[Matchup #19 in Tournament of Bookshit]
Whiskey as cultural flashpoint implies a kind of toughness, a kind of rambunctious, possibly-troubled badassness of attitude (due to overuse it’s shifting into a symbol of extended upper-middleclass adolescence aspiring to evoke the above) exactly counteracted by the poncey formal envelope of ‘short-short.’ These two clichés epitomize the literary trinket cranked out by our culture. A frilly package whose contents purport to be “broken,” like Hugh Laurie blues album.
The whiskey person travels to writers’ conferences where people like Denis Johnson and Tim O’Brien tell them to characterize with vivid detail. This is advice they need to hear (since their ‘short-short’ is, other than cultural flashpoint, an orgy of exposition) but will never heed. When they return form the conference, they only talk about who they met, never about what they learned. They mention the drink they had with Denis Johnson, and how cool and normal he seemed, yet also weird in a couple of ways! Then they ask you how your weekend was, and they actually care.
So people who reference whiskey consumption in a ‘short-short’ are bad at writing, but probably okay at life. They are invested in literary culture, if not literary meaning, which means they are generally affable and talentless.
People who ask facebook friends to review their books on amazon are bad at life. Even if by some miracle their writing is excellent, we should trust that in this age of universal voluntary surveillance of everything creative that nothing of excellence will go unexploited by the armies of ambitious hacks hoping to pin their opinions to any artifact that might catch fire.
It is almost certain their writing sucks too, since anyone desperate for the kind of renown an Amazon review could yield would have a vision of life and literature too vain to write anything worth reading. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of awesome writers out there who aren’t pestering their friends… so what more needs to be said about this person except “unsubscribe”?
Victory therefore goes to referencing whiskey in a ‘short-short’, since that sin is merely aesthetic, and in a strange way, aesthetic sins are kind of like our highest form of innocence. We love the whiskey person in the same way Diogenes loved dogs, and hate the Amazon person the way we would hate someone we invite to a party who then steals our bottle of whiskey.
The reward for the person who references whiskey is this poem by Cavafy (if you have ever asked Facebook friends to review your book on Amazon, please refrain from reading further; you haven’t gotten there):
The First Step
The young poet Evmenis
complained one day to Theocritos:
”I have been writing for two years now
and I have composed just one idyll.
It’s my only completed work.
I see, sadly, that the ladder of Poetry
is tall, extremely tall;
and from this first step I now stand on
I will never climb any higher.”
Theocritos replied: “Words like that
are improper, blasphemous.
Just to be on the first step
should make you happy and proud.
To have come this far is no small achievement:
what you have done is a glorious thing.
Even this first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.
To stand on this step
you must be in your own right
a member of the city of ideas.
And it is a hard, unusual thing
to be enrolled as a citizen of that city.
Its councils are full of Legislators
no charlatan can fool.
To have come this far is no small achievement.
What you have done already is a glorious thing.”
– – –
WINNER: ‘short-short’ referring to whiskey consumption