Saturday, October 20, 2007


Between is often taken for granted, one of the first signs that it is not getting the respect it deserves. In the parade of prepositions, between is often left behind, almost as though it were an adverb.

And yet.

And yet between is the pole star of attraction joining persons, places, or things. We think of some massive, pulsing place, say Los Angeles, the way we think of a spilled bottle of ink, spreading out over a surface, soaking into it. There are multitudes of things and persons and places in Los Angeles, but there is no between. Gertrude Stein said of Oakland that there was no there there; of Los Angeles, we observe that there is no between there.

And yet.

Los Angeles is distinctive because of its lack of between. Stories become distinctive because on one level they represent interstices between events while on another level, stories represent the tangible something or the tangible nothing filling the between existing among characters. John loves Mary, there is something between then. If Mary reciprocates, there is even more between them, and now a story is under way as we investigate the between that undulates in the interstice separating John from Mary.

If there is something between us is it love, animus, admiration, envy, jealousy? If there is nothing between us, there is still something such as indifference.

If we are constructing a character for a play, a short story, a novel, a memoir, a biography, how many of the separate selves of that character do we include to bring that character to life? And what things are there between the separate selves of a character.

Between you and me. What a lovely set of parameters!

Between the writer me and the reader you, what lovely set of parameters should there be? I should be made to feel concern for the welfare, the outcome of your character. Therefore there is something between that person you created and the reader me that I have created.

Between two worlds.

Between a rock and a hard place.

Between Scylla (monster) and Charybdis (whirlpool).

A popular song from the 1930's Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

See Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series, in which between is a tangible place of nothingness. Usually, for a dragon to teleport using its rider's directions, they stay in "between" for the time that it takes to cough three times. Fire lizards take eight seconds to teleport anywhere on the planet. "Between" frequently causes cystitis and child-bearing problems in female dragonriders. Going "between" without proper coordinates is a frequent cause of death for inexperienced weyrlings.

Between the lines, as in can't you read? As in subtext. Between what is said and what is meant.

There must have been something between us or the lines for you to have read this far.

The go-between.

There can be no story without between.


Anonymous said...

Definitely something between us: a little black dog, goes by the name of Sal. ;-)

Smiler said...

What you call between, I call shades of gray. I think it's a wonderful colour (yes, a colour!) that's all too often overlooked and underappreciated. So many variations there! There's so many possible shades of course, but the tints! It can be bluish or reddish or yellowish or greenish or brownish or or or... you get the picture.

Smiler said...

You know, it's funny that you should have mentioned the spelling. I always hesitate between the two versions and usually go for "grey" because I love Earl Grey tea, but I just thought I'd switch for fun this time. I wonder if there's something in between the two? :-)

John Eaton said...

Few and far between are writers whose wit and grace match their fire and their focus.

Thanks for leading by example, Shelly,

John :)

Kelli Anne said...

Liminality- betwixt and between. I love this blog entry so much.