Thursday, January 6, 2011

#360: Trolley Trolley Clang Clang

Old Pueblo Trolley Company, Tucson, AZ

Every now and then when I'm in the &7 kitchen cooking up a nice piping hot slice of blog pie, I'll get super excited about my upcoming subject matter ("OMG," I think, looking at the next day's number, "I get to write about TROLLEYS tomorrow!") and immediately begin thinking of clever things I can say, peppering my thoughts with allusions and song titles I can work in, only to do a cursory search online and find that every clever turn of phrase I was going to use has already been beaten to death by journalists and prescient idea-thieves. For example? There I was at the helm of my computer, gazing gormlessly at this picture of a Tucson trolley, when suddenly I was seized with inspiration: "Gee whiz! How about I slip in that hokey old song, 'Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley'?" Which, I was soon to discover, is the hokey old reference nearly everyone with a pen or an internet connection and the word "trolley" on the brain reaches for first. It's one of those PBR ideas -- you don't drink it because you like it, you drink it because it's the first thing someone hands you when you say, "beer."

It's not a new feeling, this sad realization that in writing as in life, as Willie Shakes himself once lamented, there is "nothing new under the sun." (Though take that same idea, feed it into Samuel Beckett's brain, and what comes out of the machine is one of my favorite opening sentences of a novel ever, the memorable first line from Murphy: "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.")

Along these lines, I remember feeling similar disappointment when, while a starving student at NYU, I sat in the abandoned carrells of stern Bobst Library and scribbled a review for one of my theatre classes on the show I'd just seen, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. My opening line? "Jacques Brel is alive and well and playing in Greenwich Village!" And subsequently, every single review I have read of the show since starts with some shudder-inducing variant: "Jacques Brel is alive and well and playing in (insert name of town, name of venue)!" Or "Jacques Brel may no longer be alive and well and living in Paris, but he lives on in this zany new production by Horksville's own Redundant Repertory Theatre!"

Ah, it makes me cringe to look at now, but there is nothing quite so deceptive and dangerous than a writer in the throes of so-called inspiration. That's why I'm much more trusting of the days when I write dutifully, angstily, and doubtfully, laboring over each turn of phrase, feeling more like a pack mule than a glittering weaver of ideas.

7 comments:

Radge said...

Hadn't read that Beckett line before, reminds me of the DH Lawrence poem that I'm always quoting. It's two lines long, hence its easy recall.

'Tourists'

There is nothing to look at anymore. Everything has been seen to death.

Cheering stuff.

Therese Cox said...

If I listened to DH Lawrence, this blog wouldn't exist. But I always appreciate curmudgeonly thoughts if they are well-crafted - that's a great 2 lines.

January brings out my inner Beckett anyway. Pah.

Julie said...

Appreciate the Beckett and the Lawrence lines, but also the 'angstily'

'Tis now in my vocab ...

Conan Drumm said...

A writerly full circle, well described!

Therese Cox said...

Julie - Best consult Merriam-Webster first RE: the word. Might've made it up. And yes, Lawrence and Beckett are quite welcome in these parts... as are people who actually read them for fun.

Conan - And it's a circle that goes on... and on...

Conan Drumm said...

...the full 360

Therese Cox said...

...the whole enchilada