I’d been meaning to write something about writing today. After a few long months of real struggle to get anything on the page, I had a good week, thanks to Jason Lambright. He’s been my writing buddy this week, introducing a bit of accountability and counselling to the process.
One writing job looming over me like the black wave of destiny was finding something to do for today’s ASB column that wasn’t even remotely political. I had decided to do a simple, funny column, but it’s been so long since I’ve done one that I wasn’t even sure where to start. There’s a way of framing your thoughts that allows you to do that sort of work, and I was out of practice.
Then, along comes John Hughes and his mighty-if-rambling defence of using other authors’ words as his own.
Man, this was a good get. I can’t imagine many people besides me reading the entirety of his self-defence piece at The Graun. Probably it was read multiple times by a few hundred people in publishing and ignored by everyone else.
But it is a cracker. It’s not well written. One of the odd effects of satirising somebody else’s prose is that you understand its structure and flaws on a much deeper level. And this thing has some deep structural defects.
But that makes my job easier. Thanks, Hughesy.
I won’t go into deets here. The whole thing is free to read over at The Boob.
After writing it and seeing some responses to both my bit and the source material, one thing that occurred to me was a realisation, or maybe just a suspicion, that Hughes has fallen prey to modern lit-fic’s post-modern relativism. There’s a heap of it in his defence, and it all boils down to the idea that there are no new ideas and everything is just everything else chewed up and regurgitated in a never-ending stream of content.
It’s not a trap that genre writers fall into. We might tell the same stories repeatedly, but the SPLOSIONS are fkn splodey and new every time.
If you want to read a lovely example of literary criticism getting roasted, I recommend this piece at McSweeney’s “Heterosexual Undertones in Top Gun”. I came across it while researching my bit on Hughes, and it is fucking delightful.
Since its release in 1986, Top Gun has been universally accepted as the homoerotic story of a pilot whose “inverted” flying style puts him at odds with the straight-shooting patriarchal value system of the US Navy. Yet while the past three decades of film criticism have reaffirmed this interpretation, recent study suggests that subtle layers of heterosexuality pervade the text. As unlikely as it seems, a closer reading reveals a romance between a cocky male pilot and his female instructor.