Sunday, 12 August 2012

Brevities 2

Beginnings tend to be either tentative or clumsy unless one listens very hard. Listening intently is the key to everything. Once you have heard the noises and gauged the distances you can get used to any set of dimensions. Having internalised the dimensions of a sonnet you move around it as you might around your room in the dark.

That at least is the theory. In practice we continue to make mistakes but I have never worried too much about mistakes. Mistakes are not humiliations: we learn from them, particularly about pushing out a little further. Mistakes are progress.

But as the series went on I became ever more determined to avoid the directly funny or chaotically surreal. I wanted discipline. After about fifty I 'tweeted' ten 'principles', or rather thoughts, on the form, principles that I then modified in minor ways for Facebook. These platforms - Twitter and Facebook - are fascinating in their nature and dimensions. The original thoughts were what could be fitted inside 140 characters, and, ideally, would have to have the same mysterious, epigrammatic concision as the 'stories'.

Once given epigrammatic form, almost any thought  takes on the characteristics of injunction, precept or rule. Nevertheless,  they remain shots in the dark. It's just that they are supposed to be clean shots.

The ten 'stories' follow. What should I call them? They're not really stories though they imply them. Are they incidents perhaps?  Reports from Germania seems a nice title. Let's call them that for now: reports.

It wasn't that Herr Weiss was innocent nor that Herr Schwartz was guilty. Names were coincidences, noted Herr Köhler, coughing his lungs out.

Frau Werner had six fingers on either hand, each more beautiful than the last. She fed the swans in the park & giggled like a child.

Doctor Schnell had a secret he would not divulge. He kept pushing his food around his plate and would never mention cutlery.

Never mind Frau Klein, the judge consoled her. Your nose will kept in store till your release but you may keep your vertebrae.

Doctor Klumm loved looking at leaves swept along by the wind. He was really a poet, the dentist of sturm und drang.

Meister Franke of the Black Dog Altarpiece owned three dogs called Shadrach, Meshack & Abednego. His masterpiece was the Dog Madonna of Ulm.

Herr Grock never went anywhere without a railway timetable. When the 15:17 from Hamburg struck him his last cry was: Three minutes late!

Surprised in the changing rooms of her local swimming pool Fraulein Winkler beat the intruder to death with his own erection.

It's getting late, remarked Frau Hosen. The moon has gone terribly pale and the stars are nowhere to be seen. Time for a new alarm clock.

Good morning, said Dr Mussen. The chicken in his shopping bag refused to return his greeting. Good morning, repeated the doctor, smiling.

Herr Tinder, the postman, despite his strict religious upbringing, remained unfranked.

The diciest of these was the first since the names Schwartz and Weiss, meaning Black and White, carry baggage of both value and race. How much baggage can such a small frail form afford to carry? Not much, I think.

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise, said Blake, so I wondered if the addition of a third, if slightly more obscure, loaded name might rescue the report from the grip of simple parable (I definitely did not want parable). Herr Kohler is a coalman, possible a coal miner. His lungs would be full of coal. By living up to his name the other two who did so might seem less heavy handed. That was the instinct anyway.

I tended to avoid flirtation with parables after that. Edgy jokes were all right providing they were edgy. Irony was all right. Parody (of, say, art historical guides) was OK. The edges of poetry, as in Dr Klumm and Frau Hosen, were OK. Vulgarity, as in the case of Fraulein Winkler, was OK providing it was ludicrous. Mix and blend. Dodge, settle, and dodge. Keep moving.

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