Thursday, August 27, 2009

A State of Story

Things, whether they be large or small, appear to be where they are with great effect. In a world where there is logic and orderly procession of events, thoughts, and adequate places for things to be stored, there is a humming sense of harmony and a visual sense of accord.

Story, which is to say intrusion, begins with the introduction of one thing out of place, be that "thing" a disoriented person or, say, a magazine out of the magazine rack, a book out of its Dewy Decimal System or Library of Congress order. Story is a lost dog, a frightened cat at the top of a tall tree, a man coming home late at night and wandering into the wrong tract house. Story is about things being out of order. Being away from Ithaca for these past seven years is a form of being out of order for Odysseus, lighting out for the territory ahead is a natural response for Huck Finn, who, after all, is fleeing the orderly process we like to think of as civilization.

All this is prologue to you, living in a state of story, which is to say inharmonious, disorganized surroundings: unfiled bank statements, a scatter of index cards with your own mysterious hieroglyphics shouting forth from them, iPods wanting to be charged, a set of compact discs awaiting your decision to find a place to store them, various tall glasses, flecked with the sticky film that once was foamed milk and espresso. Sometimes, at barber appointment or doctor appointment, you thumb through Architectural Digest, wondering your way through work and sleep and eating areas of those with a more positive approach to surrounding than you, wondering what it would be like to work without the intrusion of clutter, what it would be like to sleep in a bed that had no books or book reviews or literary journals half-hidden under the duvet; what it would be like to eat at a table so sumptuously arranged and with such strategy, located to afford a view of something--a vista, a neighboring building, a small park.

Is it possible, you wonder, for you ever to be orderly and harmonious, living as it were out of story and instead into the neatness of a discipline commanded by Tidiness, then to go about your days neat, tidy, comfortable in the assurance that your things, your accouterments, however modest, are in a place of order?

When you come to these notes again, will you reckon you were particularly burdened at the time of writing by a sense of things--pens, pocket knives, nail clippers, index cards, ink bottles--gathering around like Birnham Wood, about to advance on you? Will you consider its mood prompted by something lost, a check from a client, a particular book title, a fountain pen?

Thus the immersion on story, the Odyssey of a long immersion in disorder, attempting to put things in some sort of place or explainable order, as in why should the check book be here of all places? It is a random universe. Story begins by portraying the attempt to put things back to order and the relative impossibility of doing so and, nevertheless, the effort to get some of it back somewhere.

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