You want short-winded?

Closing in on ten weeks of daily posting here at Village Voices and 60 entries, my policy remains to not read comments on my pieces. It’s not that I am uninterested or above it. I just have to keep my head down to be able to do this at all. It’s a neurology thing, trust me. But every now and then, like today, I take a salutatory, bracing draught of the medicine. There’s several good reasons to, among them to remind myself why I don’t.

I take enough to toughen the hide, spark a little introspection, and hammer down any uppity hedgehogs of self-regard, but not so much as to be phoning in my resignation and burning my soapbox in a shamed and private ceremony of recant and renunciation.

Most comments are negative, many of them gleefully so. Hot malice with extra relish. Well, happiness writes white, so I suppose one is marginally less likely to hear from one’s rumored admirers. I resist the temptation to dismiss every critic, especially the most vicious ones, as disgruntled voices with no platform to call their own.

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No, they are within their right, and the platform is shared. Why put out a comments bucket if you don’t want people to fill it? Maybe they are writers themselves, of far greater accomplishment than me. Thing is, I’ll never know because the most vicious ones never sign.

You people! Anyway:

Sure, long-winded, but what is short-winded? An airhorn, a violent unmusical blast that tells you to do something reflexively: get out of the pool, stop, run, seek cover. Real wind, on the other hand, is always long. I operate in the tradition of real wind — a creature of habit and known routes, but within those routes capricious and sporadic, carrying what-all it knows not, nor to what result. Seeding the plains. You want short-winded? I recommend IKEA instruction sheets.

Pointless? Okay, somewhere along the path I picked up a taste for absurdist disjunction, and the minute I get too serious about something, it tends to go off like a lemon. The older I have gotten, the more I do tend to see this not only as a defensive mechanism (you can’t be held to an opinion you’ve already exploded) but also as a cheap one, an evasion, a preemptive disavowal, a protection, an out. I promise hater #13 to try harder to stay on point.

Technically poor writer? See above. It’s true that I haven’t yet met a language problem that can’t be solved by throwing more and more tangled language at it, and I tend to see grammar as a fluid negotiation more than a code or a law. Redundancy is clarification with diminishing returns. Useful when you are in a rush. The padding of overwriting becomes more interesting than the dubious jewels of argument it is protecting. A certain slop attends everything I do and always will. I can proof something nine times, click send, and on the tenth I am suddenly Strunk & White. Additionally, I love adverbs, mixed metaphors, ungrounded abstraction, phrases you have heard before, trendy locutions, red herrings, white lies, pink flamingos, squinting damn modifiers, and the sound of my own voice.

Self-involved? As charged. And paid for it, bro. Geddy, may I insert a wink emoticon here?

Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.

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