GUEST POST TIME! WHOOOHOOOO!
Zombie horde member JeffM set out to do a little fisking of some of William’s newest work because I was, as Jeff so correctly put it, off being frivolous. And damn, was the frivolity FUN! Heh!
I appreciate this type of commentary because Jeff was going after the writing skills of the piece in question. This is something everyone who is a writer needs to have done to them every now and again. If our quirks and foibles begin to take away from the pieces we write, we obviously need to do some retooling. Constructive criticism, and just plain old criticism is a good thing and every writer should embrace it, whether or not it hurts our fee-fees.
(As an aside, I remember when my editor tore apart the first story I ever wrote. She took a 3,000 word review of a play and knocked it down to a lean, mean 1,000 words. I was devastated when I saw what she did with it. I was convinced I could never do this hard thing because I just couldn’t do it right, obviously. Nevermind it was very first attempt at this sort of thing. I was done for! Sob! But when it printed the next day, I realized that that was just what it needed. It had even more punch than I envisioned, and people other than family members remarked to me about it. It even caused quite the little kerfuffle in our theater community because I had the terminity to address a problem that had been around for YEARS but that people had been sweeping under the rug. Good times! Good times!)
And so now, I give you, JeffM! – TDPZ
Because Ash is off being frivolous, I thought I’d keep the site current by doing my own Billysez. It is a little off topic because I am going to analyze of Willie’s skills as a professional writer, not his logic. As we all know, he has been a flack, a journalist, and an author of books and blogs. Let’s see how good he is at his own calling. And I am going to be fair and admit right up front that what’s below would be C+ work for an amateur. But Willie is a GS-13 writer.
Filed under: “Life Among the Inmates.” (Blog post can be found HERE)
Comment: That is good: edgy but self referential and so not insulting.
Title: “Nuns — and the Things They Know About YOU”
Comment: Promises some introspective comedy ahead. Except we find that Willie fails to follow through. (“Fails” is a word that will recur.)
First sentence: I’m 61-years and 4-days old. A wee, broth of a boy compared to many of my contemporaries here at Juniper Courts.
Comments: A comma between “wee” and “broth.” Really? “Wee” is an adjective modifying “broth.” Ahh well, super-technical I guess. And “contemporaries.” The whole point is to TRY to indicate that many are NOT his contemporaries. He has failed to distinguish between “neighbors” and “contemporaries.” Did he take the course on “le mot juste?” And where is the promised relationship to the nuns and their knowledge?
Second sentence: There is much I have learned. Most of what I have learned is that there is much I have yet to learn.
Comment: Admit it: this is funny. It doesn’t make any sense, but nonsense is often funny. Still nothing about nuns or relative ages.
Second paragraph: For one thing, you don’t just show up at a retirement facility and start being old. It takes work. It takes patience. Especially among my Catholic brothers and sisters.
Comment: This paragraph has what my former writing teacher George Stade called the argumentative edge: the unexpected implication seems to be that being old is a learned skill and that learning to be an old Catholic is harder than learning to be an old Protestant or Hindu. Still nothing about nuns or relative ages, but I am intrigued about the difficulties of learning to be an old Catholic. This will definitely be a good paragraph if it leads somewhere. (Note the conditional: paragraphs do not stand alone.)
Third paragraph: One of the first lessons I learned was when the Packers had their bye week, and I took a load of laundry up to the second floor. Two of the elder ladies spotted me. “Doing laundry?” one asked.
Comment: Failure everywhere. I had thought his first lesson learned was that he had to learn how to be old. Nope, he learned something else first. Is it about nuns? No. Is it about Catholics? No. Is he implying that he has not done any laundry since football started last summer? Maybe. “Elder ladies.” Does he mean “elderly?” What the hell else would they be in a retirement home? And if he does mean “elder,” elder than whom? Willie, I guess. Is their relative age relevant to anything? No: another fail. But hey, we do have an admission against interest that he is not “totally disabled” because he just said (unless he lied) that he does his laundry (at least every few months or so). And what lesson was learned: we are NEVER told.
Fourth paragraph: “Nope, just takin’ my dirty clothes out for a walk,” I wanted to say but didn’t. I think Bill Engvall has the copyright on the whole “Here’s Your Sign” thing.
Comment: Willie fails in typical ways. All the carefully prepared set-ups fail: nothing about learning how to be old, nothing about Catholics, and nothing about nuns, let alone rifle toting nuns. Just a derivative joke showing him to be smarter than two women. (Is anyone’s misogyny showing? Has he never heard of phatic language?) And the joke is pretty lame: if this is in fact the first time since the Packer’s opening game that he has done any laundry, people must have been hoping for months that he would eventually do his laundry. (And I would quibble about the entire sentence structure. I would have put the “I wanted to say” before he started his quotation, rather than after. It’s less confusing and has just as much punch. – TDPZ)
Next paragraph: “It won’t do itself,” was my smiling reply.
Comment: Do replies smile? Personification of personal actions is a bit strained, don’t you think? But let’s not carp. His figures of speech are often profoundly weird. He could have said “‘It won’t do itself was my reply,’ as I smiled like a ghoul who had just eaten minced baby for dessert.” I can live with smiling replies. (Yeah, me too! – TDPZ)
Next paragraph: Both ladies frowned a well-meaning frown.
Comment: Not elegant, repeating the same root in noun and verb. Maybe, “The ladies’ slight frowns seemed mysterious until the other asked ‘On the Sabbath?’”
He really missed an opportunity here. It would have been much more funnier if the other lady had said “Has it taken you from August, dear, to figure that out?”
Last paragraph before terminal ennui overcomes me: And while we on the subject
Comment: What subject, you clown? You have maundered on from one thing to another, not one of which has had a thing to do with nuns, getting old, or learning the lessons of how to live with others. Instead we have been led from unrelated topic to unrelated topic up to a tidbit of misogynistic sniping about how stupid pious, elderly women are.
Others may continue if they wish. So much failure is too depressing for me to contemplate. Being fair, however, I must admit to being impressed by one stroke in what follows. One of Willie’s favorite topics is not hauled in by its hair, but rather introduced allusively (though with an excess of adjectives) through the metaphor about a cat’s litter box.