Saturday, July 9, 2011

Aesop's Foibles

 An apt and tempting comparison is the one between story and an apartment with a particular view, in an older building.  The older building part has particular appeal for you because it speaks of countless tenants over the years, each occupancy obliterated with a paint job and a few containers of Mr. Clean and some Lysol.

Most stories are painted over versions of other stories, the significant truth a beginning writer struggles, argues, arm-wrestles with over the years until she/he "gets" the awareness that the essential elements are, indeed, the particular view and the arrangement of furniture as orchestrated by each successive tenant.  Students, for instance, are likely to scrounge some furniture from their parents, improvise yet other, say book shelves, with such potentials as five- and six-foot lengths of one-by-twelve boards, propped up with bricks or, as you did on several occasions, salt lick blocks purchased from feed and grain stores for something like twenty-five cents each.  Milk cartons also make excellent shelves.

There is an interim time when you do the equivalent of buying expensive furniture on time, which in fact makes the fiction you write become informed with more desperation when you realize you are not only living beyond your means, you are writing beyond your vision, writing with the thought that this will--you hope--sell, bringing in enough to buy off those installment payments.

Then comes the time when you arrive at an arrangement and placement that pleases you, and screw the expensive furniture; it's away we go into eclectic so that every corner has some whim of yours, and the particular view seems somehow to have become transformed into a cohort of your individual vision.

This is what it comes down to.  You are then, to follow the metaphor, decorating an old apartment, joyously moving such furniture about as you have, looking for the best sense of chemistry.  Nights, you are dreaming about yet another apartment, this one an analog for alternate universe, in which graduate students are disappearing from a university in downtown Los Angeles.

You are quite pleased with your own apartment in reality, discovering that, like characters in stories, it has foibles and quirks.  Some mornings, when you are attempting more elaborate, multi-course breakfasts, the fuse switch for the kitchen shuts down and you have to move to the fuse box, flip the switch, then return to the kitchen, where you need to reset the digital clock on the gas range and the elaborate toaster oven you bought yourself as a move-in present.  Thus the foible.  The quirk resides in the fact that your landlady is a sculptor; everywhere you turn--laundry room, garden, garage, storage area--there are statues of humans, executed at about a 1-8 scale.  They are really quite attractive;  you were pleased to discover one in your own garden area.

Again more metaphor; sometimes a story or essay you have underway has a foible or a quirk.  Reality has foibles and quirks.  You have--well, you do.

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