Aschematiston: The use of plain, unadorned or unornamented language. Or, the unskilled use of figurative language. A vice. [Outside of any particular context of use or sense of its motive, it may be difficult to determine what’s “plain, unadorned or unornamented language.” The same is true of the “unskilled use of figurative language.”]
Elgin: “The moon is like a yellow bathrobe hanging in the sky. When it is full it is like a fat man. When it wanes, it’s on a diet, slimming down and disappearing—sneaking into a late night diner and becoming quiche.”
What do you think? I’m taking a creative writing class. When I read this in class, my fellow students squirmed around in their chairs and looked at the professor and coughed quietly.
You: It stinks. It’s like vomit with words. Or, a speaking hairball.
Elgin: Thanks—your cutting criticism builds my character. All great writers were not appreciated in their own time. Look at Poe. He died a drunk in the gutter. Or Socrates: his critics made him feel so bad, he killed himself! Hunter Thompson took lots of psychedelic drugs to drive out the critics’ voices.
Do you see what I’m saying? The worse you say it is, the better it is. That’s the rule I follow for dealing with my writing’s reception. And of course, out of respect, I must accept any positive feedback I get: of which my 14-year-old nephew is the only instance. He liked “I Shot the Teddy Bear, I Didn’t Shoot the Bunny Rabbit.” It was influenced by my Reggae roots in music and my sympathy for the plight of all Jamaica.
You: What happened to you?
Elgin: Ha ha! I’ve written a lot of great stuff. Here’s another sample.
“My mouth is an inverted unicorn horn with the tip sawn off—a single shaft jammed down my throat like a train track made from bananas soaked with cognac and sweet syrup leading to the mall, carrying the mail in a ruby-crusted bag made by greedy charlatans in workshops on mountaintops somewhere in Switzerland, wearing goose down coats and mink fur hats, and banging their sheep skin gloved hands together to keep them warm. The rubies are fake.”
I like this! The surprise ending is the clincher: “The rubies are fake.” Did it bowl you over? When I wrote it, it bowled me over! The rest of it conveys the angst of modern life, and it’s roots in it’s ultimate incoherence.
You: “Ultimate Incoherence!” Perfect! “Unintelligible” might be more accurate. Or perhaps “mentally ill” captures it best. I think you’re about to join the ranks of under-appreciated writers. There’s a van waiting downstairs.
Elgin: You have thwarted my artistic endeavors all my life. Your jealousy has consumed you. You Neanderthal! You jelly sandwich! You box of mud!
Of course, after he was put away, Elgin was “discovered” by the literary world. “Unicorn Horn” achieved acclaim everywhere and was voted by Literati Magazine “Most Likely to Induce Functional Confusion.” However, the asylum kept the news from Elgin because it would damage his fragile self concept as a complete failure. They told him he won nothing.
The asylum that Elgin was housed in was in Texas, where “guests” are permitted to kill themselves as as long as the vehicle is a hot beverage. When he found out he was a loser, Elgin requested a mug of piping hot hemlock, sweetened with honey and seasoned with nutmeg. After drinking it, he said, “This isn’t bad,” and died. Now Elgin is a literary icon. Now, first editions of his works are worth $100,000. Now, his brother, who had him committed, has become a millionaire.
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Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.