I was reading articles from a recent issue of The New Yorker and came across Eight Short Science-Fiction Stories (including the Penis from Venus) by Paul Simms and Omission, choosing what to leave out by John McPhee. In my tangled, warped mind, I combined them into a stream of conscientiousness (or, in my case, a swamp of conscientiousness) about writing and blogging. McPhee is a favorite author of mine: I have enjoyed Assembling California, Basin and Range and The Curve of Binding Energy, among others. McPhee has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1965, has published twenty-eight books and teaches a course in Creative Non-fiction.
McPhee emphasized that “creative non-fiction is not making something up but making the most of what you have.” On occasion, an article has to be shortened in order to fit the available space but most of the time any post, article, short story or novel can use judicial editing to improve the work. Editors, a sadly neglected and all but abandoned lot, would agree. McPhee stressed his point by using the analogy of Michelangelo as a sculptor “with six tons of Carrera marble, a mallet, a point chisel [and other tools]: ‘I’m just taking away what doesn’t belong there.’” So prose writing is as much about what is NOT written as what is.
It got me to thinking, what should I leave out of any of my posts when blogging?
- The penis from Venus – Yes, but then I would not have gotten your attention.
- The dream where I was dancing nude at my school reunion – Definitely.
- Any health issue that involves the description of one or more orifices – Most definitely.
- How to build a thermonuclear bomb from six common items found in most kitchens – Not a good idea.
- Using hot lead enemas as a means of corporal punishment – Um, yes.
- A discussion of the effect of 2,4,6 acetyl dichlorobenzene on the anechoic chamber of the rat – Yes.
- My Congressional Medal of Honor, my Nobel Peace Prize and my Pulitzer – Oh, wait, it’s creative NON-fiction.
- The moaning sounds and the God-awful smells that emanated from a dumpster near 43rd Street the last time I visited New York City – Maybe.
- Alien anal probing and sex with animals – See the penis from Venus, above.
- OOGA horns – No, there is always room for OOGA horns. http://www.ahooga.com/ahooga_wav.shtml
McPhee also quoted Hemingway saying “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.” With that thought in mind, here are the other items to omit “as though I had stated them:”
Did you cover all of them for me?
Oh, and what does any of this have to do with Eight Short Science-Fiction Stories? That’s where the swamp of conscientiousness comes in.