A WRITER'S WIT
A paranoid is a man who knows a little of what's going on.
Born February 5, 1914
Behind the Book is a weekly series in which I discuss the creative process it takes to write each of the fifteen narratives included in my latest collection, My Long-Playing Records and Other Stories. Scroll to the bottom of the post to locate links to previous Behind the Book posts.
As a pre-AP and International Baccalaureate English teacher, I primarily taught students from the latter group (which also contained black and Hispanic youths, as well as Indians and Asians). A few semesters, however, I was called upon to teach “regular” classes, both during the Monday-Thursday schedule and on the shortened Friday schedule. This apparent racial division always bothered me. Prior to teaching high school, I’d worked in elementary education for seventeen years. There the nitty gritty of forced busing (the school board’s rancorous rhetoric) hit me every day, but with a certain sensitivity to both sides, we teachers were able help students see that it was a good thing to intermingle. It now seems to have been prophetic. Our larger world becomes more racially diverse each voting cycle, and yet I wonder where those former students of mine are today. Does race matter to them? Do they have a diverse group of friends? Might they, hope upon hope, still know some of the kids they became acquainted with when they were stuffed into the same classroom?
Anyway, this issue becomes background noise for the story “Snarked,” in which I take a term that widely means one thing (to be snarky is to be sharply critical, sarcastic) and turn it on its head to mean something else (a bit of onomatopoeia, in which “snark” becomes a nasal sound, snaaaark, acquired by one of the above populations to be obnoxious/the other group’s members are called . . . the fags). I write the story from the first-person point of view of a seventeen-year-old boy (a “fag,” but actually one of those many invisible heterosexuals) going to this El Centro, Texas, high school some time in the late nineties. Again, as in “Basketball Is Not a Drug,” I allow the young narrator to overtake my psyche. It is fun being “young” again. Having observed such behavior for ten years, I feel like I might be able to capture a certain insouciance, an arrogance that high school kids acquire until . . . uh oh . . . they’re suddenly pushed out into the big bad world on their own. Enjoy “Snarked.” I think it’s a lot of fun!
A PASSAGE FROM THE STORY:
The fag girls feel sorry for me; the snark girls laugh behind their hands. Other fags offer me rides until I find an old Corolla my dad buys for me. The snarks . . . snark . . . make that obnoxious laugh as I walk to my new wheels. It’s said they patented the sound when a principal caught onto their yellow bandannas around the neck, trying to get around our no-can-do dress code. We can’t wear earrings either, so snarks invented this laugh that makes like a loud snore attached to the syllable “ark.” It’s such a great sound that even the fags imitate it when no one’s listening. If you want to make fun of one of your fag friends, you snark him, like this. Snaaaaaark! (227).
NEXT TIME: NEW YORKER FICTION 2015
CATCH UP WITH EARLIER POSTS OF BEHIND THE BOOK
11/13/14 — Introduction to My Long-Playing Records
11/20/14 — "My Long-Playing Records" — The Story
11/27/14 — "A Certain Kind of Mischief"
12/04/14 — "Ghost Riders"
12/11/14 — "The Best Mud"
12/18/14 — "Handy to Some"
12/25/14 — "Blight"
01/01/15 — "A Gambler's Debt"
01/09/15 — "Tales of the Millerettes"
01/15/15 — "Men at Sea"
01/22/15 — "Basketball Is Not a Drug"
01/29/15 — "Engineer"