In my library there's a small blue book which I keep on the shelf reserved for books on novel wrtiting. The book is called 'How To Write A Damn Good novel". It's written by James N. Frey and is a fine book, so much so that I've read it at least seventeen times. On page 67 of Frey's book - a particularly dog eared and well worn page - is a sentence that I find intriguing.
That sentence states that, if at the beginning of a novel (or short story), a shotgun is hanging over the mantle of the hero's house, then, by the end of the novel, that shotgun ought to have been fired.
In other words, we as writers have a silent contract with our readers. That unspoken contract states, that, if you stick with me to the end, then I, in turn, promise to deliver the goods.
That's where "The Secret of the Dancing Ducks" title comes in. The title of the post is my promise to you that, if you read this post, then eventually you too will know The Secret of the Dancing Ducks.
But before I get to the Dancing Ducks and their arcanum, I'd like to touch (talk, converse, gossip, chitchat, shoot the breeze, jaw, chinwag, natter) on some important elements about secrets in general. That's if you let me.
Firstly, have you ever noticed that, as soon as someone mentions that they have secret, then everybody wants to know what that secret is?
Humans appear to have am inbuilt want-to-know-mechanism that makes us stick our metaphorical noses into places that our feet don't (or won't) fit. To spy on our neighbours we stick our noses between the gaps in paling fences, to see what's going on down the street we poke our noses through windows, and in to see into adjacent rooms our noses sniff out keyholes and the cracks at the edges of half opened doors- all in the name of furthering our knowledge. That's partly why we have done so well as a species. Our inquisitiveness has helped us spread around the earth. Our noses have sprayed our DNA in every dark corner, our curiousity has marked our territories like dogs - and our propensity for being busy bodies has turned the Earth into our own backyard.
(Speaking of dogs, did you know that they have two hundred million nasal olfactory receptors? - sorry, not that I care - I just had a burning desire to tell you that).
Of course, many secrets are meaningless to anyone but the secret's keeper.
But not always.
If, for example, you watch enough television, read enough books, or see enough movies then you will know that plots are often driven by secrets. In movies and in real life, secrets can sometimes provoke a life or death situation, can sometimes cause a marriage or divorce, and sometimes give us massive headaches.
Oddly enough secrets are like objects. They have old owners - and they can have new owners. It's a given that a secret has less value if its present owner is inclined to blurt it out across the universe. If everyone knows a secret then it becomes an 'unsecret' - so to speak. The corollary being that, to be really really really valuable, a secret must be known by only the annoited few. And in the case of the best secrets, those annointed few must have coaxed it from its original owner.
And hence to these illustrations. For they too have their secret - and trust me, these illustrations and their secrets are ultimately related to The Secret of The Dancing Ducks.
According to the tennets of 'secretness' outlined above, the very fact that I have announced that these images have a 'secret' should theoretically be enough to stir your interest. And according to the shotgun contract I made with you at the beginning of this post, that secret should be worthwhile learning. And lastly, according to the second tennent of secretness, I must not tell you that secret straight away.
In fact I must make you wait.
But how do I keep my secret from you as long as possible?
So far I have used misdirection (you pretend to look in the other direction while I slip the rabbit from the hat), delaying tactics, blind paths, subplots, thrown metaphorical hand grenades across your path, said "Hey look at that naked person" while pointing you back the way you came - all in the name of making you wait.
And in this way I can make the secret seem more valuable.
Or can I?
To be honest, at this moment, I have an overriding and burning urge to reveal to you my confidential, covert,cryptic, discreet,disguised,dissembled,dissimulated,furtive,hush-hush, incognito piece of information that makes these illustrations special.
But before I do....
Did you ever read Foucault's Pendulum?
It's by Umberto Eco - that chap who wrote "Name of the Rose".
The essential themes of Foucault's Pendulum involve The Knights Templar,The Rosicrucians, The Gnostics, The Freemasons,The Bavarian Illuminati,The Elders of Zion,The Assassins of Alamut,The Cabalists,The Bogomils,The Cathars and , lastly but not leastly, The Jesuits.
In the beginning of his book Eco promises the answers to the secrets of all these things. Yet in the end we are given nothing but a demonstration of Eco's amazing ability to make us think he is intelligent. Consequently Foucault's Pendulum was the last book of Eco's that I will ever read.
A strong statement I know.......
They were made for Illustration Friday's 'Burning.'
Their original genesis was/were the Witches of Salem.
And that, believe me didn't work. (See album cover at the bottom)
Their second genesis was 'Nero fiddling while Rome burned'.
But Nero fiddling didn't seem quite right.
And after checking my facts it seemed that Nero did nothing of the sort.
And so I put the two together....
Feel free to click for big.
Thanks again for looking.
The final image is just below.