"Should I turn it down some, sweetie?" he asked her, his hand caressing her bare arm.
"Oh, snookums, you know I love the bee gees," she told him.
You know what I'm talking about--the kind of smarmy chatter that oozes out of mutual infatuation when two love birds are head-over-heels gone. Sweet talk is language that makes sense only when it's being blubbered intimately by two people so far gone they can't help themselves. Hide a digital recorder behind the visor of a parked car some night when a couple of 17-year-olds are hooking up, and you'll get all sorts of silliness.
I've been reading some of it lately in a batch of papers from students, the very same sappy stuff, and most of the time it just doesn't work, which is to say it just doesn't sound convincing, not because the student writers aren't good--they are--but because, I'm convinced, a writer simply has to earn emotion.
If you talk about wiping away tears, I tell my students, then you dang well better make the reader reach for Kleenex. I've never said it yet, but it's equally true of this lovey-dovey stuff--you have to earn it. Otherwise sweet talk just sounds sappy--worse yet, tinny. It makes us laugh. When it shouldn't. For a story-teller/fiction writer, inappropriate guffaws are deadly.
So anyway, last night at church a few people tried their level best to read the Song of Solomon dramatically; after all, the lines are clearly marked--the beloved, the lover, etc. The only problem is, some good guy from the congregation going on about his beloved's breasts like a pair of white-tailed deer just sounds goofy--yeah, and tinny too. Giggle-able. Why? Because the words just don't ring true out of the bedroom, certainly not in the public square. What I'm saying is that the Song of Solomon isn't meant for choral reading, and I don't care if the male lead is Leonardo DiCaprio. It's blubbery. Love talk sure as anything has its place. Confession: I've used it myself; but when the praise team does it, the eeeuuuuwww factor climbs precipitously.
But then there's this: our preacher says that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in the very last weeks of his life, found great comfort in the scriptures, as one might expect, but especially, our pastor said, in the Song of Songs. That's right. And that is rich, and even understandable, life itself drawing to a close.
But even that usage is private, or so it seems to me. Everyman was all by his lonesome when he finally faced the grim reaper, and that lesson was never so clear to me as when my own mother-in-law died just a few months ago--or my father before her. No one comes with us to the grave, save the Lord, the true and eternal lover.
All of that makes darlingly good sense, or so it seems to me, the cynic.
Don't get me wrong--I'm happy the Song of Songs made it into the canon, snookums.