Part XI: A Yeatsless Eulogy
The pretentious writer is a part that always came easy to me, probably because I used to be one. It also happens to be one of my favorite troll personas because, for some reason, stating online that you're a writer makes people see red. On the internet, few characters draw more disdain than the self-proclaimed writer, especially him of the straight, white, suffering variety. But how far could I take it?
I've had the honor of giving two eulogies for people that were close to me in the past several years. The process of writing and giving a eulogy is daunting. It's a challenging thing to write and even more difficult to give, but also an immense privilege to speak on a person's life to the people whom they held most dear.
The circumstances surrounding the most recent eulogy that I gave were especially difficult, something that I'm till coming to terms with. When life seems overwhelming, when it seems cruel, when it seems senseless, you can let it break you down, or you can laugh at it. So I did what anyone overwhelmed by sadness and loss and suffering would do: used it as inspiration to troll /r/AmITheAsshole.
I’m the writer in the family. Ever since I remember family and friends have been coming to me for writing advice, whether it be college papers or cover letters or even wedding vows. I’m always happy to help, even though most of them are college educated adults who should know what a comma splice is by now.
Fast forward to a few days ago, when my brother’s best friend passed. My brother is, of course, in shambles. And he's adamant about giving the eulogy, even though he's blue collar. He came to me and asked me to edit it because he wanted to make sure he did his friend proud. I agreed because he's my brother and I'm a talented editor, and he sent me his first draft over email.
And it was, well, terrible. This may sound harsh, but writing is my craft and if you ask me to edit something I’m going to edit it seriously and soberly no matter what it is, eulogies included, and I think a second grader writing about the goldfish he flushed down the toilet could have evoked more emotion.
So I basically told him as such. In kinder words, of course, because he's in a difficult place and I understand that. But I basically told him the truth: that it was a structurally messy and thematically trite. Of course, I gave him myriad examples of how to develop the piece more coherently, but he was having none of it. He accused me of being condescending and inconsiderate and all this other bullshit, all because he asked for my help and I gave it to him. And now we’re in what is probably the worst fight of our lives, just a few days before the funeral.
edit: Additional context. Here are some of the notes my brother took exception to.
- It lacks concrete imagery or any real specific detail that paint a picture of his life. He was “kind.” He was “thoughtful.” This tells me nothing. What did he DO that was thoughtful? What did he DO that was kind?
- Similarly, using phrases like “give his shirt off his back” is so cliche it’s almost insulting to his legacy…give examples unique to HIM
- It’s way too choppy. Vary your sentence length. The audience won’t connect with the piece at all if it’s just composed of 5 word sentences.
- The ending, “I will miss you and love you forever.” This is just totally unimaginative and a terrible note to end on. Devoid of any hope or celebration. Far too bleak.
- Try working in a quote to give the piece a bit more eloquence. I’d recommend an Irish writer. Perhaps Yeats? (He said this was condescending)
Despite my well-intentioned attempt to help my brother craft a riveting piece, the verdict wasn't exactly sympathetic.
Sometimes it's fun to drop some straight up rage bait into the post just to rile up the crowd. I was afraid the suggestion that blue collar workers are incapable of writing and giving eulogies might be a bit too far, but it turned out condescension with a dash of classism was the perfect play. to further enrage the masses.
I had no choice but to clap back at those who dared question my credentials.
Then we had this snarky ass motherfucker who took it upon themselves to line edit my own post. Their insolence did not go unchecked (also who tf says a shambles?)
My note suggesting he liven up the eulogy with some Irish literary quotes was also (oddly) met with derision.
Other writers also felt the need to chime in:
Including this guy...
...who let me know my post worked exactly as intended.
Anyway, sorry about this one, but boy was it fun.