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Spoofs & Satire

Brian Belott, Book, 2010. Private Collection, Paris. Courtesy of Zürcher, Paris/New York.

Words Fail

This is the essay for your community college poetry class, the essay that encapsulates your thoughts on the assigned work in written form, the essay you started this morning, the essay that is due today.

This essay is personified. This essay is a conscious entity, capable of thought processing and critical analysis. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain; “I” is an illusion. There is no author. In fact, this essay is an illusion. This essay is merely a semblance of recycled thought. It uses transitions. It uses clichés. It uses antiquated adages, colloquialisms, and figures of speech. This essay has a purpose. This essay has desires. It wants you to extract something—a concept that looms beneath the surface—and this essay wants you to read it. Attention is sustenance; you must feed it. This essay has a thesis (this is key, otherwise there wouldn’t be any need for parentheses). The thesis is original, insightful, and lucid. You will know it when you see it. This essay promises the world. This essay is community college academia.

This is an “attention-getter”—but you know that. This essay manipulates. If you are reading this, then the essay is working. And you are feeding it. This essay is compost—even the thesis. This essay promises the world, but fails to provide. This essay is an illusion. This essay uses quotes to establish credibility; it uses superfluous verbosities to intrigue erudite professors. But, really, it just sounds pretentious. This essay is superficial. This essay is a mirror image of that essay; that essay is a mirror image of another essay and so on. Each word in this essay is another attempt to appease the academic magistrate; each word is sacrifice. You may call it scholastic martyrdom.

But as these sentences ebb and flow, one after another in rapid succession, meaning is lost; coherence is feigned, meaning is lost. You are hypnotized by rhetoric; you forget the point.

This essay is organic. This essay is alive. This essay has reflexes, impulses, and instinct. It can adapt, evolve, and transform. It seldom does. This essay is all potential energy –

By and by, these words begin to mean something—they try. But as these sentences ebb and flow, one after another in rapid succession, meaning is lost; coherence is feigned, meaning is lost. You are hypnotized by rhetoric; you forget the point. This essay is community college academia—an A+ paper.

The success of this essay can be quantified. This essay is perfect, but it could be more perfect with more pages. The quality of this essay can be masked. Here’s how:

This essay demonstrates. This essay portrays. This essay illustrates, suggests, and reveals. This essay depicts. This essay denotes. This essay exemplifies, describes, and represents. This essay is designed to [blank]. This essay serves as [blank]. For example, [blank]. This essay infers, symbolizes, and implies. It epitomizes something and indicates something else. This essay offers a glimpse into the disillusionment. This essay is a C+ paper adorned with pseudo-intellectual jargon. This essay is a façade.

This essay concludes when the well of synonyms runs dry—when there is nothing left to portray or depict or suggest. This essay ends before it begins. This essay is an illusion. But these professors will commend it; they will write in the margin, “Good point!” and “Well said!” Perhaps it is compromise—or indifference—but their encouragement, like this essay, is an illusion. Their comments, like this essay, are regurgitations; they are recyclable attaboys. This essay is community college academia—the limbo of higher education. This essay is an illusion of a symbol of something large and impressive. This essay is perfect.

Kyle Jaeger is a journalist based in Los Angeles, formerly with VICE and the Hollywood Reporter. More by Kyle Jaeger