely different and you can kind of pick out his big muzzle and rabbit ears but he's dwarfed into something more like a school bus with big meaty tires and fat guy sitting on the top. Life is like that, if you don't stop to sip your Pacifico often enough." And your sister-in-law gives you that 'You're so funny' thing that doesn't include a laugh, which means something more like 'what the hell, you're weird,' and you realize, you can't just pull a metaphor out of your ass and throw it at the closest person and have them react in satisfactory manner.

Metaphors have to have a context. They have to be a touch stone, or whatever that metaphor is. You can't just throw a headless metaphor out into polite conversation like a Transformer at a zoologist convention. The good ones need some air. They need a person, a tragedy, a sunset color, the taste of a good meal. There's too much going on the world to just say, "dinner was salty." Salty, really? How clever! No, it's gotta be, "dinner made me feel as if I'd been waterboarded with a bucket from the Dead Sea." (I know - simile. Bwah.) So for the sake of all the metaphors, I've decided to find them a home. I'm going to make a place for them, nourish them and let them exist outside my mind. So what if they're a bonafide Literary Technique. So is punctuation. But nothing fancy and obtuse. That would mean I'm actually trying, and shit. Once you start trying, the expectations. Well, that's all. There would be expectations.


Anonymous clickmom said...

I want more!

1/22/2009 4:15 PM  

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