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"snapper in the tail" of the tale

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  • Doc
    replied
    Originally posted by Carter Kaplan

    Tenure--so far that's proven alusive in my case. I haven't been able to find a tenure-track post so far, though for that matter I have just about as much job security, actually. Those freaks you speak of, Doc, are unsettled by my manner, perhaps? I was raised to be proud, I suppose, and I'd just can't seem to kow tow. It just ain't in me, try as I have.... And more's the pity. I am thinking as I get older I will seem less intimidating, and they will put me in that elusive posh liberal arts college where I belong, teaching Locke and Milton. Cutting my hair helped, though some people say it doesn't matter; I still walk around like I have all the answers (the confounded thing is I do have all the answers, and they know it!).

    Keep your chin up. Speak softly and you'll get through it soon. And remember, when you do join the ranks of the freaks--your word, not mine--be sure to be kind to those poor graduate students. That grad faculty abusiveness--I am assuming that's what you are referring to by saying "freak"--is reprehensible. Not to mention pure cornball.
    Thanks Carter. You understand how odd our professional world is. I often feel like much of it consists of people who barely earned their academic freedom, but like to "protect" it for everyone else by overly-scrutinizing junior faculty with better qualfications than they have. Thankfully this is not the case in my department, where I have as much support as I can have from our faculty of brilliant, well-published scholars and first-rate teachers, nor in my college, where we have the highest tenure and promotion standards in the university.

    I've been lucky enough to land in a supportive environment filled with people who want me to succeed, and, more importantly, want me to be me--both academically and personally. That is why the process is a big deal to me. I don't want tenure. I want tenure here. It sounds like you've wound up in different circumstances. The arbitrary nature of the academic job market is frustrating. Too often the best people simply don't land in the right places. I'm guessing you always have one eye on the market? Perhaps your cushy liberal arts gig is coming. Grow your hair again :)

    And a quick word about graduate students--
    Part of why my decision is a little stressful is because my scholarly output is a little on the thin side, although not by much. This is completely explained by the 23 MA committees on which I've sat or chaired in the last five and a half years. I don't abuse graduate students. They abuse me :)

    Leave a comment:


  • Talisant
    replied
    Carter, I like this piece, to me, it works on it's own and obviously can be "pop beaded" into any number of contexts as a component to add tack to the main thread of your composite story. I'd like to read the assemblage.

    I don't really read this as a snapper ending, but rather as a transcendant realization, something more akin to the Prisoner episode where he realizes that though he's escaped he's not free and returns to the village, or the t.r. at the end of the book The Man Inside, from the 60s, sorry, can't remember the author.

    The setup of sensation swap reminds me a bit of a short story, maybe, by P.J. Farmer.

    Cheers

    Leave a comment:


  • nalpak retrac
    replied
    This is taken from a Bronson Bodine story--sort of a story within a story, or, rather, a story within five stories. I am a bit reluctant to offer it without the circumscribing narratives that do so much to complete the artistic effect I am seeking to create; nonetheless, this bit has a twist at the end that illustrates some of the above discussion. Let me close with a warning: the following is weird.





    Monkey Box

    There is a man and a monkey in a box. I am the man, but I experience only the monkey's sensations. The monkey experiences mine. We both wear cybernetic interface radio caps to make this possible. Mine is bigger. Both are conical with a short aerial at the top.

    I used to strike the monkey even though it hurt me. I used to throttle him until his eyes watered, and then beat him around the muzzle for good measure. I would stomp on his tail and bend his arms behind his back and flick his eyeballs with my fingers. Such was my loathing.

    Monkeys make mistakes. Monkeys make too many mistakes. Monkeys are stupid, filthy creatures. And I felt it all. I felt stupid. I felt filthy. I felt like a monkey in a box with a better man.

    Then the doctor gave me three choices.

    One: I could leave the box and be free. But I would still experience the monkey's sensations, i.e. be a monkey in a box.

    Two: I could stay in the box and try to live with the monkey watching me through monkey eyes.

    Three: I could "neutralize" the monkey and see what happened.

    I tried the first choice. I left the box. But, alas, I was still in the box. After awhile I couldn't even smell myself anymore. I went back in. There I was again, looking down at the filthy monkey with disgust.

    I tried the second choice. I tried to live with the monkey. Even though I had been frustrated before, I tried to make it work. I told myself that living with the monkey was my own choice. Yes, however bad it was being alone in a box with a monkey, well, at least the decision was mine. But a monkey is a filthy stupid thing. A pest. I stretched out his little arms and lifted him. It became hard to breathe. But I knew I was breathing.

    I tried the third choice. I put the monkey face down on the floor. I placed my right foot across his filthy buttocks. I placed my left foot across his back. My entire weight was now resting on the monkey. It hurt. It was difficult to breathe. But I knew I was breathing. I slowly shifted all my weight to my left foot and bounced. The monkey's rib cage compressed. The pain in his diaphragm was hot and tight and moist. This is the only way to make a monkey sweat. Suddenly his ribs went all rubbery and they folded together.

    I emerged from the box shaken. The doctor explained that I was part of a control experiment. That cleared up the mystery.

    But the cap was still on my head. I sighed. It was only monkey heaven after all.

    Leave a comment:


  • nalpak retrac
    replied
    I am reminded of that wonderful segment I once saw on Rod Serling's Night Gallery--"The Big Surprise" I believe was the name of the story. An old man (a very old and dried-up looking John Carradine) tells a couple of boys about somethig burried in a field. He tells the boys it's a "big surprise." The two boys grab shovels, run to the filed, pace the desigbnated number of steps from the designated tree, and then begin digging. They dig for hours, until one of the boys gives up. He leaves his companion alone to finish digging the hole, which after another few hours is about six feet deep. His shovel hits a wooden lid. He digs around the lid, which is secured to a large box--a bit bigger than a coffin--with a padlock. The boy breaks the lock with his shovel and then falls backward and stares in horror as the lid slowly begins to raise. John Carradine sticks his head and shoulders out of the box and hisses "Surprise!"

    This sort of thing was the way things usually unfolded with Rod Serling--Twilight Zone of course, and Planet of the Apes

    I like a bit of irony and cleverness in the final lines of my stories, though I don't necessarily strive for suprises. "Muscle of the Soul" has a bit of a twist at the end--Nabnak looking over at the monkey in the cage. LOL! Along these lines, I rather prefer something sublty absurd to the "surprise" ending. I like to set up the the ending so as to play with the reader's expereince of the story, so that the clever ending makes the reader view what he or she has just read in a new, unexpected way.

    Tenure--so far that's proven alusive in my case. I haven't been able to find a tenure-track post so far, though for that matter I have just about as much job security, actually. Those freaks you speak of, Doc, are unsettled by my manner, perhaps? I was raised to be proud, I suppose, and I'd just can't seem to kow tow. It just ain't in me, try as I have.... And more's the pity. I am thinking as I get older I will seem less intimidating, and they will put me in that elusive posh liberal arts college where I belong, teaching Locke and Milton. Cutting my hair helped, though some people say it doesn't matter; I still walk around like I have all the answers (the confounded thing is I do have all the answers, and they know it!).

    Keep your chin up. Speak softly and you'll get through it soon. And remember, when you do join the ranks of the freaks--your word, not mine--be sure to be kind to those poor graduate students. That grad faculty abusiveness--I am assuming that's what you are referring to by saying "freak"--is reprehensible. Not to mention pure cornball.

    Leave a comment:


  • Doc
    replied
    Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
    The "given to drink" is just a piece of throwaway sarcasm. I have known a few individuals (all of whom received tenure) that this could have been a description of. None of their lives unravelled after tenure was received, because (in one case) the various transgressions were covered up.

    Doc, if you have no first hand observations of this sort of thing, S*n M*rc*s must be a boringly ordinary place. Sometimes, "boring" is goodness, of course.

    Stick with it, Doc, and we'll be rooting for your tenure to come in like the proverbial ship, perhaps Drake's Golden Hind, loaded with ill-gotten loot for the survivors. (The lead up to getting tenure is stressful. )

    LSN
    Thanks for the kind words. Seriously. I have moments of irrational panic about the process-- very out of character, as it usually takes a lot to get under my skin.

    Of course, I have many, many first hand observations of the debauchery of academe. To be honest, the people who revel in it are part of what makes a life in such a career interesting. After all, what good is tenure if you can't become a freak after you earn it? :lol:

    Leave a comment:


  • Elphaba
    replied
    Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
    In a novel, it's hard not to tip him off before you reach the "surprise." The book had better have something more going for it than the "shock and awe" effect of a snapper in the tail.
    Precisely why I mentioned Fight Club. The twist in the end is only one small part of a very poignant and thrilling story. Yet the "snapper," once it is revealed, echos back throughout the entire tale.

    I'm surprised more people here have not read this book.

    Leave a comment:


  • Grey Mouser
    replied
    This kind of story can work well so long as characters and events aren't forced to bring about the denouement, and so long as there's no resort to deux ex machina, or the story isn't contrived soley for the twist. Take the film Sixth Sense, this would have worked well except that I figured out the twist.

    It's perhaps an effect which is fine if it can be made to happen naturally, but is terrible if the characters and events are just cyphers for the final twist.

    Leave a comment:


  • A_Non_Ymous
    replied
    Originally posted by manmiles
    My friend seems to think that short stories all seem to have a twist in the tale in order to make it worth reading.
    Your friend sounds a bit of a hedgehog. (Cf. Sir Isaiah Berlin's famous monograph, The Hedgehog and the Fox.)

    Originally posted by manmiles
    He doesn't read short stories.
    Oh. :roll:

    I'm not sure he's entitled to deliver an opinion, then. (Vis. "informed opinion" versus "opinion.")

    Originally posted by manmiles
    Really, having a twist in the tale is a hard thing to pull off, Iain M Bank's books are supposedly notourious for having plot twists, but I've never seen them as such.
    Having a twist in the plot is not (of course) quite the same thing as building to a single effect that is realised via a "surprise" ending.

    To pick a rudimentary example that many people should be familiar with, consider Isaac Asimov's Second Foundation and its so-called "surprise" ending. I read this book at about 13, and I am sorry to report that I foresaw the "surprise" long before the end. A novel had better have a lot more going for it besides some trick up the sleeve of the writer at the very end.

    As I've said before, if you play "fair" (logically, and all cards on the table), you can surprise a careful reader in a short story; the surprise in the payoff adds to the interest in the story -- if handled well. In a novel, it's hard not to tip him off before you reach the "surprise." The book had better have something more going for it than the "shock and awe" effect of a snapper in the tail.

    LSN

    Leave a comment:


  • manmiles
    replied
    My friend seems to think that short stories all seem to have a twist in the tale in order to make it worth reading.

    He doesn't read short stories.

    Really, having a twist in the tale is a hard thing to pull off, Iain M Bank's books are supposedly notourious for having plot twists, but I've never seen them as such.

    Leave a comment:


  • A_Non_Ymous
    replied
    The "given to drink" is just a piece of throwaway sarcasm. I have known a few individuals (all of whom received tenure) that this could have been a description of. None of their lives unravelled after tenure was received, because (in one case) the various transgressions were covered up.

    Doc, if you have no first hand observations of this sort of thing, S*n M*rc*s must be a boringly ordinary place. Sometimes, "boring" is goodness, of course.

    Stick with it, Doc, and we'll be rooting for your tenure to come in like the proverbial ship, perhaps Drake's Golden Hind, loaded with ill-gotten loot for the survivors. (The lead up to getting tenure is stressful. )

    LSN

    Leave a comment:


  • Doc
    replied
    :clap:
    Bravo!

    The "given to drink" aspect comes after the decision. And that "highest moral caliber"-- is that a compliment or an insult?

    A story challenge seems a far better solution to my recent stress than all of the narcotics I was considering. :lol: Of course, Carter would do it far more justice, as mine would certainly end up nihilistic and angry. At least before March.

    Leave a comment:


  • A_Non_Ymous
    replied
    Originally posted by Doc
    . . .
    As for taking up a challenge...

    A relatively young professor was putting together his materials for tenure. He was sure the various committees would decide in his favor. Because he spent too much time on message boards, he was denied tenure.

    The end.

    No wait, that's the ending I don't want. Also why my participation has been sparse lately.
    How about:

    A relatively young professor (who shouldn't resemble H*r*ld D*rt*n, Ph.D. very closely) was putting together his materials for tenure. He was sure the various committees would decide in his favor; insiders told him "the fix was in." He looked forward to a pleasant future with the appetizing position of "tenured professor" instead of "lean and hungry guest lecturer." Everything was w*o*n*d*e*r*f*u*l, including his private life, his sexual escapades, and even his private, bizarre fantasies. Perhaps he was a person of the highest moral caliber save that he was (to echo Fielding) "a little given to drink." And then it all started to unravel. . . .

    I suggest things should unravel because the character loses his position, loses his status (degree called into question?) and perhaps even loses his identity. Optional whether the balance of the universe is restored, or if the character goes all the way down.

    This sounds like a challenge story for our very own CK. I'm sure it would be informed by many amusing insights and striking aperأ§us. It is, of course, open to anyone willing to give it a try.

    Thanks for the story challenge idea, Doc! The pattern is classic, and calls for a sort of neo-noir treatment, I think. :lol:

    LSN

    Leave a comment:


  • Doc
    replied
    Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg

    Yes, he's a fine writer, but if you are thinking about the books that I believe you are, I'd say the surprise endings fail the "logic" test to which I alluded above. Because of the mode he writes in, he can get away with it, of course.

    I don't think they are "self-contained" (in the sense that the "surprise" ending is the logical conclusion of the main story) the way functional short-story snappers are, either, but that's not unusual with novels.

    LSN
    I agree with you, especially in that he gets away with things that others cannot. I was really mad at myself for not seeing what was happening in both Sleeping in Flame and Outside the Dog Museum. The Wooden Sea, in particular had an ending that surprised me, but it doesn't necessarily fit the rest of the story. Because of the way he tells stories, however, it somehow worked for me.

    Having said all of that, I like the surprises he writes before his endings.

    Leave a comment:


  • A_Non_Ymous
    replied
    Originally posted by Doc
    Jonathan Carroll has stories that build and surprise, and he has a few surprise endings.
    Yes, he's a fine writer, but if you are thinking about the books that I believe you are, I'd say the surprise endings fail the "logic" test to which I alluded above. Because of the mode he writes in, he can get away with it, of course.

    I don't think they are "self-contained" (in the sense that the "surprise" ending is the logical conclusion of the main story) the way functional short-story snappers are, either, but that's not unusual with novels.

    LSN

    Leave a comment:


  • Doc
    replied
    Jonathan Carroll has stories that build and surprise, and he has a few surprise endings.

    As for taking up a challenge...

    A relatively young professor was putting together his materials for tenure. He was sure the various committees would decide in his favor. Because he spent too much time on message boards, he was denied tenure.

    The end.

    No wait, that's the ending I don't want. Also why my participation has been sparse lately.

    Leave a comment:

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