Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bottling Bitter, Part I

It is a true statement that last night, as I write this, Martha and I were bottling her new batch of British Bitter (and to judge from my sips of the leftovers at the end of bottling, I believe it will be a little bit of all right, indeed ... ) -- a true statement, in a literal sense.

When I thought this morning of the phrase "bottling bitter," though, it struck me as a portmanteau expression for what a writer learns to do. You are often provoked into funks and rages and dumps and sournesses and embitterments by the inability of the world to deal even vaguely equitably with the efforts you expend in trying to make your society a more interesting place to be; and yet you learn that the naked expression of those effs, arrs, dees, esses and ems tend to diminish your public's receptivity rather than augment it or encourage it; and so, by and bye, you learn the Wordsworthian trick of absorbing, containing, and meting out. And maybe it is that you must learn this trick in order to succeed in your expressive, creative business of choice; and maybe it is that you must learn it in order to succeed in finding any ease of mind at all, when you have chosen a vocation (or a set of vocations, as I ended up doing) that consist of mainly batting your head against a wall (or walls).

And so maybe what it is that we learn, in emerging from our hot-headed youths and our flat-headed younger-middle years, is how to bottle bitter.

Bitter offers you moments of pleasant drinking -- if bottled and put away for a time.

How interesting, then, the thought -- that you get your bitter's full worth by proper preparation or bottling or aging; and you get your words' full worth by similar preparation or bottling or aging, not by their instant expression ... which is the approach to writing most associated with Wordsworth. Did Wordsworth like his bitter? No doubt -- but probably draught-style. Flowing from the keg, liberally -- but at the proper length of time after its first concoction.

Cheers ...

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