Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So what is it you have against Nabokov that you are always reading Chekhov?

You come from a culture where the merest conversation is seen as an invitation to argument.  The only possible answer to "What time is it?" is "Who wants to know?"  Every choice becomes a Talmudic nuance.  This observation becomes manifest the moment you attempt to place an order, say for the short ribs,in a kosher-style restaurant.

The waiter is bound by the same cultural heritage to fix you with the glance known as The Ray, which is the cultural equivalent of a finger prod on your sternum.  "So," she will accuse, simultaneously becoming Mother Figure and rabbinical scholar, " something is maybe wrong with the mushroom barley soup?"

A temperate response to that would be, "I'm not in the mood for soup this evening."  But such a response is, well, it is out of the culture because, even if true, it would seem to preclude further conversation.  Of course "seem" is the key here, because it would by no means stave off the waitress' rejoinder, "That explains why you are not looking so hot tonight."  Your only way to get out of this mare's nest of a colloquy is to say,"I had a yen for my Mother's  showcase dish, short ribs."

There any number of other cultures that beckon you to approach, particularly the Italian because you not only associate it with so many of your favorite dishes but because of the way no conversation among Italians seems real to you unless accompanied by hand gestures that are at least of enough motion to suggest swatting away flies or bidding unwanted concepts to take flight from the area.  French is attractive as well if only because she who has cut your hair these past twenty-odd years engages in discussions in French with another stylist that sound like the most acrimonious of exchanges, but which invariably are about where they are going for lunch.

So yes, there is some sense of ethnicity you find inherent in real dialogue, real exchanges of dramatic information; yes, a character expresses herself through what she says in equal measure to how she delivers the information.  Story is, to throw in a culinary metaphor, the cooking stock of drama, boiled down at a simmer to a thick, savory essence.  In similar fashion, the ardent, argumentative pursuit of conversation that is bent on discovering essential matter, becomes the stock of dialogue.

Reality becomes time out from drama, moments between story, where the players catch their breath to prepare for what comes next and what will be discovered and acted upon as a result.

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