C: Terrible Consonant

No. How Can I say that viCious letter — terrible Consonant? C! No, I Can’t go on anymore denying its horrid power over me. Just to look at its Curved Crooked from brings the bile up from my stomach. Look how it jests at me, thrusting its points out side-like, as if to leap in a headlong rush, impaling hapless vowels on it’s vertiCes. No. No. I have written it too:

There stands the enemy of all that I am—my foe, my adversary, the Culmination of all that is wrong with the world. You don’t believe me? You say, “How Could such a benign letter be the Cause?” You fool. I say, you blind ignorant babe. You have been wooed by its innoCuous yet Covert pretense. Know now that C is a killer. Yes, turn your baCk, and nothing will stop the slaughter. Don’t let your apathy bloCk you from truly examining—finally seeing—the beast from the lamb. Why do we trust it? It seems too inCredible, but we do. I shall tell you, for I have taken its existenCe to heart. I shall reveal the Codex that is its mystery. I will not stop until C has been blotted from the alphabet. Gone.

C’s seCret lies in its ability to Camouflage itself in apparent usefulness. I first disCovered this while writing. Sent and Cent, though spelled differently, have the same pronunCiation. But C also bolsters a hard sound… Yes, yes, I know. This shouldn’t be, but look for yourself: Caught, Cat, Carpet. They all seem so unique, until you remember (as I did) that K has the same sound. Why not spell these words like so: kaught, kat, karpet. This insidious letter has weaseled its own spaCe in the alphabet where none was needed. Its pillage of words ends here!

Soon after I disCovered these horrid faCts, C took its revenge. It Came to me in my sleep: cccccCCCCcCCccCcCccCCc. Hissing and Clucking at me until I thought my brain would burst. Repeating in CyCliC CyCles, revolving and tightening about my throat until I Could no longer scream. But a deep strength, drawn from a respeCt for Consonants and vowels of all kinds rose up in me. I grabbed C by its outstretched hooks. My right hand bleed from the gashes. I wrestled it, holding and twisting until I nearly lost ConsCiousness. Turning it up, I finally rendered the letter into an inert U.

YoU are dead! Finally dead. And now the alphabet will be safe from yoUr sharp points and tongUe. But wait, am I really rid of yoU? No… not yoU again. Not U!

Tim Kane

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Have a Blue Fish Day (Using Surrealism in Your Writing)

When I was younger, sometimes I would declare that such and such a day was a blue fish day, meaning it had that ethereal quality as if waking from a dream.

What I later learned, was that I was utilizing the the paranoiac-critical method to unlock my unconscious mind. It might just sound like I made those words up. I didn’t. Salvador Dalí did. He was fascinated by the unconscious mind and dreams. (He plagued Freud with letters begging for an audience).

Paranoiac-Critical Method
Typically we’re taught to associate rational cause and effect explanations to events in our lives. Dalí wanted the reverse. A sort of stream of consciousness where irrational thoughts could be attached to events. He described the paranoiac-critical method as a “spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic objectivity of the associations and interpretations of delirious phenomena.”

Ballerina in a Death's Head is an example of the paranoiac-critical method. Do you see a skull or a ballerina?

In short, this is the ability of the viewer to perceive multiple images within the same configuration. All of us practice the paranoiac-critical method each time we gaze up at clouds in the sky and imagine different shapes. In fact all those sighting of Jesus on a slice of toast or a stucco wall are simply the Paranoid Critical Method in action.

A great introduction to Dalí and the whole surrealist world comes in the short film “The Death of Salvador Dalí.”

But you don’t have to sit idly by to create these associations. There are certain games you can play to help activate this irrational side of your brain.

Exquisite Corpse
This is a game played often by the Surrealists. In this, each person writes part of a sentence, and then folds the paper over so that the next person has no idea what was written. In this fashion, a collage of words creates a bizarre sentence. The name derives from the first playing of the game: “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (“The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.”)

The game was also played with pictures. One person might draw the head and then fold the paper over so that only a few connecting lines could be seen. This would continue until a total figure had been created.

4-part Corpse drawing; Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Max Morise

Cut Ups
It seems the surrealists did have their limit as to what they’d accept. At a surrealist rally in the 1920s Tristan Tzara built a poem from scratch by pulling words out of a hat. A riot broke out and wrecked the theater. Andrè Breton expelled Tristan Tzara from the movement.

Not until forty years later did this technique reemerge. Brion Gysin, a painter and writer, noticed that he’d sliced though the New York Herald Tribune on his cutting board. The cut sections lined up and could be read across. He loved the idea so much that he fashioned and essay called, Minutes to Go. Here’s an excerpt.

“Sickle moon terror nails replica in tin ginsberg. Replicas of Squareville — grey piebald pigeons — pointedly questioned, mimic each other.”

I used this technique to write the opening line to my first published short story. I was stuck and wanted a jarring image to pull the reader in. Sitting in a coffee shop, I picked up the newspaper and started tearing (I didn’t have scissors). I had to do two or three tries until something decent came up, but I think you’ll agree, the technique works.

Unfamiliar puddles of light lurked in the crevices like cancer.

So the next time you’re stuck with a scene or a character or even an idea, turn to the Surrealists for help. As your rational brain gets stuck in rut, unwilling to deliver words on the page, kick it in the but by unlocking your irrational side. Make your day a blue fish day and see what happens.

Tim Kane