Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cattle Call

You are interviewing potential employees prior to starting up an imaginative new venture for which you have already secured a significant investment of capital and as well tried to account for future needs and active demands.

It is not as though this is a new enterprise for you; there have been times in the past where you were indeed not a mere go to your office and do your work employee, you were cast in a supervisory role as well as the work you were expected to do in your office (but had to do at home or on weekends, when no one else was there, because of meetings, interruptions, reports, correspondence, telephone calls, and, yes, did you forget to mention meetings?)You actually had in those situations the pleasant experience of interviewing and hiring your own departmental persons, men and women who brought something of value to their work on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, you are hesitant because you do not have the nuanced vision for this new project that you had as an individual who was hired by a publishing company that had a nuanced vision of its own which you were invited to share.

The fact of the matter is, in most cases, when you were setting forth, you were doing so with the equivalent of what your forebears did so many hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of years ago, did when they started out:  they carried some pieces of flint that, when struck together, were known to produce a spark, which could be manipulated into a flame large enough to begin consuming sufficient twigs and logs for a fire by which to cook and warm one's self against the cold.  You were starting out with a spark or the equivalent materials for creating a spark.  Although you had no objections to a tummy filled with cooked food and a cozy enough space for sleeping and working, you were more interested in seeing the shapes of things about you in the night, lest you trip over them, mistake the commonplace for the extraordinary, discern presences and scenarios that were entire products of your fear-filled apprehensions.

Here you are now, interviewing individuals for a work-related venture for which you are experiencing inchoate visions and potentials, humming as though to itself, yet somehow the song has a vague familiarity you must extend yourself to recognize.  Once you recognize and are able to render that song in your own voice, however atonal and imprecise your voice is, you will have experienced the immense profit of having made that particular song a part of you.  From such riches, you progress.

Into the interviewing room now arrives a man of middle years, mid fifties, you'd say, an almost perfect size forty from the racks, if it were not for the slight appearance of a tummy, working against his belt.  You look toward the eyes and nose, alert for signs of the tippler:  bloodshot eyes, puffy under lids, a trace of red and blue highways running across his nose.  None of these outward symptoms of the incessant drinker is manifest; his jade green eyes meet yours with a friendly directness.  His gaze is steady, non-defensive.   His handshake is firm, his nails neat, trimmed.  His shoes are polished, his trousers, most likely Dockers or some mid-market catalog, are crisp; he either ironed them for this interview or perhaps went so far as to wash and iron them; they are a comfortable fit with his blazer that sits with casual ease on his bony shoulders.  In keeping with the current fashion, his blue gingham shirt is opened at the collar.  A neat pocket square has been folded into his breast pocket, a considerate wedge for his tortoise-shell reading glasses.  You know he will do, a fact that, for idiosyncratic reasons, rankles you.

"Please, please," you tell him, indicating a Bank of England chair across from you, "sit, Mr.--"

"Strether,"  he says, nods, sits, giving his trouser legs the slight pinch of a man accustomed to tailored trousers and to sitting in drawing rooms.  "Lambert Strether."

He did not, of course, have to introduce himself.  You knew him.  Of him, really.  Had done so for some years now.  And oh, how you'd hoped to find some reason for being put off, for being able to be dismissive of him, to use a number two Dixon-Ticonderoga pencil to draw a line through his name on the list of applicants in your folder, to be dismissive of him as you have been in the past, to be dismissive as well of the person whose ideas and notions Lambert Strether was from the beginning.  

As you know only too well, Strether was a significant force, you might say the filtering force through which Henry James filtered the events and awareness of his novel, The Ambassadors.  Here he is, nearly a hundred ten years after his appearance, accepted for work in a project you are venturing to design, joining others, men, women, and youngsters, in a vision you now see as a sort of dictionary of characters, entering your proposed pages with full credit to the pages in which they first appeared, but also as exegesis, in which their place in our minds and hearts has become so firm a presence.  In some ways, the proliferation of reading has given our species more myth and legend, figures with endurance to equal those who emerged from the shadowy stages of the oral tradition.

dramatis personae, including Howard Roark and Dominique Francon, in whom Rand appears to have been inventing herself.

Do not allow yourself to think that all the successful applicants for this dictionary will be chosen to allow your edge to brush against those with whom you have some form of grudge or, worse, against whom you bear the grudge of being boring.   Strether has quite turned you around, and of course, aware as you are of how boring agreement and approval can be, you will include favorites.  In fact, right here in your hand is an application from the potential next hire, a Miss Eyre.  Miss Jane Eyre.  And remember this, at one time, you bore her a grudge for having married Rochester.  In a lovely conflation/confusion of Oedipals, you wanted her for yourself.

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