Tuesday, April 6th 2010: Midnight in my dorm room.
My computer whirrs quietly while my roommate snores.
"F#*K!!! I have to come up with an AP style prompt to assign for homework tomorrow!!!! I have no idea what to do. All the examples I have seen use some sort of obscure flipping quote from God-knows-where! How am I going to make something so....official....all my books by old dead white guys are at home packed in boxes."
My fingers begin to stroke my thickening scruff...which also needs to be taken care of before school tomorrow...
"I know!!!! I'll call my mom-- Oh...yeah...it's midnight and I can't have her reading me entire chapters of The People's History of the United State of America anyhow....hmm what to use..."
My eyes looked again back to the bookshelf in my room. Tyler Perry, Amy Sedaris, some novels from the 1800s, and some book about the Montgomery Bus Boycott stared back at me...mercilessly. I looked to the other shelf. There sat some CD's, two Norton anthologies and a Bible.
"I need something more concrete than this stuff! Something that they can argue over."
Back to the first shelf, I saw it peak out from between two education texts. "Principles" I read from the spine. "Principles of Uncertainty."
"Oh that's what we are supposed to read for Humor Studies next week."
I opened the book.
"OH you've got to be shitting me...its got a title like a philosophy prologemena, but inside its another one of those damned CARTOON BOOKS!! I just can't quote this....but what else have I found?"
One hour later later I slept, because the my prompt was finished and so was the book. As it turned out I was wrong to have disbelieved the title for the style of the book. Although I liked elements of Sedaris, Maira Kalman truly achieved a moving philosophical discourse through two media forms (both written word and images). This book exemplified the intersection between form and meaning in literature. I found that this book addressed an undeniably universal set of themes through the use of very very specific examples.
This concept is one that is also exemplified by Bryson, though he achieves a lesser thread of continuity. Bryson relates experience to his readers allowing them to joke personally with him under the assumption that they understand the un-explained hilarity embedded within the described events. Bryson does differ in another way, that is that instead of using actual images which he has crafted by camera or paint, he uses his powers of description to create mental images in the mind of the reader. In spite of this difference in style, the effect remains very similar as to that of Kalman.
I learned from this experience that I didn't need to leaf through a 200 year old manifesto on the nature of the world to find an effective quote. It was right in front of my nose the entire time. It turned out to be more effective (in my opinion) than the examples I was given and it was funny to boot.