The Republicans get together tonight for another Electathon debate, but we’re going to skip this round, two of these events in less than a week being a little rich for our delicate blood. For you brave kind with more resilient metatarsophalangeal articulations, please do enjoy. The Dark Fields will piece together the ugliness tomorrow after a lunch hour whiskey.
The 10th annual Nine-Eleven Day has come and gone and with it perhaps the most appalling display of punditry since at least late last week. But we’re not fatalists or haters here, and so TDF’s crack research squad was given the weekend off from researching crack and asked to find ONE DECENT SEPTEMBER 11TH ANNIVERSARY STORY.
(Hint: There were none. This came close, but the bit about how “it should have united us,” brushed up a little to close to Rule #2):
The Dark Fields guide to writing a decent 9/11 story:
1) At no point will the piece devolve into a first-person I Remember Where I Was When. (No one gives a fuck. I remember where I was, do you want to know? Of course not. The feeling is mutual.)
Example of a violation: "But my thoughts, as we hit the 10th anniversary, are more local and particular. I’m in a New York state of mind."
2) At no point will the author insist upon some magical facility of the World Trade Center. (It was two buildings. What they symbolized, if anything, is a matter of debate and not some intrinsic or metaphysical national understanding.)
Example: “ They were there and proud and strong, they were massive, two pillars at the end of the island. And then they groaned to the ground and there was a cloud and when people could finally see they looked back and the buildings weren’t there breaking through the clouds anymore. The buildings were a cloud. The buildings were gone and that was too much to bear because they couldn’t be gone, they couldn’t have fallen. Because no one could knock down those buildings.”
3) At no point will the author seek to align himself with the victims via some distant cousin of the I Have Lots of Gay/Black Friends Defense. (If none of your family or close friends died and your psychic anguish is more to do with a 10-year-old epiphany about the fragility of life and the horrors of the human experience then please, share your thoughts with those living people, privately. Or a psychiatrist.)
Example: "And it changed everything. It marked a psychic shift in our town between "safe" and "not safe." It marked the end of impregnable America and began an age of vulnerability. It marked the end of "we are protected" and the beginning of something else."
4) No stories about the kindness of a lower-class stranger, like say a bus driver or tugboat captain, who gave you a free ride that day, thereby reaffirming old notions of human dignity.
Example: “ The bus driver as I fumbled in my wallet to find my transit card. “Free rides today,” he mumbled, in a voice on autopilot.”
(Note: the above is not taken out of a context. This writer just kind of lost the plot and started listing things that may or may not have happened.)
5) No poetic remembrances of a “Young/Old (fill in ethnic describer) (fill in gender) covered in soot, looking on in horror/with tears in his/her eyes as first/second tower fell.”
Example: "But then they go to the kind of small thing that when you first saw it you had no idea it would stay in your mind forever. The look on the face of a young Asian woman on Sixth Avenue in the 20s, as she looked upward."
6) Do not even think of mentioning the name of a firefighter or policeman killed that day unless you are doing a 500,000 word study on what’s become of their family and friends since. There were heroes that day, but it seems only the worst people have the nerve to use their names as ammunition to prove some point that’s either obvious or completely ridiculous.
Example: "They were tough men from Queens and Brooklyn and Staten Island, and they had families, wives and kids, and they went up those stairs. Captain Terry Hatton of Rescue 1 got as high as the 83rd floor. That’s the last time he was seen."
7) You are not Hemingway; keep it complicated. Al Qaeda was "simply evil," no doubt, but there’s no glory in matching their simplistic ideals on the page. What we’re saying is, if you write a sentence like the one below, not only is your piece complete bullshit, but you as a human being are likely a psychopathic bullshitter.
Example: "You’ve got to be loyal to pain sometimes to be loyal to the glory that came out of it."
Note: Haha! Guess what? All of the text quoted above is from Peggy Noonan’s insane entry in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal. If you want the full article, go find it yourself.
Last note: New-ish look for The Dark Fields soon. More accessible for comments, etc. Happy Monday.