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Jeans Are the Bass in the Rock Band of an Outfit

So, hey–

New here on the blogroll–you may have seen me loitering about the comments, strewing opinion shrapnel–I wanted to introduce myself by way of a ridiculous extended metaphor and a concomitant anxiety. First the analogy: an ensemble of clothes is like a musical ensemble, guitar/bass/drums to be exact. A shirt plays lead guitar…ruffled or sequined, paisley or emblazoned with a message, it’s allowed to wander around a bit in the upper registers, bend notes, solo,  show off, call attention to itself. Pants are more like the bass player–under the shirt, they anchor it, and can be inventive, but in ways that are subtler than the shirt’s inventiveness; they’re not off soloing, and are instead more functional, steady and dependable. Shoes are, as you’ve already guessed, the drums, and it’s no coincidence that they are the earthshakers, the rhythm-makers. Hats  are…I don’t know. Something has to be done with hats in the analogy. Hats are saxes? Lead singers? Tsampounas?

We’ll definitely need a place for the Tsampouna in the analogy, but maybe not today. The point is…it’s an okay analogy, maybe not a great one, maybe not one that as an author you would want to assert, but one that you might put in the mouth or mind or a character, for sure. A character who is perhaps slightly alienated or somewhat absurd, obsessed with rock bands to the degree that s/he sees them everywhere, translates everything into their language, plays air guitar not just in the privacy of home but on the suspender cables of bridges. Said musicophile might try to explain to his or her significant other that music is like an outfit–might try to bridge the gulf between them by doing so, and the reader might see the gulf widening all the while.

What do you do with such thoughts–thoughts that have some validity but probably won’t hold up under scrutiny? Do you assign them to your comic characters and have fun with them? Do you try to sculpt them or rein them in until they conjoin with other thoughts and maybe become stronger? Do you put them in a document entitled, “Semi-idiotica.doc” (or now .docx)? Do you tweet ’em/blog ’em? Do you refrain from doing so because who knows, you might be less inclined, once it’s been tweeted and maybe retweeted and thrice-“liked” to find it urgent to have that character spouting off about it in what might otherwise have been a moving, tragicomic scene? I wonder whether yesteryear’s napkin-scrawl can maybe too readily be proclaimed to the whole restaurant…

Napkin booklet

  • Tim Horvath is the author of Understories, which won the New Hampshire Literary Award, and Circulation (sunnyoutside press), and is working on a novel entitled The Spinal Descent.

9 thoughts on “Jeans Are the Bass in the Rock Band of an Outfit

  1. Well, I’d say that a hat in this ensemble would probably be the background vocalist(s). Bracelets are percussionists. Thinking of Steven Tyler, I’m guessing lead singers must be feather boas or scarves.

  2. Sweet treat/tweet of a post Tim. Very funny. Welcome by the way, good to have you here.

    I guess I tend to try and make a story out of my garbage. A writer I adore told me, well excuse this, but I really want to share it and I think it speaks to a different way of reading where you root for the writer and not the characters:

    “I love stories where I keep wondering how you’re going to pull this off, and you just keep pulling it off. It’s the best kind of cliff-hanger, waiting to see how a writer is going to make something work after he seems to have painted himself into a corner, a really beautiful corner, but a corner nonetheless.”

    It’s probably one of or the best complement I’ve ever received and now I’ve popped it out – you can call me ‘semi-idiotica.’

    I remember the term ‘Rage Receptor’ which is a term involving genes, catching my eye and I was very angry at the time, so I was bound to catch it. I wanted the Rage Receptor to be this machine that people have in their house, kind of like the orgasmatron in Woody’s ‘Sleeper,’ but I didn’t get that far, not because it was ridiculous but because I didn’t have it in me to write it. I guess I embrace the idiotica.

    1. Thanks, Greg. I dig the idea of rooting for the writer rather than the characters. That’s how I started feeling toward the end of Cloud Atlas.Or, without getting too mystical (though maybe we must?), at the end of the really great ones I find myself rooting not for the character or even the writer anymore but maybe for sufferers or humanity or the world that spun them into being. It’s like this vast, generalized rooting with almost no pinpointable object. I don’t know, I never pegged it before but your response made me think of it.

  3. Welcome aboard, Tim!

    I do indeed have such thoughts that you describe, but since I write mainly (non-dramatic) poetry (right now I’m working on an experimental collage novella that isn’t character-driven), they tend to only serve as momentary self-amusement and, for better or worse, don’t get archived.

    1. Thanks, Michael! Yeah, when I wrote that I thought that character-rooted stories are going to lend themselves to certain solutions, but of course there’s the rest of the narrativerse.

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