Beginning at Some Beginnings
DOI link for Beginning at Some Beginnings
Beginning at Some Beginnings book
Let us suppose that you are about to write, at the request of your insurance company (Brightside Brokers), a brieffactual description of what happened when your motor vehicle was rear-ended at the intersection of Rollinghome Road and Wanderlust Way, one fine afternoon in July. You are of course wholly innocent of any responsibility for this deplorable event, which occurred while you were singing along to some old Leonard Cohen tapes and patiently waiting for the traffic lights to change. All you know is that a big car came up behind you and removed your rear bumper, your stop lights, and most of your baggage compartment, including your fairly usable spare tyre and those pretty flowering baskets you were carrying home from the garden centre. It is a miracle that you are not going round in an orthopaedic collar. As you recall the event your grief and rage are truly indescribable, but never mind, if a description is what they want at Brightside Brokers Inc., a description is what they are going to get. So you describe:
I'm sitting at a stop light on Rollinghome Road, doing no harm to anyone, when suddenly BANG this mindless oaf or to put it more accurately this lobotomized gorilla chooses to ram his BMW up my tailpipe. Right there in broad daylight, visibility perfect, the street empty. He demolishes my back end, this yuppie hooligan. Totals my fuchsias, he does, and has the gall to ask me what of it? Then, would you believe it, he accuses me of rolling back, the unprincipled hound, yes, rolling back - at 20 m.p.h.! - into his squeaky-clean corporate sales-chariot. Can
you believe that? Do I have witnesses, you ask - well, yes, I have a witness, I have a myopic pensioner being taken for a walk by his long-haired dachshund, which, I am happy to say, paused to lift its little leg against the BMW, proving beyond a doubt the intelligence and discriminatory powers of this breed of animal. That man, or possibly that dog, could if invited testify to the accuracy of my narrative. N ow having at this point experienced the first fiery outbreak of
the compositional impulse - the calor cogitationis as Quintilian calls it - you stop to read over your work, with a possible view to improving a turn of phrase here, sharpening a point there, even, it may be, adding one or two tasty insults to what is already a reeking dish of contumely. You are quite pleased with it. You consider it not halfbad. You show it, looking for approval, to your spouse, or your partner, or your sibling, or your best friend, and you are surprised and a little hurt when they tell you that, fine though your description undoubtedly is, it will not get you too far with the steely-eyed cynics at Brightside Brokers. Much more in this vein and you might find yourself paying for your own repairs. What is required, they gently remind you, is a brief description of the facts; not of how it feels to have had those outraged feelings; not of how satisfying it is to nurture feelings until facts disappear; just a little cool description of the facts themselves.