I unearthed a few essays from high school while trying to gain a little perspective tonight.
For reference, I graduated at the a$$ end of my class with a paltry 1.9 GPA, dwelling among the minority of drifter-turned-stoner kids that had no desire to try and keep up with a hometown where housing prices correlated to SAT scores, where the most gifted students did a great deal of god-building by forging perverted cults of personality out of whatever they had accomplished.
The essays I had always found a way to string up at the very last minute were predictably burned at the stake by teachers that knew me as a deadbeat in the purist sense. The papers were marked up with a labyrinth of red ink, with entire portions of feedback ironically written in an alien and wholly unclear script that I could never decipher, blasting my writing for being overblown, pompous, and utterly impossible to follow.
Whatever commentary that I was able to grasp bore contempt.
“Your writing suggests to me that you’ve raided the liquor cabinet and raped your thesaurus. This doesn’t even deserve a re-write. Nice try.”
Eventually, I grew desperate. I turned to Wooden Language to try and salvage whatever I could to squeak by and press my luck at a state university.
Wooden language derives from a French expression that compared Soviet propaganda to the hollow façade it promised. Empty, ambiguous, and incredibly vague syntax that distracts the reader from the issues at hand is typical. Here, it worked wonders. I gave my best impressions of Pravda manifestos, translations from North Korean broadcasts, dialogue from “The Lives of Others” and everything else at my disposal.
I was especially proud to flaunt, calling the Republican Party neo-fascist poverty mongers, and Ben Bernanke an economic dynamo that would best facilitate stimulated growth if allotted the esteemed position of Secretary of the Treasury within a single paragraph. And teachers ate it up.
By June, my remarkable flair for disclosing as little as possible led me to greater things.
I was given a coffee mug at the end of the year that read “Most Improved (Good Luck at Rutgers)”, scribbled in Sharpie, from a woman who once indulged in stapling Burger King Applications to tests bearing results of less than stellar standards.
Ryan Fallon is a cultural refugee from Camden, New Jersey. Follow more of his ramblings at http://bathtub-gin.tumblr.com.
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