Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hunters and Gatherers

If you take a few moments to think about it, issues of identity in California are different than issues of identity anywhere else.

You would not, for instance, confuse identity issues in California with identity issues in Nebraska, much less identity issues in North Dakota. Issues of substance in Nebraska and North Dakota—issues such as Who am I? and How can I be sure I am doing my best?—are the issues of individuals who emerge from an agricultural bent. 

Issues of substance in California—issues such as Who is my real estate broker? and Is tofu really a complete protein?—are the existential issues of Hunters and Gatherers.
Of course people in California are hunters and gatherers--even those of agricultural bent. There is much to be hunted and gathered here, particularly for those who pursue the arts, but in another way for those who pursue commerce. 

 The trick of it all is to take note of these things before they fade in the sunnier parts of the state or somehow erode in the colder, windier parts of the state. Having taken note of some treasured vision is the first step to finding those two things I've been speaking of, lecturing about for some time: attitude and voice.

Story is often thought to be highly effective when it has a sturdy-but-flexible spine, which is to say a design or plot; nor does it hurt if the story has edgy, remarkable persons who somehow warn us of what we might or already have become. But attitude and voice trump these with great regularity. 

 We want a man or woman or child to follow who is already launched in attitude and voice because we know that ever once in a while, like the hunters and gatherers of eld, they will have secreted themselves in the precise place where something momentous will come galumphing by.
Because there are so many possibilities, issues of identity are always good building blocks for the short story. Perhaps one or two realizations per story. You leave with a dangling modifier, which is not a noun waiting to be claimed by some pronoun , but rather a character with a voice and attitude who may or may not accept some collected wisdom that is within his reach.

Targets of opportunity range from woolly mammoths to ideas for rock paintings to dances of celebration to narratives of pure speculative invention. We await them with stealth, ingenuity, and opportunism. And thanks.

1 comment:

lettuce said...

is tofu really a complete protein? hah! that made me laugh.

i've just finished and enjoyed The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue - quite a different and absorbing take on identity.