Great Lines

I’ve decided I’m going to try and write something every weekday this week since I can’t leave the house on account of the snow burying me alive in my home/coffin. The problem is – and I have this issue with a lot of blog’s I “follow” – that this is self-serving. Sometimes there just isn’t anything that needs to be said, and all you’re doing is typing to hear the sound of your fingers hitting keys. That’s only satisfying to one person. That’s masturbation.

What we don’t need is another “think-piece” on Kanye. What we don’t need is any more “think-pieces” or people who use the term “think-piece.”

So as I was coming up with this self-serving idea, I was listening to Decoration Day by Drive By Truckers; specifically the song “Outfit.”

The thing I admire about Drive By Truckers is that a lot of their songs tell nice, concise stories. “Outfit” has a tone that matches its subject matter; there’s an endearing world-weariness to it. And the singer’s Southern accent only adds to it, especially when he sings the line “Don’t worry about losing your accent; a Southern man tells better jokes.” Every line of the hook and chorus functions as (largely good) advice from a father to son, but the line that I absolutely love is this one:

Well, I used to go out in a Mustang
A 302 ‘Mach 1’ in green
Me and your momma made you in the back
And I sold it to buy her a ring

love this line, and not just because I love Mustangs. Four lines, less than forty words, and a complete story. And not just a story, but a layered one. You get a full picture of this relationship – and, sure, you call it cliche, but there’s an inherent honesty in cliche. The fact this story of reckless abandon-cum-responsibility is told within a song about fatherly advice to not be a shithead just makes it more impactful.

There’s the thing about great lines. They’re great on their own; in their context they’re life-altering. And no great line was ever a lie.

The only line I ever memorized from a book is from The Great Gatsby, and it’s the conclusion:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

There’s something about a truly great line that sticks with you, even when you don’t fully understand it, and – believe me – when I read this around 16, I had close to no fucking idea what it meant. Those great lines can be read many different ways by many different folks. Usually based on how many drinks they’ve had.

My first girlfriend grew up to be a psychiatrist. Which I guess makes sense.

There’s a quasi-famous piece of writing advice, “kill your darlings.” It means you should strike out any particular lines or phrases you absolutely love. I’m not one in a position to criticize writing or advice, but that doesn’t make this advice any less of bullshit. You are your darlings. Without darlings you’re just retelling the story of Jesus, or Odysseus, or Hamlet, or Cinderella, or Icarus. All the stories are told; all that’s left are darlings. Kill your darlings, kill your voice.

Shit, even Hollywood can’t tell any new stories.

That one is one of mine. And through all the bad teenage poetry and aborted short stories, only the darling remains.

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