Critical Thought: The Notes

One frequently hears about an arts for the people, or, making an arts for the people, as if art wasn't for people but for some obscure Other or Anti-People that have lubricious front-suckers and smell like kale. The movie Barton Fink parodied this.

Writers and artists often think that their work needs to encompass the workaday world. And I don't think they're wrong. Sadly, though, it just happens that their efforts fail. Miserably.

So then. How, I ask myself, can I satisfy my artistic juices and create a piece of writing that people, lots of people, will want to read? With the online boom and the many outlets of new mags and journals, it's simply hard to distinguish yourself from all the other extremely good and interesting writing out there. Gimmicks, provocativeness, pandering. None of it is nourishing.

I suppose I always try to take the most normal situations and skew them as slightly as I can.

Here, for example. A normal couple argue, then try to resolve like any other couple. Unfortunately, the resolution backfires and they are rendered static unto death, or some such depression. My hope is that your expectations are overturned. How important it is to keep the furrow of expectation fresh and ploughed cannot be overemphasized.

Nor can the liberal use of inflated metaphors involving crop rotation.

It's often easy to shrug off many forms of art and say, "Well, if you feel that way, why not just say it and be done with it." Too often, to say a thing outright is to strip it of its profoundness. Yes, life is hard. Love is cruel. War is hell. But so what? Rather, one has to tuck and fold the feeling, the point, the thing into an envelope of words: a story. By placing the loveliness or enmity or confusion against a different background, the author's intention will pop out, kind of like how a smart tie can set off a sassy pair of trousers or vice versa.

Life is a series of habituations, and if I can fashion writing that, like a giant vaudevillian hook, pulls you off the stage and rearranges your perspective, then I tend to feel gratified, if only for a flickering of seconds.

Thank you for reading.

Kyle Winkler lives in northeastern Indiana. His work has previously appeared in or is forthcoming from Juked, Super Arrow, We Are Champion, and The Collagist. The story "Teratology" is now on Web Conjunctions here. Though, as such, he's not established on Facebook or via any stand-alone website (yet), a competent googling will reveal some writing online. He is not Kyle Winkler, the superb collegiate baseball player. Alas.

The Notes

The couple, a man and a woman, had an argument.

“This happens because I can't understand what you say,” the man said.

“I can't understand what you say,” she said.

“What do you propose we do?”

“I understand you better when you write it out. Let's do that.”

They bought a supply of notebooks and wrote out their feelings and emotions and thoughts with pen and pencil. The plan worked. It worked remarkably well. It worked so well, in fact, friends doubted their relationship would last.

“No talking,” the friends said. “How absurd! You have to talk. Talking is human. It's basic. It's natural. They'll break. They'll crumble.”

§

Years went by. The couple lasted. The notes evolved. Given boundaries and a word limit, they expressed their inner selves more completely than they had when speaking.

Speaking was a dead thing. Kaput. A broken hull. A sunken boat. Vocal cords, disgraced.

§

But they needed something new. Sticky notes. Smaller, compact. They would compress, even more, their already compacted love. It was a life of lived poetry.

And, over the years, they slowly shaved off a word here, a word there. Eventually, as predicted, it came down to one word a piece, back and forth. Then one word a day. Imagine! All the hours, preparing for the one word that would encapsulate so wholly a person's being.

It got so the man and woman knew what the other was going to say just by the way they uncapped their pens or approached their pads.

It then got so they could even read the body language that prepared these preparations.

And it got so they could read the body.

When this happened, they found a place to lie down, held each other, and waited like this, till they didn't have to wait anymore.

by Kyle Winkler