ENG 162 Fall 2013

ENG 162 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor ME, taught by John A. (Don't ever, ever ask!) Goldfine johngoldfine@gmail.com

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Week 11 Theme--when words mean something beyond themselves

Use the material here as the idea behind a piece of creative nonfiction you post on your blog.


A lot of time writing works as a piece of artistry (maybe even art!) because there is more there than meets the eye. A writer makes a point by not explicitly making a point.

What if I as a writer (in this case a song lyricist) want to express my sense that fate is an inexorable force pulling us forward, that we need to resign ourselves to the inevitable, surrender to it, and that all we can hope to do is experience life as it is happening.Well, there, I've said it--but are those song lyrics?

Not hardly.

What about this then? Here the singer is talking about life leading to death, about one's life adding to the universe and then being lost in the greater whole--and never uses any of those words at all! Nice trick.

Can you write about something and mean what you say about it, but, without hammering your reader, mean something else as well? Can you use non-fiction in a poetic way where there is something implicit, something of a subtext? And can you do it without appearing to be working at it?

Whew, don't ask much, do I?

Here's a sample (though you certainly can be more ambitious than just compiling a list). Is this just a list, or does it somehow convey his disappointment with the shabby way things actually were when the author arrived for his Barbados holiday? It is a list--but it does that other thing too, using words like 'frayed', 'fake', 'two months delay', 'factory', and so on to mean something beyond itself.

(This isn't quite the same as symbolism--there really is nothing symbolic in the passage below, just a collection of items, a vignette, that tells a tale without seeming to....)

"I had not envisioned...the appearance of a luggage carousel with a frayed rubber mat; two flies dancing above an overflowing ashtray; a giant fan turning inside the arrivals hall; a white taxi with a dashboard covered in fake leopardskin; a stray dog in search of waste ground beyond the airport; an advertisement for 'luxury condos' at a roundabout; a factory called Bardak Electronics; a row of buildings with red and green tin roofs; a rubber strap on the central pillar of the car, upon which was written in very small print 'Volkswagen Wolfsburg'; a brightly coloured bush whose name I didn't know; a hotel reception area that showed the time in six different locations and a card pinned on the wall nearby that read, with two months delay, 'Merry Christmas'."

Here's a corker of a student example: http://josiejosplace.blogspot.com/2004/09/stairways.html
which opens a whole life and world, just writing about stairways.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am pleased you used the same lyrics site I do. The only one that's remotely accurate.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 4:16:00 PM  
Blogger johngoldfine said...

We aim to please.

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