Ink Soup: UNBLOTTED
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- For a while after the 1914-18 war certain American writers experimented with what they called automatic writing. You can understand why. People do get fed up with the hard work of trying words one way, crossing them out, trying them another, crossing that...but you get the point.
For every 100 words of a careful writer that eventually make their way to you, you can bet the author threw out five or six times that number. Only Shakespeare is said never to have blotted a line, but it was probably his agent who said that at some book-signing event at Micawber's.
Automatic writing is without doubt the easiest form of writing ever invented. The adage that Your Easy Writing Makes Your Damned Hard Reading had no impact on these people. They were, after all, just recovering from the war to end all wars [Voice from the surveillance device over my desk: "except nuculer!" Thank you, Mr. President!] and they figured that the world now owed them a living.
Why schlepp? The rental on the Smith-Corona typewriter was more than they could earn by slipping gossip to the dread three H's, Hedda Hopper and Hoover.
Most of the automatic writers continued to live with their aged parents, who in some sense did owe them a living, and who marvelled at the clatter of the typewriter day and night and wondered at the stupidity of editors who wanted none of it.
"Our writing is the most honest there is, Mom." And Mom could hardly disagree. "These other people are devious, sly, conniving. They write one thing, then toss it and write another.
"They write the truth, then replace it with a lie that will make them look better."
Mom: "Imagine what sort of homes they must come from! I pity their poor mothers. Finish your oatmeal."
Ink Soup Experiment in Automatic Writing [Constant readers should skip to the end to save us all embarrassment.]:
The weather today in Seattle: overcast, in the upper 40's. I wear as usual exactly the same clothing inside the house and out (unless the rain--it does rain at times--is like that in Princeton), so when I go out to fill the bird feeder I never alarm the little creatures with glossy attire.
I am looking out the patio door at the birdfeeder that I have just filled. They normally wait until I am safely back inside, but today they must have been really starved, for they were on it before my back was turned. No sooner had I sat down here at the computer than Oscar the squirrel showed up, too. Not on the feeder--just to scavenge beneath it. Oscar is not the brightest rodent of our experience: he buries not only acorns but also bread! What good is month-old bread exhumed from a two-inch layer of soil? It's not chopped liver, I know... .
I buy the cheapest seed available, at a fraction of the "no waste'' seed preferred by the snootier aviophiles, though not by the birds themselves.
So much for automatic writing. Ending of a more traditional Ink Soup:
And so, as the Gingrich-Lott Fellow in Republican Policy Studies, I wish to leave you with this thought - I had it here somewhere - oh, yes: It was not Shakespeare's agent but his friend Ben Jonson to whom we owe the famous line about the Bard's never having blotted out a line. But Jonson went on: "Would he had blotted a thousand." Some friend.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.