Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Context: During a two week long unit on weather, the students from one first grade class at an elementary school in Rhode Island are instructed to write a story about clouds. They are given approximately 45 minutes in which to complete the assignment in class. Below is a verbatim transcription of one student’s carefully rendered chronicle.

* * *

Title: “It Rianed!”

Story: “Wonse apan a time there was a place that never rained. A cloud drifid by. It rianed!”

Professional Analysis: This is easily and undoubtedly the greatest story ever written. It has everything: drama, suspense, letters, different letters—no literary stone is left unturned! Let’s start with the title, “It Rianed!” Right away our aspiring author (whom I shall henceforth refer to as The Next J.K. Rowling) grabs the reader’s attention with his deft use of exclamatory punctuation. By demonstrating his own unfettered passion and excitement for the narrative process, The Next J.K. Rowling assures that we as readers will share in his childlike enthusiasm for the story to come. Adding to the allure is the fact that his “childlike enthusiasm” is not the arbitrary creation of some jaded editor’s coke-addled attempt at niche commercialism, but rather a genuine enthusiasm of childlike proportions that can only come from being an actual child—an actual child with actual enthusiasm, thus resulting in what I have already aptly referred to as “childlike enthusiasm” and which I will continue to refer to as such since that is what it is, which is to say, enthusiasm reminiscent of—and in this case, equal to—a child’s.

Further titular intrigue is derived from the author’s alternate spelling of “rained.” Upon confronting the unexpected juxtaposition of vowels, the reader must ask himself if The Next J.K. Rowling is merely trying to convey his own contempt for conventional social norms like spelling (did you know Shakespeare spelled his own name 73 different ways?), or if there exists, in fact, a series of deeper implications yet to be unearthed. The most likely possibility is that “Rianed” is actually a deliberate cryptographical signpost intended to hint at some sort of anagrammatic code embedded within the title itself. For example, the letters in “It Rianed” can be rearranged to form “inert aid,” a subtle yet devastating critique of the Bush administration’s reaction to the disaster in New Orleans. A second alphabetic ordering reveals the author’s dangerous obsession with his chosen genre, subliminally communicating his depressingly uplifting message that we should all “die in art.” However, given The Next J.K. Rowling’s youth and zeal, the rebus’s most likely interpretation is an ardent—if obfuscated—denial of any possible connections with the Communist party, as evidenced by the succinct colloquialism, “I ain’t Red.”

Moving on, let us now direct our investigation toward the story itself. Firstly, we must acknowledge the author’s continued refusal to kowtow to the whims of traditional diction, illustrated by his choice to begin this tale for the ages with a phonetic spelling of “once upon,” chewily and ingeniously rendered as “wonse apan.” Unlike “It Rianed,” however, it should be obvious that these so-called misspellings are in no way an indication of some secret message hidden within the text. You see, the words for which “wonse apan” provide an admirable substitute are not a mere hop, skip, and a switch away from being spelled correctly; rather, vital characters have been added and subtracted seemingly at random from the phrase. I know that to the untrained eye this naturally suggests some sort of complex substitution cipher encoded with a reverse binary algorithm, but one has to realize that The Next J.K. Rowling is only 6-years-old; therefore, only a complete idiot would consider that possibility a moment longer.

Adding to the sheer aesthetic perfection of the story is the author’s unsurpassed talent for casually divulging relevant background information in less than a dozen words, while at the same time introducing a heart-wrenching conflict that stuns the reader just as he is beginning to orient himself in the densely-layered prose. In a single sentence, The Next J.K. Rowling is able to answer almost every question we as eager readers have concerning the developmental exposition: When? Once upon a time. Where? A place. What? No rain. EVER.

Next we are treated to a master class in concisely calibrated rising action, as four simple words—”A cloud drifid by”—are able to paint a lush landscape of apprehension and anticipation without the usual heavy handedness that less accomplished authors so often fall prey to. One could linger over the unusual decision to render “drifted”—the most important verb in the story—as “drifid,” but there is really no time for this, as the reader is undoubtedly still reeling from a properly-spelled “rained” just moments earlier. After poring over the title for hours on end, one naturally becomes accustomed to the revolutionary arrangement of “Rianed”; to see it spelled otherwise forces us to reevaluate our entire perception of The Next J.K. Rowling. Clearly we have taken his unprecedented genius for granted, as this regress into convention inevitably leads to an increased level of suspense. The reader is well aware that, in a story about clouds, there will have to be at least one more mention of precipitation, resulting in a daunting game of literary cat and mouse ‘twixt author and authee.

In the end, The Next J.K. Rowling manages to condense many lifetimes’ worth of climax, falling action, and resolution into a single overwhelming revelation, composed with such wit and clarity that one can’t help but marvel at the heights man can achieve when allowed to realize his full potential. By concluding his textual opus with “It rianed,” the author not only saves his reader the crippling psychological agony of remaining immersed in a fictional (real?) world ravaged by drought and uncertainty, he also brings the story full circle with an unabashed symmetry of eye-opening proportions. To end our dizzying journey the same way it began is to assure everyone involved—from author to reader—that the cycle of life is ever present and everlasting.

Of course, attempting to put into words the sense of inner peace and closure one feels upon completing this epic saga is too presumptuous even for someone of my imposing intellectual capacity. After all, how do you catch a cloud and bring it down? How do you keep a wave upon the sand? How do you solve a problem like The Next J.K. Rowling? You don’t. You can’t. The best you can hope for is that someday some intrepid screenwriter turns the story into a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster with a riveting and inspirational score by John Williams and cameo appearances by Willie Nelson and Stockard Channing. And possibly a voiceover narration by Morgan Freeman (or James Earl Jones, if Freeman happens to be unavailable).

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