Every Town Is A Small Town
~Murder and a literary crime~
By Augustus Frobisher
Many years ago, a particular item appeared in our local press unlike anything I had ever read - unlike anything that has ever been printed, no doubt, in the history of the English language. To call it "bad reporting" simply isn't aromatic enough; it was a dramatic cesspool, an outhouse exposed, the county dump and a rotting cabbage field all rolled into one. At first, the item whipped me to such a tornado of indignation that I could only dream of meeting that offending scribe in a dark alley and choking him with a string of adjectives. But later, I came to worship his travesty as a curious sort of perfection -- for indeed, it was in a class by itself -- and had it framed. Itís hanging here now. It inspires me daily and it is worth its weight in gold--no--platinum and I wouldn't part with it for ten dollars, anyway. It is with a generous spirit that I bring it out for a wider public inspection.
Let us begin."Loud bangs broke the still night air at approximately 5:48 p.m. A swift look out of the window revealed nothing. Was it a car backfiring? What was this? Could it be? Gunfire?" (The interrogatives were flying so thick and fast by now I escaped under my desk but the barrage continued unabated.) "Do the police possibly have someone on the sidewalk? Hard to see from across the street. Is he in handcuffs? Someone is lying on the sidewalk. Is he hurt, or ... worse?"
Our reporter drags us through several more paragraphs of this muck before revealing the "point" -- to wit, a murder has been committed. But, evidently unbeknownst to our Woodward and Bernstein, we've already read the blazing headline "Man Murdered Near Neighborhood Restaurant" and so the embryonic dramatic effect withers. (Indeed, the killing is a mere trifle compared to the literary crime unfolding here.)
Our report's interrogative gatling gun fires afresh: "But wait, what's this? More police? A witness peeks out of a grease-stained window. Has he seen it? What will he say?"
What will he do? What is he thinking? What's his shoe size? Who gives a crap?
We soon mercifully arrive at the only paragraph that might pass for reporting (at the grade school level, anyway) which concludes something like this: "Chief of Police C-----------, says his office is interviewing witnesses and searching for suspect (s)." I embraced these last words with gratitude for I was loath to drown in any more of this reporter's refuse.
Days later, after my blood pressure had dropped by fathoms, I made a gift of a copy of this item to an acquaintance associated with another paper some distance from here. He declared that it was the most appalling thing he'd ever seen, either, and therefore he would post it in his newsroom for the edification of his colleagues. He then said he was offering a dinner at the best restaurant in town for the man who could find anything to best it, and, as far as I know, the prize is unclaimed.
Around town during later weeks, I overheard various discussions regarding the item, only they weren't about the item per se, but rather about the murder detailed therein, proving that the general public has no great moral sense when it comes to literature. You see, I had once been associated with the Weekly Herald, and was embarrassed for it, and embarrassed for its reporter and embarrassed for its editor and exceedingly embarrassed for its publisher for passing off such twaddle as "news reporting," but then it occurred to me that the general public can't distinguish dung from Dickens and so I resolved to slough off my shame and be glad. Yes, I could be perfectly glad and happy and content now, for it suddenly struck me -- as it surely must anyone who has earned his living by the pen -- that if this rubbish could pass as writing, if this ignoramus could be paid to produce it, and if the public could swallow it, then surely, I could ratchet my own efforts down to three notches below nil and still earn a passable livelihood.
So, in any low moment (and all writers have low moments) when a source doesnít pan out, or an article is rejected, I gaze upon and am heartened by those matchless words, "Loud bangs broke the still night air. . .etc., etc. . . -- Augustus Frobisher
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