Elizabeth: And Now for Something Completely Different

Cooper thinks puns are hilarious.
Photo credit: Scott Eldridge

I’ve been reading a lot of “different for me” books lately, most randomly picked from the “Lucky Draw” shelf at the local library, which houses an ever-changing assortment of popular books, generally best sellers or book-club picks – things I normally would avoid like the plague.  The one I just finished was Less (winner of the Pulitzer Prize) by Andrew Sean Greer.  It’s the story of a novelist, about to turn fifty, who accepts a raft of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world in order to avoid his boyfriend’s wedding.

There was one specific little bit that really stuck with me after I had finished reading.  At one point in the story, the novelist – Arthur Less – is teaching a writing seminar in Germany.  His rather unconventional methods include “he cuts up a paragraph of Lolita and has the young doctoral students reassemble the text as they desire”, “he gives them a page of Joyce and a bottle of White-Out”, and he has them “write a persuasive opening sentence for a book they have never read”.  The result is not that they learn anything about literature but, they get something better:

“They learn to love language again, something that has faded like sex in a long marriage.”

As I read that I thought, I’d have loved that class.

Somewhere along the line, focusing on conflict boxes, beats, story arcs, and all the other story minutia, I seem to have lost sight of why I write in the first place. I love playing with words.  Finding just the right ones and putting them together in just the right way, to say exactly what I’m trying to say.

If there can be a pun involved, well then so much the better.

Coincidentally, I came across a post on Facebook today relevant to this train of thought.  So instead of talking about the writing process or publishing or what’s new and exciting in the world of books, I’d like to present you with a challenge:

Craft a shaggy-dog story that ends with a pun incorporating Trudeau, trousseau, Thoreau, bureau, and Clouseau.

It may not be the same as cutting up Lolita or using White-Out on Joyce, but you might just increase your own love of language in the process, or at least have some fun trying.

So, go ahead.

I dare you.

7 thoughts on “Elizabeth: And Now for Something Completely Different

  1. I want to do this so bad! But I’m still not sitting at the computer, and I doubt my ability to write a story using just Siri and my phone. I mean, maybe I could do it, but it would take me maybe four or six months (imagine the AutoCorrect using those words!). I hope many people have a go.

    • I have faith in you Kay – I’m sure you could totally do this with the help of Siri and AutoCorrect. 🙂

      I’m giving it the old college try, but it may take a while.

  2. I loved the book Less! I had forgotten about that scene until you mentioned it. I must admit I cried at the story’s ending, so well-earned.

    My brain is mush from untangling my current WIP, but good luck to all those feeling up to the pun challenge! I look forward to reading the results.

  3. LOL, I groaned when you set this challenge, but then I had to “assist” at a boring class where I had no actual work, and a germ of an idea formed. I think I may have a *short* shaggy dog in me. Stayed tune! (Porky-pie is a very shaggy dog, although I don’t know if he’ll wind up IN a shaggy dog story or not. It’s kind of a shaggy story, I will say that, though, LOL.)

    Do have fun with words! I think that’s part of my problem. Remember, even Jenny wrote a Sizzle (which is not bad for a first book, really, IIRC, and still very, very Jenny).

  4. This is the story of Joe Govender and the beautiful Ro McCowan. Now, the first thing you need to know is that Joe is a mixed race kid from South Africa who grew up at yoga retreats around the world, and he has an accent, so he tends to pronounce “th” words with a “d”. Nobody’s ever been able to define the accent, but it’s there. The next thing is the poor kid has a lisp, so a lot of his “s”s turn into “th”s; don’t ask me how that works. I’m not in charge of the language center in his brain.

    The second thing you need to know is that he’s got a lovely singing voice. Third, he’s madly in love with Ro, but doesn’t want to let it out in the world.

    Ro is pretty well objectified in this story, and doesn’t have a lot of agency, but that’s OK. Sometimes you get that in a shaggy dog story. She’s red-headed, her family immigrated from Ireland in the 19th century, she’s got strong opinions, and she’s the tough-as-nails leader of the Pleasant Valley Glee Club. Maybe she’ll get her own story some day, but I don’t think today is the day.

    Joe was practically falling over his feet trying to get Ro to notice him – doing everything except actually Using His Words to find out if she liked him, or liked him-liked him. He fixed the sound board in the village hall’s choir room. He used a pomade on both his hair and his beard, and dressed in what he considered a dapper fashion, which meant a clean t-shirt and jeans before every glee practice. He used an obnoxious body spray until the alto sopranos had a quiet talk with him in the sheet music room.

    Unfortunately, poor Ro was compensating for her inner securities by concentrating on making Pleasant Valley the best glee club in the tri-state area, and she wanted to be just friends – never mind the fact that Joe’s accent made her a little weak in the knees, and his dimples made her just want to kiss that handsome mouth between them.

    “Dating a fellow glee fellow would be a huge mistake!” she told Angie, her best friend and the alto who held the group together socially. “I can’t do that to our group, so let’s stop discussing the sexy attributes of Joe, Moe and Beau at brunch. I want to think of them strictly as platonic ideals of a tenor, a baritone and a bass.”
    “Honey, it’s all about that bass,” Angie said with a smirk.

    “Angie! The tenor of this conversation has got to get itself out of the gutter. Let’s talk about the attainable: who would you date? Crowley or Aziraphale?” And with that clever move, distracted Angie for the rest of the week.

    Soon, the whole group was talking of nothing else between songs. All of the ladies wanted a Crowley or an Aziraphale. (“Can I get a ‘wahoo’ for Jon Hamm?” Stacey asked, and received.) And all of the men wanted to be Crowley, but secretly felt they were probably a Newton Pulsifer. (“But look how it turned out for him, doh,” Joe added. “Tho much luck with Anadema Nuttah.”)

    One evening, Ro was tidying up in the sheet music room (more of a closet, really), refiling the old music and pulling out the new music for the next competition. Joe, of course, had volunteered to help, of course, and their conversation drifted to which Good Omens character was the hottest.

    “Well, would you be Aziraphale?” she asked.

    “That’s a boo, Ro. He nevah gits a break, and he’s so damn futhy.”

    “That’s true, so how about Crowley?”

    “Another boo.”

    “He’s got a great car.”

    “That’s true, doh he’s purdy futhy in his own way.” They were done with the sheet music, and just standing, face to face in the dim closet.

    “Gimme a clue so I know who you’d like to be.”

    “Newton. He kisses da gurl.” He gathered Ro into his arms. “Tho, Ro, is it OK if I kiss you?”

    “Oh, Joe! We really shouldn’t!” But she kissed him anyway, and that was how the Great Pleasant Valley Glee Club Schism of 2019 began.

    (Well, that was a stretch. But what’s done is done.)

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