Thursday, February 18, 2010

On "On"

Many of my readers may marvel at the audacity of an almanacker such as myself, who habitually loses his way in a simple conversation… at my audacity, I say, in holding forth on an almost daily basis, on a variety of timely topics, which is to say, temporal topics…or even temporary topics…as if I were some kind of cockamamie expert, which I am. An expert on the cockamamie, that is.

So, con perméso, I shall essay a short essay on essays, or say-so.

Step 1. Pretending to be an authority.

It is vital to choose a topic you have at least a momentary interest in, like a gannet clinging to a rocky ledge. Ignore the thousands of other gannets around you and the theoretical availability of other clingworthy rocks. This is your rock, you chose it: occupy it!

Remember that your interest is a powerful bond between you and your rock. Do not diminish it. Instead, enhance it by marveling at your finding each other and at the adhesion between your cling and its surface.

Do not compare yourself to any other imaginary “better-qualified” authority on this topic. This is just another rapacious gannet who is trying to steal your rock. Cling with gusto. If necessary, personify gusto as Gus Toe, the best clinger in the business.

Step 2. “On”

Consult yourself as if you are a skeptical but tolerant audience. In the interest of honesty, corrections and start-overs are not just forgiven, they are applauded. If, for example, the gannet comparison begins to stale, move on.

Consider the “on” of “On Gannets” or “On Sharkbloom,” which is not the same “on” as “On Comet! On Cupid! On Donder and Blitzen!” That “on” is also important, encouraging the words and the ideas that drive them. But first, it is important to get a purchase on your topic. Not for nothing does that sound like a fiduciary transaction. Interest bears interest. Buy Baltic! Buy Mediterranean! Do not disqualify anything: Childhood experiences with sharkbloom; dissecting the word sharkbloom; disdain for sharkbloom (don’t feel you need to celebrate your topic; interest can be destructive, too); and in general, deconstructing sharkbloom.

Deconstructing is a term we often pretend to know the meaning of, but do we? I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and I have no idea what that definition means. Do I care? Will that stop me from using it? No, it won’t, because going back to step 1, I am not afraid of using my puny knowledge base as the podium for my pontification. In other words, any fool can begin an essay but only a clever fool can make it to the end.

Step 3. Making It to the End

As many of us learned in college, quantity does count, especially in the so-called personal essay, where almost anything is fair game. Touching base with your topic now and again keeps the game fair, but can you digress?

An interesting question. Chico Marx was known to gamble on horses, but does that define the man? In this case, yes, but one shouldn’t overlook the fact that he had a bar mitzvah back when his name was Leonard, and he was his mother’s favorite son, if you see what I mean.

In a humorous personal essay, you may think you have even more liberty to stray from the point, but if the reader loses confidence in you as a driver, she may insist that you pull over at the nearest gas station and let her out. This you should do, because this will give you time to wrap things up as if that was exactly the place you were going to end up anyway.

Sholom Aleichem! (Today’s his birthday!)

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