Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Seems random but meets in the middle, connects

You are dipping your toes into a novel recommended to you, in fact loaned to you by a friend whose judgment you trust.  As is the case with many things you read these days, it is not for mere pleasure; it is for the potential of it being a book you can extract an essay from.  Since this is the waning hours of Wednesday and you have a weekly review due on Friday, there is more than a little speculation about the potential for this book.  Will it be of use to you?  Will there be within it some information that will cause you to plunge into an idea or more along the way to a larger project than a weekly essay?  Will you learn something enormous?

These are no more idle questions than anything else you do, these early days of 2011.  It is not at all idle to wonder where Lupe, the maid, put your polo shorts, or what happened to that tan sweater from the Aran Islands, or when you will finish your revisions on the book project with the 24 March deadline.  Consequences surround you, which is where you wish the consequences to be.

In similar fashion, choices and preferences are about you--and should be.  You are in large measure defined by your choices and preferences.  (You tend to put ketchup on things at some remove from your preferences, although this is giving ketchup a bad rap, since much of the time,  you are fond of ketchup.)

It is important to have opinions, to know how you like your eggs, why pasta that is not al dente is offensive to you, why Haydn's music should suddenly become so interesting to you, why compositions in the key of D Minor, even by composers you don't particularly know or enjoy resonate for you.

The book you are reading.  Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.  Supposedly one of those novels that has mystery beginnings which morph into a different kind of investigation, just the sort of thing you'd been thinking and writing about lately as it became clear to you that the current batch of students are not finding ways to get deeper into character and its dramatic nuances.  The going is tough here because not only is the opening slow, which is not always a problem for you if the characters' behavior and needs are intriguing in other ways, but because the author's fondness for conjoining independent clauses with "and" is becoming a distraction.  All of this is leading you through some things that make you feel ablaze with hubris, into the more reasoned ground of understanding how important it is for the creator to have opinions, thus how important it is for you to be made aware of the lonely aspects of this craft via recognition that he or she who creates needs opinions to impart to the work a sense that the world you guys create will have some greater sense of being able to sustain itself.

The hubris you are particularly eager to work your way through is the sense that you know more than your editor, a fact that balances itself out when you realize your editor sees your work with greater clarity than you do.

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