A reader recently confided in me that she returned to reading fiction only because I practiced it and she had come to appreciate the honesty of my pursuit of the human condition through reading my attempts at history and contemporary anthropology. She was adamant that she did not want the machinery of her brain to by hijacked by “some hack writer.”
Then, this morning, Oliver, a young writer running a news site who has ambitions to write historical fiction, asked me to evaluate his writing, which was easy enough, and spurred this follow up to that article, 'A Weird Craft': Part One
First, depending on what kind of writer you are you have a relationship with your anonymous reader which is in essence a social contract. The first story telling was conducted by people around a campfire with their fellows, and the storyteller abided by certain conventions and expectations. Likewise, the listening cavemen did not heave him into the fire when the hero got bitten by the bear.
This eventually developed into a dualistic bardic model. For instance, Homer, in his Iliad and the unnamed author of Beowulf both pay homage to kingship, for these men were sponsored by kings. But they made their reputation song stitching stories for common people, then chiefs and then princes before kings. Therefore master poets like Homer were able to sing the praises of King Agamemnon, satisfying the royal ego of his sponsor and also sing of Achilles, who hated Agamemnon and who the common listener would more readily identify with. This was the beginning of the duality of storytelling in which the text coexisted with a subtext that often ran counter to the ostensible message. One may read Homer’s Iliad as a litany of boasts glorifying kings and gods and their wars or as a war protest told by doomed warriors.
The base promise of the writer is to carry a narrative, to engage the reader. The secondary promises may include:
-Exciting [one might excite a hunger, desire, thirst, conviction, pilgrimage, revolution or action]
-Informing [fact presentation]
-Illumination [factual context]
Careful management of these factors permit the writer to remotely effect the analytical and emotional mechanisms of the mind. A writer who is good enough is, in essence, a sorcerer, who might enchant people a thousand years removed from his spoken word. His art requires the development of trust. I generally accomplish this through honesty and inserting, in non-fiction, honest passages about myself which are often not flattering. One may gain a more specific trust by presenting easily checked facts and logically illuminating these in an enlightening manner, such as my treatise on sucker-punching.
The current reader/writer contract is expressed in mainstream literature of all genres in the following way:
-Entertain as a distraction from uncomfortable facts. Romance, crime, mystery and popular horror novels, TV shows and movies are geared towards entertaining [distracting] the “reader” so that they may be comforted. This is very insidious and for this reason many analytical people refuse to read fiction, for they realize on some level that fiction is excellent—as Homer knew—for distracting and comforting the soul into an easily managed complaisance.
This makes historical novels such as Roots, very powerful and insidious. For instance Roots portrayed white men journeying into the African interior to capture slaves—a blatant falsehood still used to portray whites as supremely evil in nature. I mean, who goes all the way to another world just to kidnap unique-colored folk? This is the kind of stuff you blame on aliens when it happens in Wisconsin.
-Comfort as an inoculation against absorbing uncomfortable facts and thereby preventing illumination.
The vast expanse of contemporary literature on and off line, on screen and on stage is devoted to entertaining and comforting, as the basis for the sacred literature of our age: Commercials and News.
Our current stream of commercial and news presentation are, for the most part, actor-portrayed propaganda which cues into the comforted and therefore complacent mind to direct it in simplistic fashion to conform with the priesthood’s need for the mass mind to feed from its trough of carefully managed facts and falsehoods, a psychological bowl of Lucky Charms in which the poisonous food tastes the best.
Commercial and political focuses on exciting a need, for a cookie, for narrative closure concerning the Baltimore crimescape, for pussy, etc. Take a recent Baltimore Sun article in which the owner of an Inner Harbor Pub blamed “the riots” on killing his business and the writer [or editor] yanked that quote and replaced the mid-portion of his subject’s statement with “the Unrest,” which is in keeping with the current narrative that all one has to do is support appeasement of the criminal class and the “unrest” will subside. This is an example of exciting a need that will be comforted by a product purchase or the acceptance of a politically trafficked falsehood.
Oliver, to be a real writer that people 100 years from now will respect, you must avoid commercial and political writing, which will consign you to poverty as a writer.
For example, I recently received as many new readers in a month as I typically carried on this site for the previous two years, about 6,000 and promptly lost them all. I guarantee you that many of these were Trump supporters that heard that my site spoke the truth about what is going on in American cities, but then they found out that I trafficked in a bifurcated truth that blamed liberal politicians and conservative cops in the same breath, that I blame sissy whites as much as savage blacks for black-on-white crime, that I had written numerous books on whites enslaving whites in this country. Imagine their distaste when they had come here looking for Caucasian solidarity?
The balance of these folks were jocks or wannabe boxers who came looking for boxing advice and soon discovered that I was an unashamed white man, who wrote about the sainted martyr people of color of Baltimore, Maryland as if they were a pack of feral savages?
I burst their comfort bubble and became distasteful, so they left, where they never should have come to a truth-based site.
In your piece, Oliver, about the two aspiring UMAR boxers being gunned down within two blocks of the site of infamous riot activity two years ago, you take the reader to the edge of a chasm and tell them it’s a chasm.
From here you have various choices in developing the story:
-You could keep it at that, an uncomfortable compromise, a look into the darkness with no attempt to penetrate it, which is a refined method in horror and science-fiction, a mature compromise, assuming a perceptive reader.
-[Comfort Narrative]Blame it on white privilege [Sun Paper]
-[Exciting Narrative] Blame it on Black savagery [the online Alt-Right view]
-[Factual] Investigate the crimes and victims, which could lead you anywhere and piss off anybody and everybody
-[Philosophical] Look at the factual wider picture, note that young boxers have not traditionally been shot down like this [the other cases I noted were all old retired boxers, involved in security, crime, or vigilante pursuits] and seek a corollary that one might suggest as a casual element, such as the simple fact that where the boxer out of the ghetto was once a masculine icon, he has now been replaced by the posing thug with the gun. This simply places the two murders of boxers by gunman into a larger context, which at least suggests an environmental framework, if not cause, and then might encourage smart readers to attempt their own sensibly drawn conclusion.
Note, of the four tacks you could take on following up this article the first two deal in segregating facts from countering facts and using them to lie by omission, and the second two involve gathering or assembling facts and using them as learning tools. Every organization of white privilege on the Left is currently using the first method, while every successful counter group on the white Right is using the second method. Both are engaged in parsing the unwieldy truth into a manageable lie. Both are doing well. So will you if you want to sell, or at least get a lot of reads, now, not a hundred years from now.
You might dive into truth-finding instead of truth-parsing, but it won’t be popular.
On the other hand, you could stop at the yawning chasm of darkness that obscures the truth, and simply point to it, like you did in your article and go no further. This is a middle course that few take that is actually viable in both regards: posterity and popularity, although the depth of your appeal in both fields will be compromised.
In the end it is one of the many choices you, the writer, have in developing reader trust and adhering to your unspoken contract, which is to:
1. engage them by carrying a narrative,
2. then either entertain or excite them
3. for the purpose of informing them
4. and perhaps illuminating the subject
5. or simply comforting their squeamish minds so that they might be more easily managed by our masters. And remember, hate can be a mighty comforting feeling, especially in the minds of the angry.
A Partial Exhumation of the American Dream