Sam Edwine gets that all-important publishing contract, and decides what the key word of his book shall be

 

The truck drivers and ditch diggers of this country are expected to keep themselves inarticulate in a masculine way, and aren’t allowed to express their emotions except in sentimental country music, nor their considerable linguisitic energy except catologically. This, of course, keeps them politically fragmented and easy to suppress on a cultural level–which is fine with Sam Edwine, for he feels nothing but contempt for the gritty-necked swine’s value systems. But he loves their obscenities. He considers the working class’s sick words to be the richest part of the poor depleted tongue which he is about to sell out for a cool million or so.

“The party of the first part (hereinafter referred to as the ‘author’) promises to deliver an MS of x-dozens of thousands of words by such-and such a date, with speculation, light supposition and easy cerebration from an insider’s point-of-view comprising neither more nor less than twenty percent of the pagination, the other eighty percent being devoted to dialogue and action, with especial visual, scenic, or, more precisely, cinematic, emphasis being placed on the climactic scene, to be selected at the author’s discretion.”

Sam was intending to put “pecker-snot” into the conversations of several socioeconomically disparate characters, to make the term seem, at least in the context of the book, to be a major part of the contemporary American idiom, an everyday cuss word like fuck, shit, or piss. In a bestseller, this prophecy of the coming of “pecker-snot” would self-fulfill; and “pecker-snot” would be smeared on paper, both slick and newsprint, and on pixels and celluloid, and on the lips of every young person all across this great civilization of ours.

The humorous youngster in the enormously popular cinematic masterpiece, E.T., who, in the presence of the darling Barrymore child, called his brother a “penis-breath,” much to the delight of his charmingly loose mom, put “penis breath” in every American child’s mouth. And Sam wanted to do no less with his own “pecker-snot.”

“The style of the whole shall confirm strictly to Miller and Swift’s Handbook of Nonsexist Writing (Lippincott & Crowell, NYC), and also, in no less strict a fashion, to the Raygor Readability Index, as prepared by the National Council of Teachers of English in their latest report, which delineates the standard fifth- or fourth-grade comprehension level (more popularly known as ‘Hemingwayesque’). That is to say, the ‘author’ will provide a specific maximum number of letters per word, words per sentence, and a minimum number of sentences per paragraph, and paragraphs per page.”

One would be grossly disingenuous to imply that a concern for his own reputation was not working in Sam’s brain regarding this matter. One of the few things, after all, which can ensure the immortality of any author is his intimate association with a single word or phrase–such being easier for English professors and grad students to latch onto and sprinkle into their articles and dissertations than, say, whole ideas. Orwell has his newspeak, Nabokov his nymphet, Heller his Catch-22, and Edwine his “pecker-snot.”

Tom Bradley received his novelist's calling at the age of nineteen. He climbed into the moonlit mountains around his hometown, where he got an unambiguous life-informing vocation with physical symptoms and everything, just like Martin Luther in the electric storm, and he doesn't recall being on acid or anything at the time. He moved to China and points east in 1985, and has been hanging around the left rim of the Pacific ever since, in a successful search for sinecures that steal virtually no time and absolutely no mental energy from his writing. Reviews and excerpts of Tom's novels, links to his online publications (Salon.com. Exquisite Corpse, McSweeney's, etc.), plus a couple hours of recorded readings, are at http://tombradley.org.
spread the love