Writing as Spectator Sport

I remember when I was a teenager and the Monty Python crew were releasing comedy albums (among all of the visual stuff that was still happening then). In 1973 they released Matching Tie and Handkerchief.

That came to mind while I was writing today. And I’ll tell ya why.

My writing was going well today. There are days that it does. I’ve had a few in a row actually, and it was feeling really good today. A couple of times I actually wished that I had another writer with we, just so he or she could see it happening.

Of course that is easily one of the most vain, hubristic thoughts that I’d ever had, and I recognized it immediately. I was alone, however so I laughed it off. “No one care hear the thoughts inside your head,” I told myself. “No one will ever know that you actually thought the writing you did today would make someone want to watch you do it. And that’s good because that’s how crazy people think.”

And then I remembered MT&H, and the skit entitled “Novel Writing.”

The premise was that writing novels was treated as a spectator sport, and it told of the large crowd had come together to watch “local boy” Thomas Hardy begin the writing of Return of the Native. The word by painstakingly chosen word description of the first sentence is hilarious, and it even pokes fun at the sports world’s obsession with statistics as, after the first word is penned, (“the,”) they analyze how it compares to his others saying:

Well, this is true to form, no surprises there. He’s started five of his eleven novels to date with the definite article. We’ve had two of them with “it”, there’s been one “but”, two “ats”, one “and” and a “Dolores”. Oh, that , of course, was never published.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus

So I felt mildly vindicated for about three seconds. Hell, these guys are some of my biggest heroes, and they thought about a writer’s fans being excited to watch him at it!

And then I remembered, “Oh, yeah. It’s satire.” What they were saying essentially, was “What is the one thing in the entire world that no one would ever pay money to watch happen?” I’m guessing it came down to novel-writing and paint drying. I bet the younger guys wanted paint drying but Cleese said, “Who are the bloody fans rooting for, the paint? It don’t work!”

“Really, Johnny? Do you think?”

“Bloody hell. How much would you pay to see Thomas Fucking Hardy write Return of the Bloody Native?”

Something like that, I think.

“You know… the one with the melty clocks!”

The other thing that came to mind was a story I heard during college which is a real howler in art history circles, but doesn’t generally play well with Midwestern crowds. It’s about Salvador Dalí, the super wacky Spanish surrealist painter that you may or may not have heard of but you’ve probably seen his most famous painting, “The Persistence of Memory,” or as most people refer it, “The Melty-Clock Painting.

Dali died in 1989, but not from being
stabbed by his mustache,
which was shorter near the end.

Anyway, this story has nothing to do with that painting. It doesn’t even have anything to do with his insane mustache.

The story is that that there was to be a great event, in which Dali was to appear before an audience to finish his latest masterpiece. In some versions the event was actually televised. He came out to great fanfre, then sat before the great canvas, and dotted the “I” in his last name.

This was prior to the internet, where that sort of shit happens all the time. It was even before Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone’s empty vault. We’re used to being conned now. We like it. We might even sign up for a new streaming service to watch it, although we’ll probably bail before the end of the trial period.

Don’t mind me.
Don’t even remind me.

So, this is probably why at no point did they consider writing a sketch named “Surrealistic Painting, with Salvador Dalí.”

So I will continue to be my only spectator, and I will remember that it’s not cool to imagine anyone wants to watch me write.

However, should someone actually want to discuss an audience, remember we will have to social distancing, and I think the maximum number of people can be no more that 50% of what the normal capacity would be, soooo, no more then a hundred thousand or so. I dunno. We’ll work our the details.

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