Ah, the university campus. Such a rich and beauteous ecosystem. Anybody who attends one of these biodiversity hotspots is sure to have precious memories of the wildlife. How marvellous it is to watch the courting dance of the attention-hungry post-post-modernist actor, every bulge enhanced by a rainbow bodysuit for the viewing pleasure of its prospective mates! Who can help but sigh at a pack of adorably sleepy international students, snoozing the day away in the comfiest library chairs? And the not-quite-rhyming roar of a stampede of student protesters is a sound never to be forgotten!
With so much variety on campus, it can be difficult for a budding scholastibiologist to recognise every species that he or she may spot. Therefore, for the next few weeks, Amelia Mellor’s Fantastic Narratograph will bring to you this helpful field guide. The taxon I shall chiefly explore with you is the family Scripturae – the creative writing school. Each week, I will feature a different species that you are likely to encounter. Perhaps you have seen them all!
This week’s featured species is…
The Pretentious Jerk
Skull features distinctive ego-sac that appears to inflate the head, which keeps the brain elevated at all times. Brown or black plumage, expression of disdain, long hair. Likely to wear glasses he doesn’t need. Often seen with coffee in hand, but never with milk in it. Favours scarves.
To lesser competitors, a rather pleasant click-and-sibilant: ‘cliche, cliche!’
To intimidate legitimately good writers, a more complex refrain: ‘This is where your post-relational intergender dichotomy breaks down; methodologically examine where you went wrong.’
Mating song is rather short, with a begrudging quality: ‘Nice symbolism.’
This is a rather garrulous species, and will offer an opinion on the featured work of literature every week. If everyone else likes it, he will hate it. If everyone else doesn’t understand it, he likes it, unless he can identify it as being written by a woman.
The week that Margaret Atwood is featured, Megacranius annoia will be uncharacteristically silent.
Dismissive of commercial fiction and screenplays (aka, the stuff that actually turns a profit), the Pretentious Jerk may nevertheless enrol in any creative writing class. If it is a particularly difficult medium to define – such as poetry or performance art – he is there to reinvent the genre and wow the literati. If it is something more plebeian, such as screenwriting, he is there to prove how much cleverer he is than you.
The Pretentious Jerk’s prose is either a careful mimicry of Hemingway, or an incomprehensible spew that he insists is an homage to James Joyce. His workshop piece features at least one metaphor that is either weird, gross, sexist, weirdly gross, sexistly weird or all three. His story takes place at a boring party, or the morning after a boring party, and it is exactly as much fun as a boring party.
He sits through analyses of his poetry with a smug look, despite the fact that ‘crepuscular DESPAIR at the loneliness of the penis‘ is nonsense in any language.
His scripts are the same, with an added dash of ‘Waiting for Godot’, or a bucket of actual vomit that you are certain doesn’t need to be in the performance space.
In any case, he deflects all carefully-considered criticism by insisting to himself that nobody understands his genius.
So ends our factfile on this fascinating speci-man. Join me next week when we discover a new species of the Creative Writing School!