Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea; the memory of all that....

 Story begins with the implicit and explicit assumption that something has happened or will happen to impinge upon stasis.  The life in a story was static before the altering event, thus does the altering event step forth with some innate theme, just as an actor steps forward into a new scene aware of goal and agenda to achieve the goal.

You might say then, In the beginning was stasis.  Everything in the landscape of the story was going on about its business as usual, evolving slowly, moving toward some final destination, a boulder, say, on its journey to becoming smashed into particulate we think of as gravel.  Even then you could, if you wished, make use of the gravel as a pathway or a playground, each to be trod upon by generations to come.  The important thing to consider is the passage of time, ticking away, beats from a metronome, measuring the passing flow of event as ordinary.  A human arrives with no agenda, is caught up in the natural passing of time.  No story yet.  You see?  Stasis.  But a character appears looking for someone, and the stage setting undergoes a slight tilt toward story.  Why is this character looking for someone?  Romance? Revenge?  Returning a past loan or favor?

There is history in all setting and all character.  Bobbie Ann Mason set her break-out short story, "Shiloh," in a park that was named for a battle in what many Americans think of as The Civil War, others still think of as The War between the States, and others yet think of to this very day as The War of Northern Aggression.  (Already a nice arrangement from which a story can come:  an event seen in three differing ways.  Mason's story is set on a landscape that was once the scene of one of the most bloody and costly battles of a contentious war.  It is only natural--or is it?--that she bring forth a family to set foot on this landscape.  A family.  A union.  Now imagine the family having what families sometimes have, which is a squabble.  Stasis doesn't stand a chance in such a setting.

Each time you select a setting, you are in a sense choosing a place where things have happened, ticking away in their evolutionary time or sped up or slowed down because of something else that took place in this particular setting.  A massacre? A murder?  Love making?

Is story a setting?  Can it be that some past event in a place characterizes the setting?  Heraclitus said we could not bathe in the same river twice; once embarked in story, can our characters feel stasis in the same place twice?

Lots of questions.  Some may be relevant.  If, as you have long supposed, all stories are mysteries and now, as you have come to suspect in recent months, all stories are also alternating universe fantasies, can it also be that all stories are also ghost stories?

For certain, stories are landscapes where stasis has a difficult time making its presence felt.

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