Six Word Stories
If you buy into the legend, Ernest Hemingway once regarded his best work as the following:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
I’m not sure if I believe Hemingway actually penned this minimalist piece because a minimalist he was not. The man could go on and on about the taste of oysters, for one thing and for another, I’ve never seen anyone quite so taken by bullfighting that they’re compelled to write a novel about it. But I digress. The fact, or internet-credited fact anyway, remains that the concept of the six word story is credited to Mr. Hemingway. And who am I to shake the stick of truth and reason at the internet?
That’s what Wikiality is for.
Yes, but where’s this all going?
I’m getting there.
Two things happened somewhat recently that have made me think about the concept of ‘Six Word Stories.’ First, was the suicide of David Foster Wallace, author of “Infinite Jest.” Wallace was the kind of writer that you either really loved or that you claim you love over beers at the Pig to some girl in fuchsia flats and plastic earrings. He wrote with a purpose, a taking of the safety off the razor and leaving his audience to nod knowingly along with him while they bled into the sink or blinking dumbly down into the basin, not quite understanding what just happened.
Second, I was sitting in the office the other day, sorting through evidence bags that needed to be mailed back to their correct law enforcement agency. The bags are usually full of mundane objects, which when separate have a sort of sad, left-out-by-the-side-of-the-road quality to them. When together, however, they form a tight assemblage of objects who’ve witnessed little earthquakes of personal history.
When I read about the death of Wallace, I drew an immediate comparison to Hemingway. The epic nature of their writing. Their mutual choice to leave this world on their own ticket. And while Wallace never wrote a six-word story that I’m aware of, my preference for Hemingway’s best work is his own six-word story and that’s where my recall wanders every time, even if it wasn’t him who actually wrote it. Because its not the man who wrote it but the power those six words possess.
It’s a little funny how timing tends operate the way it does, left to itself a mundane, side-of-the road thing but in concert with something else, a broadside kick to the head. I happened to be bag sorting at the time, noting contents and making mailing labels. And then I found one bag in particular, the bag that wrote its own six-word story:
One Hangman’s Knot, Cut From Victim