23 April 2007

Literary Murderousness

Although poor Mr. Cho was obviously quite crackers, utterly unable to form anything resembling a normal human relationship with members of either sex, and immature to boot, his writing skills--both existing and latent--cannot be as easily gainsaid as all of these simpering, ass-covering professors have been trying to do. True, the latest darling of the mass-murderer circuit (quick, revise those sets of playing cards) had few real ideas to offer aside from gargantuan dollops of aimless hatred and self-pity, he actually expressed them far better than most of my students over the years have been able to express anything at all. Take an already well-known excerpt from the rant:

You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.

Do you know what it feels to be spit on your face and to have trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave?

Do you know what it feels like to have throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive?

Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon on a cross? And left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can just because you can?

Demented though these ramblings are, they leap from the page (or screen) with a degree of vividness that undergraduates rarely achieve. Note the plenitude of strong, active verbs--vandalize, rape, torch, extinguish, die, inspire, spit, shove, dig, slash, humiliate, impale, bleed, feel, inject--in lieu of the weak, vague noun phrases to which most people, in both written and spoken expression, nowadays resort. If called upon to voice similar sentiments, Mr. Cho's fellow students would have probably written some excruciating garbage along these lines:

"My heart is sad, my soul and my conscience are in a miserable type condition. For you it was the death of one guy that was being ended. My death is like Jesus', because he was also the inspiring factor for many people everywhere."

To paraphrase Orwell, this is a parody, but not a very gross one (in the traditional sense of the term, that is). Weak, imprecise phrasing, undue dependence on the passive voice and the overworked verb to be, a lack of concreteness, trepidation at the thought of stating anything affirmatively without endless, mealy-mouthed PC-laden hemming, hawing and equivocating--all of these barbarisms characterize the codswollop that passes for writing nowadays.

I suspect that Mr. Cho had faced a certain amount of pressure from his family, and it wouldn't surprise me if they had frequently compared him invidiously to his undeniably brilliant and accomplished older sister. So he started off at VT majoring in something supposedly hard-headed, practical and useful, i.e., business, couldn't stand it and switched to English. Emotionally incapable of expressing himself directly to other people, he found an outlet in writing. It's easy to deride his plays and rants as sophomoric trifles, but underneath the crudeness and the technical errors there lay a certain creative spark. If Cho's enormous psychological problems could have been properly treated, or at least alleviated, perhaps he might have (equivocating there, aren't I!) become a productive writer of some sort. Instead, he fell through myriad cracks in the system at myriad junctures in his short, wretched life, resulting in a murder-suicide spree followed immediately by all of the predictable clucking and finger-pointing. Erst wenn wir uns von der Rechthaberei befreien, und dabei zuweilen zugeben, dass wir uns irren können, werden wir weitere ähnliche Vorkommnisse verhindern.