The Soapbox

So I said that I wouldn't put my writing on this site. Here's the revised statement: I won't plaster the place with my poetry or novel chapters, short story passages or love letters. If you still have a desire to see these things, feel free to e-mail me and I'd be happy to oblige, in exchange for something you've written. However, I've decided to retain this irregularly appearing column to spout about writing. As always if you want me to climb down and stop spouting nonsense or have anything at all to say:
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On "Discrimination"

There has been a lot of talk these days about discrimination. I think that in writing, we often need to encourage rather than discourage discrimination. We should praise it because that's what art is: razor sharp, sliver in the foot
of the angel dancing on the head of a pin discrimination. It's picking out what others stomp by. I am a racist, a classist, an agist, and a sexist pig. But only in the sense of an enthusiast and a humanist : one who urges you to embrace who you are.

We don't want to discriminate against a writer, but we must sometimes reject one piece of work and accept another. Yet, truly powerful writing, art, is again itself the epitome of discrimination: It represents a particular articulation of a singular vision by one specific individual. It seems to me that only that particular bundle of molecule upon molecule who read those books, saw those movies, had those late night conversations about what seemd like nothing, could have written that. When I say that it matters to me how old you are, what sex, what gender, it is only in the sense that I recognize that these things have value as part and parcel of the greater whole that is the artist, that is you. When I say that there is at the heart only one single criterion which makes writing art, it is not meant to imply that all writers are the same or equivelant or even equal, but rather to acknowledge that they are all different; For it is only in coming to terms with what is different, what is personal that artists are forged.

We should discriminate artists on the basis of their own level of discrimination. By this I mean discrimination as something comparable to taste or refinement. Does a younger writer, then, lack discernment? Not necessarily. Certainly in terms of sheer quantity and most likely variety of input, the elder writer appears to have an advantage. However, we are not machines and the type of artistic discrimiantion we posess has not been reduced to an algorithm just yet. So it is hard to say that the vision any one person might have is limited by the available pool of experience in the same way that a database is limited in its scope by the particular data involved. So perhaps it is in expressing the vision that the younger writer is limited, lacking a certain knowledge of the language and skill in its manipulation. Even granting for the moment that this may be true, it seems ot me that knowledge of language in the sense of knowledge of rules or standard procedure can tend to deaden or habituate rather than enlighten or surprise. I discuss this concept further in my previous column. Simply because one does not know or follow the rules of proper etiquette does not mean that one is not discerning, does not exhibit good taste, as I regard taste as something which can be deeply personal.

Go and write with discrimination - exclude that which does not give us your vision so that it cannot be ignored or overlooked. Not simply because you are a black writer or a young writer or a straight writer or a male writer but because you are you.

Matthew Eberle
July 9, 1997

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