Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
"The secret of being a bore is to tell everything."…
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2002 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
"The secret of being a bore is to tell everything." -- Voltaire
"The secret of being annoying is to chant in singsong, 'I know something you don't know! I'm not gonna tell you!" -- me
Various people and I have had conversations over the last few years about the dichotomy of Romance v. Straightforwardness, in prose, in friendships, in social interactions as a whole. As it is these days, as much as I enjoy subtlety, and as much as I understand the urge to keep graceful understandings implicit, I tend to favor explicitness and just don't have time for this coyness bull.
Modesty and coyness are not the same thing. Modesty preserves a private space. Coyness pretends to concern itself with privacy, while taunting the audience with the inaccessibility of the author's private self, and dangling the possibility of access in the audience's face. As an audience member, I have little patience for mind games with the author, especially when the part of the author that he allows me to see gives me no reason to believe that I should strongly wish to see those secret things too. Coyness, as a repeated device to hold attention, calls to mind an analogy between the author and an unattractive stripper or a lackluster painter, who tosses glimpses of forbidden flesh into an act that has not much else to say, an act that will probably never deliver on its promises.
Certainly, as you can tell from my word choice above, this criticism is one I feel strongly regarding certain authors of prose. But I run across this in conversation, too. People toss out cryptic bait, hoping or assuming I'll wonder about their private lives and they'll have the chance to smile and refuse to speak substantively about the issue they just brought up. I suppose they're the centers of attention in the walls inside their heads.
Oh, with regards to that Guster song, Center of Attention, I found it rather poignant to listen to that song while reading about Palestinian suicide bombers. "One of us won't last the night / Between you and me, it's no surprise / There's two of us, both can't be right / Neither will move till it's over."