Sylvester, as is his want, likes to drink tea with his guests in decaying armchairs on his front porch. He likes this because decaying armchairs are the most comfortable of all chairs, and because his porch overlooks a ramshackle garden with some very rare designer weeds in it. And so, in this environment, with a cup of very nice tea, I told Sylvester of my reason for coming to see him, and asked if he had any thoughts on things mirror or truth related. It turns out, he did … a lot of things … not all of which I understand, but am sure are very deep and reflective.
“Well, Wingsmith,” he began, “for me, the best way to approach these questions is through genre. The genre of an Author (bold capital ‘A’) should reflect their deepest and innermost being. It should speak powerfully to the reader of that Author’s orientation to the world, and the raw force of the ‘creative’s’ mind to penetrate deeply into the conditions of human life.
“My own genre is that of ‘whimsical silliness’, or, more properly, ‘whimsilism’. You will notice the use of ‘ism’ here.’Isms’ are very important to labels of genre, since they lend weight and authority; they reflect the need to take the words on the page seriously. Every ‘ism’ also signals various devices that one can expect to see in that genre. This gives the hidden truths reflected back from the ‘work’ its distinctive flavour, and thus makes them that much more truthful.”
“I see,” I said, not really seeing at all, “what are the particular devices of ‘whimsilism’?”
“I can’t go into them all at the moment – we haven’t the time for me to give you the full seminar I normally provide, for a small fee, to the interested public. I can, though, give you just a quick sketch, with an example.
“In brief, whimsilism involves the use of absurd and sometimes contradictory juxtapositions. This has the effect of unbalancing the reader to such an extent that a cognitive shift is produced that should, if successful, cause said reader to start seeing the world of the text in an ‘off kilter’ sort of way. An example from my own work is the use of ‘mixed spelling conventions’. I primarily write in English, so I mix both U.K. and U.S. conventions in ways that unsettle and annoy the audience – despite the fact that both forms of the language are intelligible to readers schooled in either of these two language formats. It has been my experience that this sort of thing puts everybody really out of sorts, and thus produces the correct ‘whimsilical cognitive shift’.
With that, Sylvester referred me to his autobiography, The Importance of Refracted Alone-ness: One Author’s Struggle to Find the Truth. (He assures me that much of his thoughts on genre and matters ‘ism’ are contained within the books covers, and kindly gave me a reduced price for its purchase.)
All in all it was a pleasant and interesting visit with Sylvester, and he has given me much to think about. This is why I have made myself a very nice cup of tea to aid me in my reflections while I stare out this window:
Wait … is … is that an Araçari?