Monday, August 22, 2011

Quitting Time

  No, not it's time-to-go time or even awareness of a cause being an irrevocably lost time, or enough energy having been expended with no possible hope of success time.  Not those times at all.

Time instead for a recognition of someone somewhere in time--a returning of a gift in proper kind.  Time, in fact, for recognition of some significant gift.

Much in the way of pennies, nickels,and dimes falling out of pockets and out of use, with scarcely a farewell dinner to commemorate the departure, there goes a word and a concept--requited, or returned, having fallen into the sofa cushions of convention.  

Used to be, you had a crush on someone, he or she either welcomed you aboard, which led to all manner of enjoyment, or you were told to get lost, do not pass GO, not so much as a goodnight kiss in the offing.

Not having your interests reciprocated was bad news--unless you were an English major.  For all the splendid potentials of romantic bliss, not to forget the occasional canoodle, being rejected put you on the same turf as your historic counterparts, men and women who suffered from unrequited--unreturned--affection, which in its breech, became transmogrified into love.

One example from many.  Ernest Dowsen (1867--1900), gets a crush on Adelaide Foltinowicz, who would, as the saying went at the time, have him not.  Ah, unrequited love; riding its emotional pipeline, Dowson wrote his best poem, Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae.  It was cool to use Latin titles at the time.  It was also inspired to come forth with the refrain, "I have been faithful to thee, Cynarra, in my fashion."

With the wind of unrequited love filling your sails, you'd be assured of at least a sonnet cycle, maybe a novel or a collection of short stories about broken relationships.

Men and women in the habit of unrequited love had no experience much less visions relating to the intimacy of the fulfilled relationship, which is to say the fraught companionship that lives between the interstices of sexual tension and who prepares what for supper.  The fulfilled relationship is like the volunteer stand of flowers, appearing in the cracks of a sidewalk.  Such innocents to the world of, shall we call it domesticity, cannot see the drama in such on-the-surface encounters as "You'd like me to do what?" or "I was thinking we could stay home tonight."

Being an unrequiter, you'd feel a companionship or bond with other writers and thus wish with some work of your own to quit or requite an author with whom you felt some palpable attraction, thus, for example, James Joyce, wishing to quit Homer, which he sedulously did when he produced  Ulysses, and Shakespeare, quitting Chaucer--ah, what a nice combo there--by taking Troilus and Cressyde a notch upward with his own Troilus and Cresida.  In our own times, Jane Smiley has quitted Shakespeare and the poet Wallace Stevens with her choices of titles, themes, and characters.

What remarkable opportunities we have to reply or acknowledge themes and situations from past works, keeping them alive and at the same time building a bridge of understanding from one era to another, perhaps even from one medium, say drama, to another such as a novel or a poem.

It is not too much a stretch to look for unintentional quitting, which is quite another matter than plagiarism.  There are not many variations on story, three or four in all.  This alone is the argument often advanced on the writer of "make the same different, just as everyone else does, only make your same better."   One example of your own "same" is a notebook with completed stories, some published, some not, and copious notes, surrounding an actor named Matthew Bender, who is returning from an Off-Broadway performance of a dramatized version of The Iliad.  Thanks to some cooperation from his agent, who serves the same purpose of the chorus in Greek dramas and the Shakespearean theater,Bender is more or less paying his way back home to Santa Barbara by appearing in small-but-prestigious theaters along the way as well as some that are more along the lines of bowling alleys and little theater. With the theme of returning home after the war, Bender joins Odysseus as a character returning home--two characters in fact,returning home:  Odysseus and Leopold Bloom, Odysseus to Penelope, Bloom to Molly.  Bender to an ex-wife, Polly.  You had not seen nor consciously planned the quitting until you discovered that Ulysses is the Latinate form of Odysseus, and that the name Odysseus translates to "a man of many turns."  Whoa, you said.  Bender.  Whoa.  No whoa.

Unfortunately for Matthew Bender, he is not only up against two iconic works, he is up against the smorgasbord state of your writing agenda.  Of course, if he wants to be brought forth from the bowling alleys and little theaters between New York and Santa Barbara,he will raise his voice a tad so that you can hear him.  Then it will be quitting time again, 

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