Rendered Fat Content


Narcissus by Caravaggio, 1597–1599
"Eviscerate freely, dear readers …"

My maternal grandfather seemed taciturn. He'd speak hesitantly except to poke fun, which usually seemed more mean than humorous. I knew that he'd seen a lot in his time, but he rarely mentioned his experiences beyond a few hunting stories, which I found generally uninteresting. I wondered after his manner of living, for his whole lifestyle seemed cloaked and therefore mysterious. I wonder now how he introduced himself to strangers and I realize that he never properly introduced himself to me. I remember him but admit that I did not now him well. He seemed of a different age. I'd seen the photograph of him as a barefoot school kid, with his Huck Finn-looking compatriots, back when he attended a one room school, where he'd stayed only long enough to graduate third grade. His census record lists him as a laborer, though he owned his own home on a small plot of land featuring a barn where he bedded enough livestock to service the household, chickens, a cow, and a lamb or two.

I began writing in earnest once I realized that I seemed destined for a similar fate, bequeathing little of my manner of living to my grandchildren, for I was certain the generational mystery would very likely ultimately nullify me.
It seemed that I had some explaining to do, but how to explain a me to a you? My father kept a scrupulous diary, in the approximate scale of one inch equals one inch, which disclosed little evidence of an interior life. He journalized Just The Facts, which appear so single-dimensional as to render the author essentially invisible. I saw no evidence of self doubt, sorrow, or joy, as if the boy who grew up into that man had learned better than to ever become self-referential. I could reference when each day he measured his blood pressure, and even each day's reading, but nothing about how he was feeling. Likewise, he memoralized his walking schedule without noting what he contemplated while limping along his route. He was a hale and loving person in person, and not quite one-dimensional in print.

With these two guys as my guides, I inherited little in the way of disclosure genes, and I might have kept myself locked up and inaccessible had I not early on taken to writing. My first wife insisted upon greater openness than my birth family ever did. When I became a performer, I found the need for more public transparency for patter between songs, not to mention the content of those songs themselves. I grew up to tell stories about myself and while never quite a master storyteller, I became persistent and a sort of legend grew up along side me. I write daily, almost shamelessly describing my manner of living, a disjointed and sometimes rambling monologue about my pasts and presence, for the purposes of informing my future. Oh, how I wish my forebears had done this.

I recently hired my genius nephew to perform some scut work for me. Of all the responsibilities writing brings, scouring out fresh connections stymies me most. I can quickly work myself into a deep funk when browsing through data bases of literary agents and publishers. I tend to quickly auto-disqualify before retreating from this task, so I thought it might be useful for me to hire someone I trust to scrabble through to find me a connection or two. He quickly came to the same conclusion I'd come to so many times before. Each connection would require some sort of introduction from me, a brief, compelling explanation of my aspirations for my work. Who have I written it for? Who's my "target reader?" What's the work about? Each factor demands from a writer a compelling Elevator Speech, an inspiring summation which can be easily delivered during the length of a typical elevator ride: AGoldenBlurb.

Nobody has ever devised a better way to hush my mouth than the invitation to create TheGoldenBlurb, for though I daily feel compelled to describe my manner of living, I self-effacedly avoid opportunities to promote my work. I do not have an audience in mind, other than my grandkids, and them, sometime in the future. My primary 'target audience", I suppose to be primarily me. I'm trying to see what I believe by writing. I have no crisp summary of what I write about, other than to say that I'm trying to represent a manner of living in the world I inhabit. I feel embarrassed promoting myself, though I might be able to describe myself as if I was someone else, a third person form of self-reference. I feel much better able to write ALeadBlurb than a golden one.

My nephew, who just earned a degree in literature, says that in college, his professors focused upon this chore, directing each student to consider how they might explain themselves to prospective publishers. I majored in irrelevance in college, though I did used to implore my project management students to construct a GoldenBlurb elevator speech for their project. It's an impossible injunction for anyone to reasonably respond to. The result should seem as though it was written by a mildly sardonic journalist, intent upon honestly cluing in the 'target audience,' like the Stage Manager in Our Town, a trustworthy voice devoid of bullshit, setting an attractive scene. It must never delve into the self-destructive dismissive voice. It must also strenuously avoid over-selling without appearing to be struggling to contain any helium buoyancy. The voice must seem matter-of-fact, but also simply must express something compelling in that. Something different, interesting, and unique while comparing the rose to a summer's day. Easy for them to say.

I'm moved to note how few agents and publishers seem to succeed at satisfying their own injunction, for their introductions seem as a class somewhat less than compelling. Sure, they pass perhaps necessary information, but my belly rarely burns after reading their own GoldenBlurbs, but then we're all up to our chins in GoldenBlurbs these days, bombarded with subliminal messaging intended to set the old amygdula a-quivering. It's a dark art, indeed, and one that deep down reviles me, but still, mastering it seems to be the primary barrier blocking my further reach. My nephew swore on a stack of moldy thesauruses to become a real bastard editor through this effort. I'll submit a sample GoldenBlurb and he'll eviscerate it before my eyes. I'll rewrite and he'll again disembowel. We'll repeat this sequence until TheGoldenBlurb emerges from the bloody mess. Please note that I wrote this essay in large part to avoid creating that fateful first draft, or maybe—just maybe—to prepare for the anticipated ordeal.

"David writes from neither his heart nor his head, but somewhere else, instead. He seems to capture essences without dressing them up overmuch. He writes about how he lives, what he feels, and what he's convinced himself simply must be true. He's at root a philosopher, though of the back porch variety. He's the guy you might find yourself having a heart-to-heart with, resolving little but usually quite pleasantly. He's still not sure what he wants to be when he grows up."

Eviscerate freely, dear readers, and if you have suggestions, drop me a

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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