Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

You first saw the motion picture Fantasia at the now-vanished Carthay Circle Theater in west central Los Angeles, you were old enough to be impressed for life by the scope and dash of it, but not in any metaphoric sense.  Nor could you imagine your future brother-in-law to be one of its animators.  You were awash with splashes of color, of stark contrasts of dark and light, of what then seemed to you music that had a life well outside the reaches of your imagination.

The most vivid image to go into your memory file was Mickey Mouse, with whom you had yet to acquire issues, stepping out of his normal role to portray the apprentice in the Disneyfication of Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  The concept of metaphor had not occurred to you nor indeed the notion that you would someday wish to throw your hat metaphorically into any ring at all much less the ring of writing; at the time it seemed to you that writing merely appeared, men and women produced it, knew where to send it so that it might appear if it had not already done so.

That was as close as you came to metaphor.  As you became more focused on learning the process, you tried reading the available books on the subject, but it seemed too far beyond grasp and so you formed the notion that you needed to read the sorts of material you wished to write rather than text books, which you never much trusted in the first place.  Text books were instruction of a sort, but it was not instruction you trusted.  Who would want to write that way?

It is true that you have written some nonfiction books, edited numerous others.  It is true that your most recent book is nonfiction, and your most recent editing job was nonfiction, although you did push the author toward extensive use of story techniques to present the material.

Nevertheless.

Fiction holds forth so many occult mysteries, so many opportunities for you to discover things about your characters and yourself that for you they are as those same Sirens who called to Odysseus' sailors.  They promise their pillow talk to be of the secrets that will make you even better at what you do.

Promises, promises.

Mickey Mouse as Sorcerer's Apprentice now looms large because each new project is in its own way a sorcerer from which you apprentice yourself in order to learn its secrets.  If you finish a few things, you begin to think you have caught on to the larger secrets.  One of your books goes so far as to have the word "secrets" in its title, and the novel you have under way has the word "secret" in its title, suggesting that you think you know enough of the sorcery to proceed without such mischief as Mickey Mouse encountered in Fantasia.  Now you are awash in pages and clutter, the metaphor heavy upon you:  You will never achieve the skills of the sorcerer.  The sorcerer is the craft; you will always be the apprentice.

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