Thursday, February 11, 2010

Something happens and somebody changes

Something happens, then somebody changes. Not too shabby a way of looking at long form fiction. For the shorter version, you could say at a bit more length, something happens and someone considers the possibilities. In both long and short forms, something clearly must happen so that the event and the relative awareness of the event become part of the theme of the narrative. Something happens, although we're not quite sure what, but it is enough to cause Gregor Samsa to undergo a remarkable metamorphosis.

Things are in a rapid state of flux most days, but some of us are too caught up in routines and custom to notice, leaving us vulnerable to the more sudden revelation, the epiphany, if you will, of the short story. He did not realize he was (1) growing older (2) more set in his ways (3) more conservative (4) more desperate (5) more frightened (6) more out of touch with reality and so he (1) ran off with his secretary (2) forbade his daughter to do something she very much wanted to do (3) considered suicide (4)suspected his wife of something (anything) (5) bought a sports car (6) broke off a long-standing relationship with someone.

The conventional wisdom holds favorably for enhanced performance coming as the result of practice. Not bad logic, but by the very nature of that logic, standing up and sitting down can in addition to producing a regal sense of posture bring about arthritis.

We do not ordinarily appreciate characters who seem to have been content with their lot in life, accepting their status as though it were the product of a fast-food stand, making do, exuding a happy-go-lucky aura and following popular culture as though it were directions on a Google map. For us to appreciate such a person, that individual will need to suffer some devastating loss and not respond with a mere shrug, to experience some milestone birthday, say forty or fifty or sixty or seventy and say, No more; to have been given a death sentence and consequently decided to "go out" following the script of some heretofore unrecognized agenda.

The effects of change on the individual character remind you of the crumbs you find on your shirt front after trying to wrestle through one of those croissants sold at Peet's, your preferred coffee venue. You would think that a place with such superb coffee would attempt a match-up with a provider of at least adequate pastry, but the aura of story hovers over this pairing, of nearly every imaginable pairing; story spreads outward from the discovery of a splendid thing and the consequences of that discovery. A scant two miles south of Peet's is Raynaud's Bakery in the Loreto Plaza. Their French toast is a joy to behold, their brioche are fluffy and yeasty, their quiche and even their tuna salad or Salade Nicoise are choice, but the consequence is that their coffee is of a level with Starbuck's. When you set forth for French toast or for your usual medium latte, respectively, you are not going for breakfast nor for coffee; you are going for story and its consequences.

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