Saturday, December 4, 2010

Comfort Zones

The moment the quality or even appearance of comfort is added to a narrative, that narrative ceases being story and reverts to being an incomplete dramatic condition.  Comfort is the removal of the major factors, stress and tension.

Comfort in story alerts us to the rumbling portents of change, disaster, and events out of control.

When you finish writing something in which there is the jangle and uncertainty of chaos, you often seek comfort from the reading of someone as elegant and knowledgeable as Louise Erdrich or Cynthia Ozick; you fiddle with music as various as J.S. Back or John Coltrane, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Bill Evans; naturally the right person is a comfort and in order to be a comfort she has also to be a challenge, brighter, wiser, and funnier than you, which in a delicious irony rules out much of that particular kind of comfort.

It is important for you to seek places and things of comfort to you not merely because of the potential all about you for loss and the parade of loss that tramples through your living room when you sit in your reading chair, but because you with such regularity apply the whisk-the-tablecloth-from-under-the-dishes trick so often by removing comfort from individuals of your imagination.

Comfort is a balance.

There is little balance in fiction, craft, certainly, and intent, but forget about balance.

You have chosen a lifestyle than revolves around broken hearts, your own and the characters and landscapes you create.  There are traces of sadism inherent in that calculus, but there are great depths of connection to portions of the universe you might never have experienced if you'd spent all your time in pursuit of comfort.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

And yet, this piece is of great comfort to me, as all wise and intriguing writing is- balanced and stabilizing in its ability to remind me why I write. I would argue that there is balance in fiction- that successful fiction conveys the uncertainty as well as the mystery of life by calling on all the rational resources of the creative mind, a perfect merger of the known and the unknown. While the story may push to, and beyond, the edges of familiarity and comfort, the fact that a creative mind tossed the story and its characters from reason to chaos and back again argues the underlying presence of a stabilizing influence that no amount of uncertainty can deny, no matter how loudly the characters may insist on the chaos they embrace.