Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Insect and the Windshield

Not long ago, as such things evolve, you had the occasion to look at something you had written and, as such things also evolve, thought at first that it was something you'd copied from another writer, speaking in another source.  Since there was no attribution given and with the growing sense of familiarity about the vocabulary and manner in which words were strung together with a seeming exuberant spontaneity, you began to remember the material as well as the circumstances under which you wrote it.  This full arrival of ownership, responsibility, and emotional involvement brought you to the kind of direct impact an insect has with the windshield of a traveling car.

To care with passion and the wildly intoxicating mixture of uncertainty and overwhelming curiosity about a work you have struggled to get down in some form, editing, restating, perhaps even moving the paragraphs about with muscular bravado, is an exact and exacting metaphor for a romantic adventure.

Even the wonderful detail of meeting somewhere an old flame and the bittersweet recognitions the encounter sends rushing through your awareness is an apt part of the metaphor.  Looking either at the paragraphs of story or, say, the fine archipelago of freckles across her face and nose, you experience the fond comfort of intimacy, a state of heightened awareness to nuance, gesture, intent.  Allowing the pleasing association to take you where it will, you arrive at the discovery that another such state of the kind of awareness you describe resides in reading.  What great feelings and connections arise when you read something you care about.  Conversely, what outrage you experience when, in the course of some employment or duty, you are immersed in reading something flat, linear, perhaps even episodic.

Another metaphoric insect meets impact with the windshield of reality:  Your earlier associations with alcohol, then drugs, then a combination were not mere youthful angst and impatience; they were an attempt to find the awareness you found in romantic relationships, in writing, and in reading.  True enough, some downside aftereffects to be dealt with in either of the three but even those add to the dictionary of awareness you sought and still, Google and Wikipedia to the contrary notwithstanding, seek.  Your most poorly written novel, your most disingenuous romantic relationship, the reading you felt you had to pursue, these were all bringing you a kind of credibility and awareness you could not have presumed to appreciate much less understand as you engaged them.  As Graham Greene wrote in the first line of The End of the Affair,  A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.
 (1951)


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