Wednesday, October 19, 2016

FAQ: The Trouble With Dick

These questions are about the short story “The Trouble With Dick”, and definitely contains spoilers which, once seen, cannot be unseen.  For the actual short story itself, please go here.


Blackwell, Blackwell, Blackwell.  I’m very disappointed in you.  Where to begin?
Sorry.  I really am.  Is… is this about the names?  Or the ending?  Or all the silly synonyms for “arse”?  Or-

All of the above.  Okay, first things first: the names.  Dick?  Fanny?  Balzac?
Right, well, let me say firstly that this isn’t directly my fault.  Not directly.  I was finding myself coming up with terribly bland white-culture names for these characters, and I wanted to see what other people would come up with, so I put out a call on my Facehook page for people to give me some names, one male and one female (I know, I know, genderised names are a terrible idea, but let’s face it, most of us actually have them).  And I thought to myself, I’ll just use the first two that I get, whether or not I like them: it’ll be like this cosmic “faith in the universe” kind of move, a “death of the author” collectivist ego-obliteration move, a good proper “I am a conduit” zen artist chaos magick thingie.  And the two names I was given first were, sadly, Dick and Fanny.  Now, I never told anyone that I’d use the first two names I was given, so theoretically I could’ve backed out and chosen any on the list, but that seemed like bad art, so I stuck to my unspoken guns.  Dick and Fanny it was.  And, when I looked at it, the story did begin with the as-yet-unnamed couple having sex, so Dick and Fanny was oddly appropriate, Dick being a synonym for penis, and Fanny being a synonym for vagina (in Australia and England, anyway – in North America it’s a synonym for arse, which could very well still be sexually appropriate, given the diversity of the sensual cavorting mentioned early on in the story).  

(For the record, Dick and Fanny was followed quite closely by Joseph and Mary and then Kanye and Kim, so, really, I was quite lucky to get Dick and Fanny so quickly.  Other suggestions were: Erik and Delilah, Eunice and Harambe, Miranda and Benny, Reginald and Harper, Cormac and Joan, Sarnai and Khulan, Chester and Mia, Percy and Gwenda, Joji and Merida, Sharna and Russel, Queenie and The Rat, Terence and Charlotte, Charlie and Rose, Buster and Joan, Janu and Pia, Paris and Hilton, River and Phoenix, and the haunting Lashante Jobob and Zyrel McBumpkins.  Then of course I also was given the excellent Sam and Sam, Jo and Jo, Charlie and Charlie etc.  But, like I said, Dick and Fanny were first.)

Balzac, however, is entirely my own work.  And damn it all, I’m 100% proud of it.  It still makes me laugh out loud.  Anyway, what are you, the name police?

No.  I’m not the name police. I’m not even sure there is such an organisation.
Well.  Good.  Because if there was, that kinda thing would be hard to enforce-

What about the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages?  They could be considered the name police, couldn’t they?
I suppose so.  Yes.  Fine. 

Anyway.  As bad as the names were, they weren’t nearly as bad as that ending.  What the actual fuck?  You are a bad bad man.
Oh, come on!  The Shaggy Dog Story is a fine tradition in English literature.  Well, maybe not in formal capital-L literature, but as far as the annals of folk comedy go, the Shaggy Dog Story is a classic form of storytelling.  It’s totally due for a comeback.  I often feel like our storytelling is being restricted into one particular form by all these books and gurus and bullet-point lists on “how to craft story”, as though there’s only one way to do it, with all this “the inciting event needs to happen by page X” or “the character needs to grow and learn by page Y”.  It’s silly and straitjackety.  And worse, it homogenises what should be a vast vista of limitless diversity.  For me, this story was not about someone growing or learning or overcoming adversity or about arcs – it was just about the process of balancing selfishness against other people’s needs.  Dick (not his real name) has a problem, and he doesn’t even know what it is.  And he’s willing to make other people feel uncomfortable, and totally ignore their needs, just to make himself feel better.  That’s what the story’s really about – it’s not about what is actually wrong with his mudflaps.
And, even more importantly, the reader and Dick (not his real name) are in the same boat – we’re all in this together, wanting to know what the fuck is going on – we’re all sharing a journey.  And, like I said to people who’ve called me a “tease” (and even a “bastard arsehole cleverclogs”), it’s about the journey, not the destination…

Well, I still feel ripped off.
I’m sorry.  But seriously, there could be nothing more deflating and anticlimactic than finding out what was actually wrong with Dick’s fudge tunnel – what, after all that awkward human drama and uncomfortable selfishness, you’re after a medical diagnosis?  Are you really saying that you’d feel less ripped off if the story ended with “it’s an abscess” or “he had a fistula”?  I can’t imagine a greater disappointment than actually learning that Dick (not his real name) has levator syndrome or pruritus ani.   I really quite strongly believe that this tale is not actually about the specific condition of his camel-coloured calamari.  It’s not about what’s actually wrong with his William Shatner.  This is not a story about what is medically amiss with his-

Okay, fine.  Good point, well made, yada yada.

So, really, you’re saying this story has a deliberately lame ending, has intentionally carelessly-named characters, and is really just a string of ludicrous synonyms for “arse”.
Yes.  Nailed it!

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