I have, on occasion, been accused of using humor as a defense, as though that was somehow wrong or unfair, possibly criminal, suggesting, it seems to me, that cruel words and flailing fists might be a more appropriate form of defense. Gosh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you laugh so hard you shot strings of al dente linguine carbonara through your nostrils after you attacked me in your appropriately direct way, by kicking me in the groin or belittling me or insulting my mother (that’s my job).
But okay. I’ll confess, in uncharacteristic fairness, that the accusation is more likely that I’m not open enough, vulnerable enough, that I hide, craven and somehow corrupt, behind a wall of humor to avoid allowing people to come close enough to rip my heart out, light it on fire and piss on the ashes. Fair enough, I suppose. But is this really a flaw or is it just an inconvenience, an annoyance to those who’d just love to peel my skin back and pick apart my innards but can’t gain access? Should we really let everyone in, lie on our backs, close our eyes and expose our soft underbellies? Shouldn’t we reserve that sort of vulnerability for a very select few, perhaps our favorite goldfish and one or two imaginary friends? And do we really need to share everything, even with them?
I don’t even like to have a cat staring up at me when I’m in the bathroom doing whatever people do in there. Does that make me uptight, or just suggest that, unlike the seemingly limitless army of buffoons who prance and spew on “Reality TV” and those desperate, empty souls who post every boring, intimate, embarrassing, slanderous action daily on Facebook or some public blog, I actually have a boundary or two? Though I suspect much of what these people release to the unsuspecting world is adjusted for maximum impact, minimum shame, they certainly don’t seem to have any concerns about privacy or discretion. Fame, even if it’s for idiocy and ignorance, is the apparent prize. But isn’t that how serial killers think?
Well, I’m going to bypass my own filters at this point and be completely, publicly open: I don’t want everyone (or, for that matter, anyone) to know everything about me. There are actions, thoughts, feelings, fears and hopes that I reserve for a select few.
But WAIT!!! Didn’t this jerk write a … memoir, a somewhat explicit memoir, with intimate confessions and therapists and weeping and … STICKY BODILY FLUIDS? Who the hell is he bullshitting?
Why, yes. This jerk did write a memoir, though you really don’t need to curse or call names. He was a little younger and though incredibly bright and levelheaded even then, he wasn’t quite the mature intellectual giant he is now. And yet, as much as he/I may have revealed, my goal was not to share every titillating detail of my troubled youth; it was to sculpt something of value using as clay that experience and its impact upon me. The book wasn’t about my actions. It was about being young, depressed, obsessed, confused, mildly talented, lost and on the edge. Whatever it became, it was intended to be a humorous but evocative and illuminating exploration of the experience of growing up in a particular set of circumstances. And I still blush in the presence of any of the three of the people who have admitted reading it
On the other hand, I have no doubt that I expose through my fiction facets of myself that would otherwise be camouflaged or concealed, though I don’t do it by creating characters that are merely blurry reflections of myself (yes, those characters do occasionally appear for other purposes). It is simply a byproduct of writing about what matters to me. But if revealing ourselves is an inevitable consequence of creating art, it should never be the objective. If we are honest with ourselves and true to the art, there’s at least a possibility we’ll create something of value.
And it will be accomplished without a lot of public nose-picking, though I did just wrench from my ample and unfailingly bountiful honker a colossal, green snout oyster that was apparently tethered, via my eye sockets, to my brainstem … I can see!!!