Rendered Fat Content


Sebald Beham:
The Guard Near the Powder Casks
(Not Dated, c. 1520-1550)

" … my books look different than most others."

Each publication should be different than anything published before it. Not necessarily radically different, but just different enough. Nobody, for instance, really wants their New York Times to arrive looking like a tabloid Post or US News, for that difference makes little sense. So, superficially, each edition of The Times should appear, from a slight distance, almost precisely the same as every other, though once a decade or so, something so outrageous happens that the front page of even the staid and solemn Times might become an Outlier of itself to amplify the rarity of the reported event.

I try to make each of my stories unique.
Most turn out to be a standard four paragraphs, though their lengths vary. Some stories require five or six paragraphs to tell, but only some fall far from formal prose; almost none are poems. Each features an image, most fine art that has fallen into the public domain. I choose each image for its relationship to the story's theme, though that relationship sometimes seems extreme. The tone of my stories seems most similar. I have my voice, and I deign to use it.

I intend the content to seem unique, for I deliberately do not attempt to emulate any other writer's style. I once imagined that with practice, I might become an E. B. White or a James Thurber, but I never heard either of those voices whisper into my ears when I sat down to write something. I heard instead my own almost silent voice, which only later proved adequate. I later stopped aspiring to sound like anybody else, which seemed only a small improvement. I now forget to attempt a performance and just listen to my whispering instead. Writing has become like vespers.

When my new New Yorker arrives, I expect that issue's contents to be in order. I similarly peruse each new edition, only rarely varying my reviewing sequence. I get a little pissed when an edition goes "creative" and changes something I've expected. I do expect an impressive cover and several interesting articles, each unique, with one typically outstanding. Occasionally, an Outlier issue will arrive with no interesting article, a weak cover, and lousy cartoons. I want difference but only within predictable boundaries.

I do not intend the books I have diligently prepared for publication to appear as Outliers on anyone's radar. I do not want the least of them to land with a bang. I do not expect them to forge any entirely new genre. Instead, each should arrive like my warmly anticipated fresh New Yorker, familiar yet different, unique but not to the point of Outlying anywhere beyond familiar boundaries. It's a delicate balance. Between downright plagiarism, the most sincere form of literary appreciation, and radical deconstructionism lies much more or less familiar territory. A character or a location might set a collection of stories apart. A voice might seem particularly attractive. I suspect that none of these markers fall within the meager powers of any writer to produce. Writing seems more preconscious than any stage performance, and it seems neigh on to impossible for any writer to stay in any character which doesn't genuinely possess them. In this way, all literature must be autobiography.

I write my stories and then prepare them for publication. Being my own author, copyeditor, and book designer limits my opportunities to produce any cynical knockoff "in the style" of any other. Professionals in the various crafts which comprise Publishing can manipulate readers through clever design. The least of us can be played like cheap violins by those who have learned which strings to pull and when. The rest of us write our stories without attempting overt manipulation or deliberate emulation, either. I notice that my books look different than most others. I cannot tell if that difference might make them seem interesting or Outlying. This distinction might not matter.


I'm Almost Back
I wonder what it means that my production pattern suffered such a disruption in the middle of this series. I've lost at least eight stories off the final count and found long hours to feverishly contemplate futility. It's rare that I so deeply question my intentions when in the middle of production. I'm more practiced in questioning before I begin and even more skilled at second-guessing myself after completing production, but my Covid-19 infection produced some space for me to fret within. With sleep withheld in favor of coughing, I spent several serial endless nights alone with my thoughts. I became flotsam, nudged by emotion, ignored by pretension. Covid-19 temporarily suspended my usual ceaseless internal narrative. It rendered my internal stories disjointed, if not wholly silent, to produce a whole new iteration of my notions of silent night. Snippets floated around and through what Covid left as consciousness. I can only report out-of-body and out-of-mind experiences. Covid felt like a space walk without the benefit of a helmet. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I'm almost back, lacking a few stories and ahead by one somewhat vacuous new experience.

Weekly Writing Summary:

I began my writing week considering all I have ever felt terrified of experiencing, me at that moment in the middle of my first bout of Covid-19, in BoogeyMens. "Everything we presently hold dear will very likely become as one in the gaseous belly of our future sun."
Vincent van Gogh: The Drinkers (1890)
“Our future seems secure together.”

Thinking I was already recovering rather than slipping into extending my bout of Covid-19, I imagined myself
Rededicating. "There's no longer any going backward or even any viable veering off this long-established path. I am whatever I am, and I do whatever it is that I do. I, perhaps like you, now live a life inexorable. I've traveled beyond the points where I was making choices. Having chosen, I must accept the fate that found me as my own." I would have at least a week more disruption to experience.
Christian Julius Gustav Planer,
Philips Koninck: Hermit Reading (19th century)
"I might just as well be Rededicating my efforts …"

I caught myself in one of those rare moments when I seem to gain some awareness of myself while *
Chiseling excess concrete from around a new sidewalk. This story proved the most popular this period. "I suspect that if only I could be perceptive enough, I would perceive these life lessons playing out around every activity I engage in. But then, I'm human, and I guess I'm supposed to maintain a certain studied blindness to my surroundings."
Unknown Indonedian/ Central Javaian Sculptor:
God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles
(9th/10th century)

" … which explains my aching shoulder."

I managed to feel good and
Disrupted, though Disrupted and good seem like awfully strange bedfellows. "I might have needed to have been Disrupted, a perfectly unprovable assertion that I find reassuring." After two weeks of Covid-19, I continue to test positive and feel Disrupted.
Anonymous Germany (Wittenberg): Moses Destroying the Tablets (1558)
" … getting good and lost along the way?"

This week's writing summary had three missing stories within it. Last week's had four. Next week's, God willing, should return to a full contingent after a longer Covid-19 run than I expected. I might have expected this unexpected occurrence, but didn't. My defense, and an ultimate universal defense, could be that I didn't. I sensed the Boogeymens, but I always do, regardless of the situation. I seem to be forever Rededicating myself to something, for I've always considered even the sincere absence of dedication a rough equivalent to original sin. It's all hard work, much of it inconveniencing. It says nothing about anyone to notice that they seem to be  Chiseling, for that might be the human condition manifesting again. Fear, rededication, and even hard labor cannot reliably prevent anything from being Disrupted. It's not really about whether I fall off the horse but whether I climb back aboard again. Thanks for following my fits and restartings!

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver