Monday, March 21, 2011

Weak Sauce

I just realized this morning that I have a new (for me) insight into why I groan inwardly for the deplorable state of our American pop culture. We are a culture of imitation rather than creation.

If you disagree with me, think back to the last time you had a lengthy “conversation” with someone that was pretty much composed entirely of movie quotes. And while I participate willfully in these things, and even enjoy them, it still irritates me that quite a bit of my discourse when amongst friends can be summed up with this phrase: “that’s what she said.” Even though I find it to be freaking hilarious, it qualifies as the antithesis of uplift. Besides, I’m pretty sure that’s not what she said.

This might seem a bit off-topic for a blog on writing, but to me it’s relevant.

I think we amuse ourselves far too much, from time to time, and it’s detrimental to our culture and society as a whole. In other words, are we writers fully “in the harness,” as Harry Truman would have said? If I was perfect, every word I write would have some kind of positive impact on whoever reads it. My work would cause people to think about their positions on [name that topic], urge them to not take things for granted, stimulate thinking and debate.

So many times, and I’m speaking mainly as an editor here, I run across Weak Sauce. It’s usually one of two things. 1) Someone fancies themself a writer when in reality they’re a physicist or politician or worse. 2) An actual writer has phoned it in. The result: may I quote my platoon sergeant of yore? “Ten pounds of $#!* in a five pound bag.” Or, “a bag of smashed donuts,” for those averse to even the mention of the profane.

This is my call to the writers of the world to step it up and be as excellent as possible. More often than not, it’s the thinkers who man the rudder of society, and that’s us, among a select group of others. Therefore, if society at large has been reduced to movie quotes and inane innuendo it is at least obliquely our fault.

My hope and prayer is that K will be one example of a work that lives up to the higher standards of creativity amongst the great cloud of witnesses that has preceded this generation.

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