Monday, November 21, 2011

Edge

The edge is a geographical location in the atlas of your imagination.  It is a representation of the extreme boundary, a place beyond which under ordinary circumstances you might not venture.

It is scary beyond the edge; there are no conventions to lead you back to safety, to manners, to sensible decisions.  Once you get beyond the edge, you may have done something so frightening that you can see no return to civilization.

But writing is not ordinary circumstances.  Writing has issues with reality.  The circumstances of reality are in fact made more unordinary by the presence of writing.  Each narrative has a version, the one you wish to correct, and your own.  Soon, you will come to loggerheads over which version of the narrative is the appropriate version.

The presence of stalemate or loggerhead becomes a sign to announce the forthcoming need for a plan, a stratagem.  Then you will have to use stratagems in order to have your version prevail.  You will wonder about the civility and fairness of your stratagems as you wonder about so many stratagems you see being employed in reality, propelled by forces of perceived entitlement or raw privilege.

Edge is the force jostling ahead of you in line or the freeway driver who swerves in front of you, triggering the sense of having been invaded.  There is a tangible response from a tangible squirt of adrenaline. It is the celebratory cocktail you sip for having gone beyond the edge, the place where safety stops and discovery begins.

You close your eyes and step forth, excited and in simultaneous dread.

You were excited when you read about ancient mariners venturing beyond shoreline, familiar guideposts gone.  You spent time in any number of writing situations where it was incumbent to stay within the edge, which became the place where it was generally recognized, most of all by you, that safety was of primary importance.

Looking at your work, you do not always feel you have pushed any great border or boundary, nor, in mitigation, are you aware of places where you might have pushed farther.  No problem if the results seem plausible to you now, they were not so when you set out.

Edge also suggests the tone of voice or attitude where impatience, irony, and cynicism come together, expressed as that most ironic double positive of all, “Yeah, yeah,” wherein the reader knows the two positives are intended for a negative.

Edge, then, is the polarity between civility and astonished disbelief at some profound lack of social awareness.  Dialogue without edge of some sort becomes conversation all too soon.  Plenty of conversation in reality; story wants the clamor of disbelief, of taunting, of pushing one or more of the others—any others—over the edge of their position and into a place where they are responding in ways they have been taking such exquisite pains to cover up.

Edge is often used as a metaphor for the borderline between sanity and over-the-top delusion.  He or she is over the edge.  You are over the edge.  Perhaps we are all over the edge.  Perhaps we return to the earlier supposition that the greater demographic a particular over-the-top behavior or perception has, even though it is still arguably insane, enough of us in the species are doing it to cause others to consider it a normal trait instead of a delusion with a large statistical demographic.

You watch from the edge or the fringe or the boondocks, well aware you are being watched by men and women who are taking the behavior down, milling it into sustainable narrative.  Your goal is an edgy vision of life at the edge of a landscape wherein individuals look for safety, for comfort, for some kind of assurance.


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