Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cliche ? - try going deeper

I've been working my way through a collection of American short stories. Today I finished The State of Grace by Harold Brodkey. 

There's a moment where a lonely 7 year old boy is compared to an emerging butterfly. This image could have been a tired cliche. But Brodkey transcends the cliche by going deep into the boy's experience.

. . . the cold winds of insecurity hadn't shredded the dreamy chrysalis of his childhood. He was still immersed in the dim, wet wonder of the folded wings that might open if someone loved him; he still hoped, probably, in a butterfly's unthinking way, for spring and warmth. How the wings ache, folded so, waiting; that is, they ache until they atrophy.

The frustration about cliches is that they work. They work so well, everyone uses them until they become boring. Next time I'm worried about getting into the area of cliche, I hope I'll remember to try going DEEPER into the moment. Maybe I won't need to throw something away just because it's too familiar.

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