I slit the sheet; the sheet I slit;
and on the slitted sheet I sit.
– my grandmother’s favorite tongue-twister
Some days when I feel particularly analytical, I pull out that which I call my life, shake off the mildew and cobwebs, ready it for a little introspection. This is difficult business of course like trying to repeat Murphy family tongue-twisters five times fast without saying dirty words. As with any puzzle, timing, perspective, and sobriety are everything. Depending on my mood and state of mind, the tapestry of my life may end up looking like an old rag, stained with grease, leaking dirt and dust and sending everyone scurrying from the room in a fit of coughs and wet sneezes. Psychoanalysis after all is a messy messy business — particularly with Irishmen, who are totally immune to it.
Do you remember the old tag-line for those Marine ads? If your life was a book, would anyone read it? Well, that all depends on who’s doing the writing, of course. A very good writer could depict a very ordinary life story into an Homerian epic full of intense struggles, doomed love, and heroic couplets, while a very poor writer could transform a very interesting biography into a something dull and witless like a TV sitcom or a Jude Deveraux romance.
Take O. Henry’s The Green Door, one of his most famous stories, which can be summed up as follows: man walks down street, enters building, walks up stairs, opens strange door, finds girl, feeds girl, leaves with girl. Whew . . . the poor man and even poorer reader. Not one iota of excitement, mystery, or strange circumstances that suddenly fall across the path of a man, imbued with the true sense of adventure. George Carlin once stated that in the mind of a great comic, anything – even the most taboo of subjects – can be transmogrified into humor; thus I state that in the hands of an excellent writer, any life can be epic. You just need to know how to twist it