So Fixed Your Function
Like if I watched you brushing your teeth, you pick up toothbrush this way, start on this tooth, move that way, spit, start there, that tooth…the same method every morning. You don’t believe me? Videotape yourself.
You drive to work two ways. Two routes, maybe. Same roads/signs/stores/sky. You could easily take some other roads/paths, maybe 40. You would see 40 new things. But you don’t.
I want you to go eat something new. Don’t cheat. Go the ethnic restaurant, produce aisle, international market—select something you have never eaten before. Eat it.
What is the point?
I will argue that describing an experience known (your futon, the cluttered floor of your car) is different than describing the new, the unknown to you, the fracture of the functionally fixed moment.
So I gather the student writers.
I say, “Never let description freeload. Description must work. Description has a purpose. Description sets a mood. Description uses 5 senses. Description uses figurative language. Description uses objects, names, THINGS. Description uses lists and intertextuality. Description is interested in verisimilitude.”
I then say, “Read this, now.”
Trying not to overprepare, I watch the Brooklyn usual go by to the tune of Godflesh songs I’m playing in my head: an ad for gum; capsized strollers; the grease-smeared hotbox of a shallow-fronted take-out place full of fizzing Chinese; tiny kids in coats alone outside delis; bikes chained with every kind of lock and missing every conceivable combination of parts like a forensic display on methods of bicycle decomposition; the tags of world-famous street-art geniuses and of people who never tagged again; the stoic, eaten globe of a broken subway-stop pole casually decapitated for the thousandth time; JMZ trestles casting piano key shadows; Fat Albert’s Warehouse; whole blocks that haven’t heard English in decades; a restaurant that used to be a hat shop; a church that used to be a furniture store; a nothing that used to be a theater; dogs tied to anything vertical; stained buses like rotten fridges shoving themselves up the lane from red light to red light; a pile of televisions and fans half covered in plastic—expecting rain; and pizza places painted the colors–red, yellow, green—of the pizza version of the Italian flag. These things feel good and familiar.
“What is that?”
“We did Porn by Zak Smith. Mr. Smith went to Yale, and then realized he was successful and comfortable in the New York art world, so left it behind to work in the L.A. porn world. His book is about politics, art, and alt-porn. I have given you the relatively large word, verisimilitude. I have given you porn as appropriate for academic study, or even as post-collegiate artistic career. That is enough for today. Class dismissed. Go eat something new. Write about the taste.”
And they do.
(Live goldfish, starfruit, dog food, sushi, for example…)
It is a good thing.