Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mise en scene

For all practical purposes, you live in one commodious room.  To be sure, there is a small room for toilet, shower, sink, and some shelving for toiletries and supplies.  There is as well a small closet for clothing and shoes, even some shelves for storage.  And not to forget the most comfortable kitchen you've had relations with in at least twenty years.

Since you are now on your own, you've made a point of extending yourself to what you like to think of as a comfortable neatness.  The worst offense in your eyesight now is a pair of shoes, tossed to one side.True, there are a few corners where books that no longer fit in the available shelves, have begun to encroach,much in the manner of a group of ants that made their way in last week and which were put to rout with an application of, of all things, cinnamon.  Books will not respond so well to cinnamon, but something can and shall be done.

Your point is that your immediate surroundings look relatively tidy.  To put it another way, they do not look foreboding.  Alright, you do have Lupe in for three hours a week, and she is quite good as a reminder that you, too, need to keep things in order.

Thus the leap from neatness of home to the metaphor for story and essay; you are inviting guests into a landscape each time you set forth.  Shoes should not be left lying about.  Ants should be warded off with a Maginot Line of cinnamon at the back door.  The flowers should be kept fresh or discarded.  Dishes washed. Etc.

Even if your fictional or essay landscapes are chaotic, noir, or otherwise afflicted with some cultural or personal malaise, they should be in their appropriate way inviting.  Even if the only guest is you, the landscape must be made inviting, however thematic in its awfulness or implication.  The characters may make a perfect botch of things, but as you direct their responses, you should allow no distancing or distracting behavior; the reader should see character-induced chaos, not authorial sloppiness.

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