Show, Don’t Tell


When I was just a nipper in Mulhausen
I found it hard to get to sleep at night
A shepherd to a flock of fifty thousand
For all the tales my mother would recite
I know she had the very best intentions
But bad is bad no matter how it’s meant
So one night I said “Mutter, seems it falls to me to utter
the fundamental principle of narrative intent…”

Show. Don’t. Tell.
Leave everything implied to be inferred.
Show. Don’t. Tell.
The action should be louder than the word.
Strip the story down to its essentials.
Twice as long will serve us half as well.
A basic illustration is the way. to. go.
Show. Don’t tell.

In Venice they say young love is the hardest
To me it seemed adventurous and fresh
I made myself the tortured starving artist
And gorged myself on pleasures of the flesh
I must have been a third-rate Valentino
Dispensing each pasticcio of praise
Until one day a lover said “I dare you to uncover
“your deepest darkest secrets to my penetrating gaze?”

“Show. Don’t. Tell. You’ve got to put your body on the line.
“Show. Don’t. Tell. You shouldn’t take the label for the wine.
“You’re happy promulgating at a snail’s pace.
“I’m waiting for a glimpse beneath the shell.
“If you’re bidden to the hidden then it’s quid. pro. quo. Show. Don’t tell.”

But if life were just a cabaret extended
Then what would be the point of cabaret?
The day is where our efforts are expended
The night is for escaping from the day
In Budapest a man was born who knew it
Originally known as Erick Weiss
And on the day Houdini died I heard his distant voice inside
A soft sepulchral whisper of solicitous advice:

Show. Don’t. Tell. The wide of eye prefer the sleight of hand.
Show. Don’t. Tell. The less they know, the more they’ll understand.
Magic is as valuable as starlight,
until a foolish braggart breaks the spell.
If a mister missed the twist, let the mystery persist,
for a sweet poetics needs aesthetic distance to exist.
Don’t accede to every plead and feed their need to know:
Show. Don’t. Tell.

This entry was posted in A Largely Fanciful History Of The Spiegeltent, Evening. Bookmark the permalink.