Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not with a bang, but a whimper

Start off with a bang, that's what everybody says. Choose a catchy title, write an nforgettable first line. It doesn't matter if you're talking about stories, novels, or a blog. The advice has gained the force of axiom.

Missives from the Edge is hardly catchy. If anything, it comes across as stuffy. And quoting TS Eliot in the title of a blog is sure to turn off readers. Those who recognize the line will smell pretention; those who don't will simply scratch their heads. Not with a bang, but a whimper? What's that all about? Is this guy a wimp or something?

I'm not especially fond of TS Eliot. As an educated English speaker, of course I know his poetry. But I'm no fan. I'd prefer to read about The Wasteland than to actually plough through it. And The Hollow Men, from which the whimper/bang line comes, while popular with adolescents on the cusp of disillusion, is a gawky exercise in frivolous ellipsis.

So why Missives from the Edge, with its obvious allusion to the movie, Postcards from the Edge? And why TS Eliot, when his poetry does nothing for me?

Missives from the Edge is easy to explain. I'm homeless. That's right, you read correctly. Homeless. As in "no fixed address". Couch-surfing while I hunt for lodging that's affordable, of which there's none. Not in Ottawa, at any rate

A year ago, my life was perfect. I had love, a sense of family, time to write, and boundless optimism for the future of the novel I'd just written, The Binbrook Caucus. In less than three days, all that vanished, courtesy of guilt and discontentment on the part of someone who had formerly romanticized la vie d'artiste but suddenly gave into bourgeois-envy.

Admittedly, in adult life, I've pushed the envelope of interstitial living (a term from William Gibson) but always managed to avoid The Edge. Now I'm there, and feel the need to share my observations. From the perspective of the census takers, I'm a homeless, penniless, unemployed bum. How many bums do you know capable of citing TS Eliot and William Gibson? Not many, I imagine, hence Missives from the Edge: perspectives on what poverty is like from someone with an education. The very education current propaganda has Canadians believing is a guarantee of middle-class success.

Which brings me to the TS Eliot line. Aside from announcing I intend to start this blog off quietly, it's a starting point for addressing a misapprehension I've trying to counter all my life, namely that if you're educated and familiar with dead, white male authors, you have to be a snob. Someone out of touch with common pleasures, like beer and barbeque, country music, comic books, or action films.

I'm no snob. I like Death Note and the Preacher comics as much as I like Shakespeare and John Donne. In fact, I'm passionate about all four. I'm told this is unusual. For the life of me, I can't imagine why. But if it is, then perhaps my oddity will serve me in this blog.

It is said that significant enquiries always originate on the margin. My unorthodoxy, which has grown organically around me rather than my having cultivated it, puts me on the fringes of edge. It's from here, without fuss or posturing, I intend to question and observe, thus Missives from the Edge that start not with a bang, but a whimper.

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