Friday, October 22, 2010

Reward Your Inner Anarchist

By most accounts, anarchists are individuals who are willing to use force of some tangible measure to overthrow existing social conventions.  Because of your own age, background, and observations, certain generalities jump forth at the mention of the concept of anarchy, notably "bomb throwers" and the "Molotov Cocktail."  These two terms spoke volumes to the incendiary nature of anarchy, beginning with their use against the established dominance of the Russian nobility during the increasing war of social classes, spreading as well to an organized uprising of classes in Spain and also, down the road, between Russia and Finland.

In one way or another, anarchy is alive and well in some form throughout the world today, two examples drawn from the hat being the so-called Pirates of Somalia, who are using force of a particular kind to interdict commercial and passenger shipping; the erstwhile Tamil Tigers, fighting for a form of Tamil separatism; and within out own demographically rich American landscape, the Tea Partiers who appear to be willing to use force or its threat to stop anything with which they take political issue.

The longer you discuss and attempt to define anarchy and its implications, the greater momentum you give to turning the discussion political, which for a change is not your intention.  You wish instead to turn the thread of conversation to the dramatic effect of literary anarchists, writers who mess deliciously with accepted form and formatting, who throw Molotov Cocktails of rhetoric and inventiveness at the established order as set by academics, critics, and teachers of grammar.  Each of these establishments is important for the writer to be aware of then separate from to the exact degree of his or her originality of voice and ambition of thematic matter.

The more absolute goals are those of authorial intent, which carries with it the burden of being somehow accessible to at least a small modicum of readership and which ought not to be obfuscatory or cutely prolix for the mere sake of obfuscation or the prolix.  Cute doesn't win any cigars here.

From your observation, the jury is in hopeless deadlock on James Joyce, particularly as Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake are concerned.  The cigar is clipped, lit and handed to Joyce's ghost to puff at through eternity or at least so long as Dubliners is read.  Joyce moved forward against convention with strides you found exciting, intriguing you to push forth in your own way, not with the early focus you'd wished but with enough sense of purpose to feel the potential.

Having characters who may turn anarchist is an enormous help, particularly when you get to know them well enough to sense the energy of anarchy within them and thus begin to fear the mess they will make once they are aroused.  The temptation to hold them in rein grows in direct proportion with the early satisfaction of the work under way.  Warning:  once it begins to seem safe and secure, elitism has begun to sink in.  In this case elitism means the ka-ching sound of the marketplace cash register will have begun to sound in your mind and you, aware of how helpful this can be in supporting you through other projects, becomes a siren's song having the same effect on you that it did the sailors who worked for that dude from Ithaca, Odysseus.

Into every dramatic situation, dare to bring along your inner anarchist.  Show him where the bottles are and the lighter fluid or the anti-knock ethyl gasoline or perhaps some kerosene.  Show him where he can find liquid soap or other such gunk that will cause the literary bomb to stick to its target, wreaking enormous damage to established tradition.

Pick your conventions and traditions with care.  Recognize that humor and sometimes the merest act of comparing two seemingly disparate elements is enough to cause ignition.  Then toss away.  You will have become an anarchist of humor and perhaps even of satire and you will still be able to hold your head up in the knowledge of the social contract that should be the lingua franca of all humankind.

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