On July 5th, your new National Health Service starts. Anyone can use it—men, women and children. There are no age limits, and no fees to pay. You can use any part of it, or all of it, as you wish. Your right to use the National Health Service does not depend upon any weekly payments.
The preceding paragraph appeared on leaflets distributed to Britons in May, 1948. It was followed by a simple diagram, and concluded: “There is a lot of work still to be done to get the Service ready. If you make your arrangements in good time, you will be helping both yourself and your doctor.”
Leaving aside for a moment a kind of Nation Envy the announcement raises within an American reader, I’ve always marveled at the prose. A nameless bureaucrat is able to convey, in language direct and simple enough for an entire citizenry to understand, one of modern history’s great overhauls.
Here is another paragraph, taken from a very different publication and concerned with a different subject matter:
Although the term Chronice Traumatic Encephalothaphy (CTE) was first used in the literature of the 1960s, the disease’s ability to affect a broader population beyond boxers was not fully recognized until more recently…Since that time, CTE has been found in others with a history of repetitive concussions from sports (e.g., American football players, professional wrestlers, professional hockey players) and from other activities (e.g., a victim of physical abuse, an epileptic, a self-injurer, a circus clown who was repeatedly shot out of a cannon).
This is an excerpt from a paper entitled “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: Neurodegeneration Following Repetitive Concussive and Subconcussive Brain Trauma” by Christine M. Baugh, Julie M. Stamm, et al., which first appeared in the magazine Brain Imaging and Behavior. For years I had the passage posted on my office door with a directive to my undergraduate creative writing students: WRITE LIKE THIS.
It is the clown, of course, and its placement within the sentence, that has brought me such wonderment, such surprise—a “shock of the new,” to quote Viktor Shklovsky.
Clarity in bureaucratic leaflets. Defamiliarization in the pages of a medical journal.
Last summer I became curious as to the limitations I’d placed on myself by reading a narrow genre of magazine: the literary journal. How many hundreds of beautifully-written articles had I missed in business magazines and autorepair monthlies?
Why couldn’t I read, in the same publication, a compelling piece of medical literature alongside a short story interested in formal innovation? Conversely, why couldn’t I find a compelling piece of medical literature written as a narrative?
The answer, of course, is something many people who have taught freshman composition draw on the board on Day One:
The audience for Brain Imaging and Behavior differs in its expectations than that of, say, The Paris Review.
Well, fine. Sure. I probably don’t want to open Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, pencil in hand, eager for a tip on navigating market volatility, only to be confronted with a personal remembrance on seeing The Dead play Red Rocks in ‘78.
But perhaps there is an audience for just such a publication. And this is why I set out to launch This Is Bill Gorton. I am hoping that in our magazine you will find odd works. Works that do not fit a taste. Works that are too long. Works that don’t work. Nonfiction that isn’t based on personal experience. Or is. Indexes. Narratives about the financial sector, or the quieter moments on Capitol Hill—as with each of our issues, given to us anonymously by somebody with a backstage view of how things in D.C. have shifted since the 2016 election. Here, then, is a body of diverse voices. These are writers pulled from different backgrounds and stages in their careers. What they have in common is a willingness to explore and to grow.
This Is Bill Gorton
300 State Street
P.O. Box 92951
Southlake, TX 76092
Editor: Andrew Brininstool
Editorial Assistant: Joshua Hines
Views expressed in This Is Bill Gorton do not necessarily reflect those of the Editorial Committee. Our selections—many of them fiction—are chosen on the basis of literary merit, bribery, chicanery, exhaustion, because we were in a fine mood that day, or whatever else happened to be going on inside our little heads at the moment. All rights revert to the author upon publication.