Sunday, July 3, 2011

Characters Caught in the Marxist Struggle

Advance warning to characters:  If you do not have opinions, visions of how things are or ought to be, and attitudes to match, all sorts of authors and writers will do so for you.  They will begin by attempting to push you out of the way or stand in front of you in line at the coffee shop where, as you wait for your order to be filled, every moment is critical.  They will slip in ingenious tropes and descriptions, in effect telling you how you ought to feel and readers how in fact you feel.

You, of course, know better than that, but you learned somewhere down the line to be polite to your elders, and thus they, your authorial elders, are working away on the often hidden agenda of wanting the world to know how clever they are rather than how conflicted or engaged or concerned you are.

It should be enough to make your blood boil, reminding you at least of the times on this planet where humans were held in the kind of bondage we thought of as slavery and which we think of now only as a more benign term, working class.  True enough, one of the earliest surviving documents from our dual heritage, which is to say the heritage of characters and authors, has a master dependent on his slave in that remarkable play, The Frogs, and you can imagine the murmurs running through the audience when it became apparent that the character of the slave actually knew more than his master.

It does not change things one whit to admit onto the bargaining table the fact that you are, after all, the creation of authors and writers, therefore they should be allowed to upstage you, steal scenes from your grasp, explain you away as though you had no capacity to do so.  It does not occur to them that their work leaps forward in graceful, ballet-like leaps after they have listened to you for a time.  They in fact would rather not listen to you, then claim to have become the bug on the windshield of writers' block.

For all they go to great lengths establishing your credentials, doing things to you of the sort biologists do to laboratory animals, they still do not wish to grant you the sort of freedom they complain about with such fervor when they are misunderstood or, worse, not read by professional readers such as literary agents and editors.

When the Wall--yes, that wall--came down in Berlin, they were gleeful in their assumption that Marxism was dead.  You have only to read some of the books and stories published since then to see how an entire class of beings--characters--is still being oppressed in a classic cultural war.  At one time, the concept of point of view was a character's Declaration of Independence, but with time and eight years of a Manichean presidency still lingering in the background, your struggle to be heard is still being waged in the egos of anxious writers, bad novels, and graduate-level writing programs where the emphasis is more on grammar and verb tense than it is on story.

You are supposed to be the go-to guys; some authors  sense this and their work pulses with an intensity many critics cannot figure out.  Who among them would be caught saying so-and-so listens to her characters?  Others do not have a clue what point of view is or what it means, relying on sophistry of academicism which allows writers to come at narrative the way Republicans come at taxes, with enormous loopholes.

It is a scary business, seeing you exploited by authors and writers as though you were little more than factory workers in small, remote countries where the price of labor and, as a concomitant, dignity are not given their true value.

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