There is a common literary technique accompanied by a lesser-known phrase, known as the In medias res—a latin phrase for “in the middle of things.”
The tactic is used to suck a reader in to the main vortex of a story, then allowing for the author to then go back, and build a slower ramp to the ultimate meat of intrigue. We see it all the time. Jurassic Park begins with the odious movement of some genetically-modified dinosaur on an island—then takes us back to the beginning.
The point being, this technique offers fulfilled promises. In Jurassic Park, we know we are ultimately going to be encountering a trouncing Tyrannosaurus, vociferating Velociraptors, and a stagnant Stegosaurus. We came for those stinking dinosaurs, and by George, Michael Crichton is going to deliver.
I’m not sure whether or not my dopey foray into condescending pedagogy about Latin phraseology has anything to do with this; my principal complaint that the August, 2015 edition of Acoustic Guitar magazine has engaged in a malevolency. And if I didn’t just have an out-and-out subscription to them, I would have taken this issue back to the store and demanded my money back.
You can’t post a picture of Robert Johnson on the cover of a magazine, toss out an ambiguous question about the provenance of his famed Gibson L-1, and then just write an article DEFINITIVELY DESTROYING the claim made by the man who says he has it.
Many years ago, magicians Penn & Teller were on, I think—Late Night with David Letterman. Being that they are considered the “bad boys of magic,” they always have a visceral and vascular way in which they channel the pseudo-horrors of the Grand Guignol. That night I watched Penn Jillette narrate Teller’s tossing of a snow white rabbit into a motorized meat grinder. As the bloody, fur-laden pulp shot out towards the audience, the people in the studio groaned and screamed.
True to form, Penn decides to “ease the audiences mind,” along with the minds of prominent “animal rights” folks, by producing said rabbit in an unmolested condition.
And . . . right on time, Teller walks out with a brown and white rabbit, to the uncomfortable laughter of all.
That’s right. Penn & Teller have more respect for their audiences’ intellect than the editors of Acoustic Guitar magazine. They spend this entire span of paper making this big to-do about the probability of this legendary “Holy Grail” of blues guitars being in the possession of one man, only to basically announce “Naw. It’s just a brown and white rabbit. Thanks for reading.”
All they had to do was title the article, Me and the Devil Blues, A Florida businessman, learns the truth behind his claim to Johnson’s Famed Gibson L-1.
But don’t play me for a blues sucker. I’m forever fascinated by blues history, and the crucible of racism and slavery and faith out of which it was forged. So I’m easily led down the garden path whenever I see on of the only two known pictures of Johnson on the cover.
Please. Make what’s behind the cover mean something. Something I hope all my writing actually attempts to do.