I’m somewhat eclectic. I’ve been: an oboe player, a chemistry teacher, a weekend weight lifter, a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar (in the field of Classics), a cooking instructor, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a public relations intern, a community-based agriculture activist, a proponent of the Sudbury School model of education, a companion to multiple cats, a teacher of feminist sociology, a cyclist, a swimmer, and a fan of berry-flavored drinks.
Despite my willingness to try out numerous experiences, I’ve never been one to: throw pottery on a wheel (rather than build it by hand), knead bread, seek to teach trigonometry, study machines’ guts, be impressed by titles, degrees, awards, or wealth, forget the power of laughter, or fail to enjoy the antics of my children’s Uromastyx lizard. Likewise, I’ve refused to inflate my students’ grades and I never developed a love for chocolate-chip ice cream.1
That said, my tastes are truly, relatively, uncomplicated. Since I treasure most that which G-d crafts, it’s rare for me to photograph, to paint, or to write about human artifacts. Contrariwise, I’m happy when depicting birds, reptiles, mammals, or insects. What’s more, as a trained herbalist, I take special joy in forming representations of buds, of leaves, of flowers, and of branches. Micro-ecosystems fascinate me as do panoramic views. I additionally like showing fauna amidst flora. My writing is full of both actual and made-up wildlife.
Thereupon, much of my fiction features anthropomorphized critters.
It is not so much that my imaginary hedgehogs press me to include them in the fables, myths, and allegories, which I fashion, as it is that… I hold in the highest esteem writing that shows off the miraculous in the mundane, and writing that makes the extraordinary appear to be commonplace tosh. My inner child delights in flipping both fingers and expectations…it toasts my socks if the tales I amalgamate lack settings that are: recognizable in the past, found in the present or somewhat plausible in the future. I adore mixing metaphors, too.2
See, “beauty” is a particularized aesthetic. Within ourselves, we build hierarchies of pleasure. In my world, the elements of Creation bring the greatest satisfaction and enjoyment. It follows that, for me, human senses, employed vicariously or actually, are important ports for delectation. Whether I fancy the shadows of woodlands over the sunlight of estuaries, the wing song of birds over the music of lizards or the smell of cooked onions over the aroma of vanilla, like anyone else, I self-determine the characteristics of “grandeur.”
Yet, subjective notions of loveliness emerge as much as from schooled and traditional foci as they do from private involvements. Some artists replicate the lines, shapes, shading, and tones of classic or of Renaissance fare. Others fashion the verbal equivalent of punk, reggae, or house music.
Since I adore nature, I make use of furs, firs, fins and florets in my writing. My stories contain Komodo dragons suffering alimentary woes from eating coins, or two-headed, gelatinous wildebeests that would readily gallop to Jupiter to fight that planet’s sentient lobsters if only they could find a way to breathe in space. It is also the case that my narratives’ vegetation eats rodents or that my narratives’ trees tiptoe among the tulips.
My nonfiction’s as wonky as my fiction. I maintain that the best nonfiction is inventive and, correspondingly, that the best fiction is chock full of facts. I give no regard to claims that make-believe, as principally found in short stories, poetry, and plays, doesn’t alter our world in the same way that do face-to-face dialogues or penned essays, or that rhetoric can’t be full of fluff and feathers. On the one hand, people will read about difficult subjects brought to them by field mice, but not by social workers. On the other hand, people will read past the first paragraph of a fact-based piece if that piece is ornamented. “It’s less daunting to cheer on warring sugar ants than to confront bosses, to hope for the success of a Tuna Olympics contender than to give advice to adolescent children, or to think up salutations for a space cowboy than to properly word a greeting to new neighbors[.]”3
Thus, deliberately, my writing demonstrates how
[s]triped and otherwise stippled beasties, both of this world and of places found only in imaginations feed by bits and things that include kale, butterscotch and attitude [succeeds.] Playfulness, in my esteem, has the ability to change polished, but hollow, assemblages of words into irregular, and, hence, evocative texts.
It seems to me that poetry and prose, which sport with the wits of their audiences, become vehicles for engaging those viewers in critical thinking… people give the impression of being more open-minded to “new” ideas when their guard is down than when they are feeling defensive. [Many] writers employ outlandish settings and look to populations of weird critters, rather than construct yet more literary fiction, when we want to … proffer questions about beloved cultural norms. [We] intentionally employ personification of fauna, toward the end of prying people away from their comfort zones... 4
Moreso, not only is the employment of pretend friends useful to entice audiences, but that choice is equally useful for educating them.
In particular, as individuals fatigued from using our competence in differentiating among intentions, decisions, and actions, professionally and personally, few of us care that the literature, which we deem tastiest, is riddled with masked intentions, misrepresents social fidelity, and is devoid, overall, of pointers toward private answerability. It’s not for nothing that genre fiction keeps growing in popularity.5
Decades ago, writers meant to sneak questions about international politics and about human welfare into the first comic books. In turn, contemporary writers, including Yours Truly, slip questions about social hegemonies into our works. In particular, I use funky critters as the “sugar” for my social “medicine.”
Nonetheless, writers’ insertion of moral agendas, whether played out by illusory populations or by human representatives, is discouraged.
We contemporary jugglers of signs and symbols are urged not to proffer wit or wisdom, but to skew our interpretations of events such that our views appear to embrace emotive claims over rational ones. We’re urged to reach for “popular,” i.e. “feel good,” presentations over virtuous ones. The problem is that when we … slant our texts that way, we disgrace ourselves and fail everyone else.
When we … stop offering up sensibilities gleaned from cultural red tents, sewing circles, and secretarial pools …we shortchange ourselves and [our readers.] When writers hide from their social responsibilities, [no one] triumph.6
In short, “splendor” is relative. I adore G-d’s handiworks, so I esteem the “natural” world and artful emulations thereof. I find biota to be a helpful vehicle for expressing demanding topics, as well. Since I consider myself to be a writer, I consider myself obliged to wrangle with such matters, to boot. It’s my personal style that I use corporeal oddities to do so.
1. Erik Lynd et. al. “An Interview with KJ Hannah Greenberg.” Indie Firsts! The Magazine for Independent Readers. Positive Publishing Perspectives. Dec. 2011.
2. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “The Necessity of Wonkiness in Writing.” The Artist Unleashed. Feb. 1, 2017. http://www.theartistunleashed.com/blog/the-necessity-of-wonkiness-in-writing-by-kj-hannah-greenberg.
3. J.A. Beard. “The Hedgehogs (or maybe the ant’s) [sic] Dilemma: An Interview with KJ Hannah Greenberg. J.A. Beard’s Unnecessary Musings. Mar. 16, 2012. http://riftwatcher.blogspot.co.il/2012/03/hedgehogs-or-maybe-ants-dilemma.html
4. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “Of Hedgehogs, Komodo Dragons, and Other Anthropomorphized Friends.” Whimsical Words. Nov. 18, 2013. https://vonniewinslowcrist.wordpress.com/category/guest-authors/page/6/. Rpt. in Tosh: Select Trash and Bosh of Creative Writing. Crooked Cat Books. 2018. Forthcoming.
5. KJ Hannah Greenberg “Pulp: Literature’s Costume Jewelry. Bewildering Stories. Oct. 2015. Rpt. in Tosh: Select Trash and Bosh of Creative Writing. Crooked Cat Books. 2018. Forthcoming.
6. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “Truth vs. Imagination.” The Writers’ Monthly Review. Feb. 2015. Rpt. in Tosh: Select Trash and Bosh of Creative Writing. Crooked Cat Books. 2018. Forthcoming.