Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Objectivity Correlative

 Whenever you reach a stage within a short story or longer narrative in which an atmosphere of calmness and near objectivity enter the stage you understand at some point thereafter that you have been lulled into the entropy of story falling apart.

In similar fashion, when you reach the stage in teaching a particular group of aspirants where you are calm, matter-of-fact, given to observations about the conventions of twenty-first-century fiction, the signs of disaster are all around you.  What surges of enthusiasm, argumentativeness, and reach can come from such calm, such poise?

If you do say so, you have become rather flamboyant when enthusiasm merges with argumentativeness, much like the device sealed into the container with the highly theoretical cat of the physicist, Irwin Schrödinger.

Quite often this enthusiasm cum argument erupts when you are discussing story points and story construction.  You hear yourself setting forth when you start out:  Here are, you begin, some things you might consider here, that would turn this narrative of events into a story.

You are, even in your vision of what is and what is not story, simultaneously trying to present complex information and reliving your own struggles wherein you cranked out yard after yard of narrative, thinking you were producing story, hopeful the irritation does not show, hopeful the emerging shift in aggressive behavior is seen as passion rather than mere defensiveness as in you defending some beautiful ideal of story whose time has lost its bite.

Earlier in the week, you had a similar sort of encounter with someone who’d thought to hire you to provide editorial guidance for a book that has a splendid potential which the author steadfastly refuses to address, wanting instead to dazzle you and subsequent literary agents and subsequent editors with how his work draws heavily on one book you’d edited and two others that were released a week or so ago by major publishers.  When you spelled out the problem, which as you saw it was too much other sources, too much other arguments and citations, and precious little of this author, he countered with a device much employed by mid-tier writers:  “I hear you,” he said.  “But I’m confused,” he said.  “Maybe,” he said, “you could explain why these sources would not be useful to my thesis.”

You tried to dance about the second truth, but he pretty well forced it out of you.  “This is not a thesis committee,” you said.  “This purports to be an original project, which you are either unable or unwilling to define.”  At that point, you stood, because you knew what was coming next.

“How do I go about paying you?”  he asked.

You started for the door, causing more than a few of the customers in the coffee shop to look up from their coffee.  “You don’t,” you said, because he could not pay you enough to take on such work, although you could think of two or three in the area who would see him as ripe for the plucking.

“Five thousand,” he called, reaching for his checkbook.  By this time, you were at the door.  “Seventy-five hundred,” he called.  As you shut the screen door behind you, you heard him call.  “Ten,” he said.  “I know we’ll work well together.”

When you got home, there was an email from him, telling you he’d learned a great deal already.

So had you.

You’d learned that your enthusiasms and visions often prevent you from engaging in activities that seem at first blush to be artistic and financial cornucopias.

Now, in large measure, you are saving the enthusiasms and arguments for the writer you feel most comfortable with.  He may be a bit stubborn and slow, but when he says he will listen to you, he generally means it.

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