Dark Is Easy. Bright Is Hard.

One of my very favorite writers, his blog is a daily 'must read', is James Lileks. What follows is a summation of a conversation, a teachable moment, he had with his daughter.

It's a teachable moment for all of us who are not his daughter, as well.

Anyway, I was exulting in the Non-Standard No-Routine Saturday, when my daughter came into my study and asked me to read what she’s been writing.

And here I have a dilemma. Let me tell you about the fiction young girls are writing: it’s horrible. Not in the literary sense, necessarily, although that’s often the case. It’s the subject matter. Thanks to the influence of Harry Potter, stories usually begin with the death of the parents, the discovery of Powers, and so on. The darkness is a constant. She shows me the work of her peers, and it’s all horribly dark - and these are kids with happy merry easy lives. On one hand I get it: you write the opposite, summon the fears, confront them. But on the other hand: for heaven’s sake, what’s the matter here? You’re all eleven or twelve or 13 - that tremulous witching year - and you associate the Dark with the Profound. I get it. But as I told my daughter: Dark is easy. Bright is hard.

She told me how she wanted to end her story, and it had a flat rote nihilistic twist. Not because she’s dark or goth or anything, but because that’s the dominant literary model. So I kept posing questions: what if this happened? Or that? Or this? Trying to push her to see the twist at the end of the story as a release, a flock of aspirations taking flight, a break in the clouds. Oh my vs. uh huh. And she got it.

Dark is easy. Bright is hard.


The Last Time It Took Too Long

Recently Andrew Breitbart died. He was, by all accounts, a force to be reckoned with, brimming with energy and ideas. I found this neat little story among the remembrances of the man:

We talked about aging, as two middle-aged guys who get into the Bloody Mary cart at 11 in the morning sometimes will. I told Andrew that his good friend, Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, had a hit song called “100 Years” – about aging – that never ceases to freak me out. The protagonist of the song describes the different ages of his life – 15, 33, 45, and so on – that tick by in a blink. It doesn’t help, I told Andrew, that I was 33 when the song seemingly came out yesterday, but that I am closer to 45 now, thus illustrating Ondrasik’s point.
In a very rare spell of silence, Breitbart stewed for several minutes. Then, he wistfully replied, “Don’t worry, man. It’s something that bothers me, too. But I have it all figured out. We all need to go to work together every day from 9 am to 3 pm, whether we need to or not. In a classroom. We’ll even sit at those peninsula-shaped desks, with our pencil sharpeners and Elmer’s glue. And we’ll do it for nine months out of every year.”
“Why on earth?” I asked, puzzled.
“Because,” he said. “When we were in school, that was the last time we watched the clock, and wanted it to hurry up. The last time it took too long to get to the next thing.”

From the Weekly Standard blog by Matt Labash