Those Picassos of Pistachio Pistachio, those Borgeses of Half Baked, Ben and Jerry have authored an oeuvre of delicious genius, and a young writer would do well to learn the lessons of the ice cream iconoclasts, who did to dessert what only the most innovative artists do to their crafts: they reinvented it.
If we’re going to write vanilla, let’s write a vanilla so ridiculously good that it isn’t even vanilla anymore, but something more than anyone thought vanilla could be. And let’s not stop there. Let’s write chocolate, too. Let’s mix those. Let’s stick candy in that mix, candy we write ourselves.
And all this stuff we write—from the goo of our own Phish Food to the smooth of our own free-trade Coffee—let’s write it so densely rich that it has twice the calories of other art. Let’s write stuff so exquisite that if readers overindulge, they’ll get sick.
Let’s nauseate readers with the very idea of our work. Late Night Snack has potato chips in it. Potato chips! Who among us has the guts to write like that? Sure, sometimes we can write cool new stuff that tastes just right, like doughnut holes in coffee ice cream with a ribbon of amaretto glaze. But other times we have to write our way into trouble, like chocolate with almonds and beef stew, because, what the hell, let’s see what happens.
And some of that stuff will suck. But you go for it anyway, because when you find out that there’s an ice cream out there like Coconut Seven Layer Bar, with coconut, fudge, butterscotch, and graham cracker, you have to try it. You may never get a chance to taste anything like it again. Some of what we write will be too much—too many ingredients, Everything But The…; too much caffeine, Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz—but what a wonderful world it is when those flavors are in the freezer, radiating possibility.
What glorious stomachaches we might inflict with these flavors:
Carvermouth BlAcker Cherry
Decadent cherry ice cream with a subtle, dry bite, or, Defiantly plagiarized minimalist collage of understated incest.
BAusten Cream MishimalloMarquez Peanut Butter Kafka-cup
Boston Cream Pie-flavored ice cream with bits of Mallomar and our hand-crafted peanut butter cups, or, Witty, multi-generational saga of homosexual bugs in an uncanny Japan.
DeLillow-fAtwood Salingerman Chocolate Cake
Delicious low-fat chocolate ice cream with gobs of chocolate cake and a swirl of coconut-pecan frosting, or, Expansive futurist satire of consumerism in a family of illegitimate quiz show phonies.
David Bananas Foster Walnut PumpkNin Spice (with Hemingwafers)
Vanilla wafers, bites of banana, and hunks of walnut in a pumpkin-flavored ice cream, or, Footnoted exploration of the eroticism of the meta-ironic white space surrounding tight prose about a bisexual spy in a Spanish-American Eschaton game.
Let the hacks churn their Breyer’s, their Blue Bell. It’s good. That’s fine. But may we write like Ben & Jerry, the mad scientists of sweet.
Robert Uren is in the MFA program at Virginia Tech. He also draws the Writerman and Workshoppedified comics for the minnesota review blog.