"Seek to delight, that they may mend mankind,
And, while they captivate, inform the mind."
—William Cowper, on Teachers
So my 10:00 writing class has finally woken up, and with a bang.
They're starting their Art Essays, and being the My Little Pony of instructors I encourage them to write about anything they want. "To hell with Faulkner and VanGogh," I say. "Read up on The Decapitator, the haka, Vampyros Lesbos, Cannibal Corpse." Yawns and texting ensue.
Then one guy, who writes only on hunting, asks, "What about my Glock 23? Can I write about her?"
Now, I'm a little dubious about how this is art, but I once green-lighted a World of Warcraft essay called, "Why Dwarves Suck," so whatever. I Google "Glock." On the Smartboard. In class. And here she is:
It's cool, alright, but is it art? According to the web site, Christian Gun Owner ("Christian first, American second, Gun owner third"),
When selecting a one, you don't have to decide between action, color, style or anything you may have to decide between with other manufacturers. They all look basically the same. Black. Blocky. Simple. Nothing "sexy" about these guns.
So it's kind of like the Bauhaus of pistols. Or maybe Ikea. At any rate, it's very Northern European (made in Austria) and, while looking at it, I can almost feel the pebbly texture, the snug finger grips, and the chill of that concave swoop resting between my thumb and forefinger. Since this is the first image not featuring Tilda Swinton that ever made my right hand tingle, it's probably art.
I tell the student, "Go for it."
Another guy in the back corner immediately comes out from under his Yankees cap and says, "Google the Beretta! I just picked one up."
Now, the Beretta is Italian made, and somewhat more Baroque. The one we settle on has a walnut stock:
This is a European wink to America, the kind of gun Sergio Leone or Anna Magnani would carry. With its extra body and drama, it also dances before it hits, like Muhammad Ali. It's the Times New Roman to the Glock's quietly lethal Verdana. There's also a web site - BerettaWorld - whose "main mission is to promote Beretta guns in other contexts, like world design, world fashion, world entertainment and world art."
The room is rocking, and I'm desperately throwing out as many art terms as I can think of on short notice. Not wanting to lose the momentum, I jump to a Bladerunner-esque steampunked boomer that catches my eye. A few gasps and a low whistle. Someone says, simply, "sa-weet," and I have to agree:
I've been trying to steer the class into the visual aspect of these things through an emotional investment, not unlike causing a buffalo stampede. But then we approach a cliff.
"I love the Beretta sniper rifle," someone says. "If that thing hits you in the base of the neck it can cut your whole body in half from top left to botton right."
This is the kind of detail I've been screaming for in their essays all semester, but we're also starting down an aesthetic trail I don't want to reach the end of. Luckily, it's close enough to 12:00 that I can send them off to Sociology and Biology with a certain degree of exhilaration.
I wonder, though, what kind of Art Essays I'll wind up with. Most likely, my Glock student will miss the point entirely and write about how easy it is to insert the clip. I hope he at least mentions the awesome defense of the cotton candy booth at the end of Zombieland. After all, he once composed a nicely cinematic paragraph about a bright cloud of goose blood settling onto a patch of snow.
Now that's art.