Tag Archives: words

That’s What I Just Said!

(Faced with a blank screen but thinking very meta to avoid actually writing.)


You know how, when you’re doing something, and some guy comes and “helps” you by moving in on it and taking over? What’s that called? Mansumption?

I just learned that “drink the Kool-Aid” refers to the suicides at Jonestown. Here I always thought it had to do with the Grateful Dead Kool-Aid acid test, but Jonestown makes slightly more sense. Either way, it’s an expression I hear fairly often in the lawyer business, having to do with defending arguably disreputable clients. In my personal legal opinion, the more you understand the importance of Rule of Law, the less you feel the urge to imbibe.

The expression I’m most sick of at the moment is “open up about,” but putting on a burst of speed and coming up fast on the outside is “curated.” It’s ubiquitous but subtly, insidiously wrong; it grants a false legitimacy to the insignificant. 

Also there’s this business of words versus sound, how audio books are as effective as text. Meanwhile we universally use our phones to convey words rather than actually speak. Is that about privacy? Words are all up in secrecy, which seems ironic for a means of communication. Do written words really count more than sound or video? They certainly seem inherently definitive, able to divide the then from the now, so we put the important things in writing. And words can damn sure hurt you. Or else save you: flip you from screw-up to victim with an offhand concept, for example.

But that’s trite. Moving on:

Tom Wolfe, in The Kingdom of Speech, considers Darwin and Chomsky to conclude that language is a mnemonic device, an appallingly simplistic identification. Language is an incredibly complex topic, and I’ve dipped into it enough to know how little I know. There’s so much more than language acquisition to consider, more even than pragmatics. Delve into the relationship between words and consciousness; take a look at Wittgenstein’s language games; explore both reflective and intentional theories of representation. Do it because it’s entrancing, transfiguring, and fun.

Here’s my truth: words are power. It’s not that we remember with them, it’s that we own them, we take control. Those are our ideas, baby, to do with what we will. To build: in the beginning was the Word. Or else to deconstruct, or to imagine, or to question, or to create tomorrow. And we can make new words! Think about that: it’s so enormous, it’s literally overwhelming.

And then there’s reading: acquiring the very best words in order to convey the most expansive universe of meaning, or perhaps to juggle them and wake up the world.

As for me, once I’m fully back from vacation (clearly not yet) I’ll be refining a short story based on my work-in-progress, Fairmount. And once I figure out what I’m missing, or not loving enough, or whatever it is that’s making me do a condensed excerpt, I need to get back to writing the book itself. Like Worthy, this next novel is a pyramid of concepts pretending to be simple, but in Fairmount they’re all about The Other, courtesy of an unusual asylum claim. I don’t yet know what will become of the short story, poor misbegotten orphan. One option is to send it out to some reputable publications, the other is to post it on my own website, and that idea has a certain indie righteousness about it. Meanwhile another patched-together story, comprising the end of the prologue and the full first chapter of Worthy of This Great City, remains up right below this post, and you can read the entire prologue on the Excerpts page.

(Now was that a book promo, or what?)


Photo credits: Jesper Sehested, write (CC BY 2.0) / Nina G., Words. (CC BY-ND 2.0) /