On Being Clever

If you’re over eight years old, you don’t want anybody calling your art clever. Right? Clever is bad. Smart is good, maybe the best kind of smart is so smart it’s stupid. Dumbstruck. Two fish / this is water. Bill, a guy my father hated, out on the roof fixing our swamp cooler in the kind of beautiful July afternoon that gives California the best avocados. And Bill calls out: “Ain’t there just some days you’re glad to wake up?” And my father, talking to Bill through the slats of the swamp cooler, agrees. This is so stupid it’s smart. But it would’ve been clever if my father had said “Yeah, and there’s other days I’m just glad to fall asleep.” Too clever by half. Clever as measurement. Clever as cleaver. Perhaps from E.Anglian dialectal cliver, “expert at seizing,” Influenced, perhaps, by O.E. clifer “claw, hand.” Sammy Johnson said: “This is a low word, scarcely ever used but in burlesque or conversation; and applied to any thing a man likes, without a settled meaning.” Clever of me to say Sammy instead of Samuel, to make you think an extra nano-second who I mean, clever doesn’t want to give the other person credit (of course I knew you meant Samuel, asshole), clever means I’m hungry to catch the bus before you. Clever basically as cowardice and fear of intimacy. Right? READ MORE >

Craft Notes / 61 Comments
April 4th, 2011 / 12:54 pm

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