Thursday, January 14, 2010

the defenestration project

I've always liked the word "defenestration"--it's so Latinate and dignified, but it points to throwing something annoying out a window. It was coined in 1419, when seven town officials (selectmen to you and me) got tossed out a window in Prague (see engraving, left). This triggered the Hussite War, which had something to do with church reform and Bohemia and a bad-tempered Holy Roman Emperor. I don't understand the whole back story and don't want to.

To substitute for this amazing lack of curiosity, I just now made a short list of items that could and should go out the window and into the Vermont snow. At the top is a certain printer in my employ that does pretty much everything except print things; instead, it sends me little error messages about its various digestive issues. After replacing a few parts and cartridges, I've resigned myself to letting it sit and blink (Alarm! Alarm!) and occasionally letting it deliver up a handful of smeary pages folded like a badly-made accordion.

Next out the window is a certain co-worker, who ought to land with a very satisfying thump. Without going into a lot of unprofessional detail, I can say that as I get older my tolerance for poor work performance has worn thin. It's even thinner when a poor performance in one office means a lot more labor in another, and it becomes the blade of a small, sharp knife when I see a poor performer claiming credit, directly or indirectly, for work done quietly and competently by someone else. Out you go.

The last item for today's defenestration is a manuscript, running about 22,000 words, that is without question the worst thing I've ever written. And more's the pity--after four months of messing with it, all I've accomplished is to use up four months I could have spent braiding a rug or polishing the silver. It appears I'm not capable of writing fiction--not because I love writing the truth, but because I'm a really horrible storyteller. I get distracted; I go off on weird tangents; I let my characters do things without authorial permission. The household fantasy that I will write a potboiler murder mystery suspense horror action romance novel that will sell a lot of copies (none my nonfiction books have made much dough) is today officially toast. No satisfying thump with this one; instead, the pages should flutter upward, spiral through the winter air, and scatter artistically. All I want at this point is for the pages to be picked up, one piece at a time, by the mystified citizens of Montpelier.

Rest in peace, but rest on the sidewalk, O Calendar of Saints.


  1. Are you sure it's that terrible?

  2. I posted this on my facebook, but it bears repeating: