Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tiger, Tiger, Burning LED

The notes and journals you made before your discovery of this most recent format, the blog essay, were often filled with complaints about time.  In particular, your complaints spoke to the issue of not having enough to spend on writing projects you squirreled away in thought and fantasy in those remarkable moments shortly before you fell asleep or, after you’d managed to sleep six or seven hours and were now swimming up toward the surface layers of your mental instruments.

Among those complaints were resolutions, magna cartas you’d force upon yourself, declarations of yourself as what you wished to be, a person who spent some significant time during the day writing things that were not necessarily complaints or, if they were complaints, then they were complaints beyond the pronoun I as it related to you, rather as it related to one or more individuals who were constructed as fictions, intended to represent segments of society to you and such readers as your work would attract.  Sometimes, these ventures took hold, working past your personal sense of woe and complaint, into the landscape of places you’ve variously called Oz, after that remarkable landscape created by Lyman Frank Baum, or circumstance, when you wished to suggest a place other than Los Angeles, where you experienced so much growing up, and Santa Barbara, the place you came after leaving Los Angeles, wishing and hoping for Santa Barbara to become your one-size-fits-all landscape.

More often than not, this later stratagem has worked.  You have been able to look over the shoulders of such writers as Ken Millar, aka Ross Macdonald, and his wife, Maggie, each of whom wrote mysteries, and, later Dennis Lynds, who also wrote mysteries, and later still, Sue Grafton, who still writes mysteries.  There were such digressions as Rich Barre, who paid you to read and consult on his work.  There was Leonard Tourney, who wrote of and still writes not at all of Santa Barbara but of the England of Elizabeth Tudor, Will Shakespeare, and Christopher Marlowe.

Small wonder and no surprise that a character you developed in a series of short stories as an undergraduate has morphed into a person who is approaching your age, who has a relationship with Santa Barbara you can relate to, having lived here approaching forty years, and who, at some degree of plausibility to you, has had sufficient experience to allow him to become a licensed private investigator.  Thus, small wonder and no surprise the fictional works you have made some headway with are mysteries, involving him.

It has, in effect, taken you all this time to figure how to make mysteries, which you have admired since your teens, work for you, and with whom you have a relationship that in metaphor parallels your protagonist’s relationship with romantic encounters.  Of course this approach allows you to have included some of your own ventures at, toward, and with romance to the point now where you can begin to define what you mean by a romantic relationship to the same extent you can discuss relationships in eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century novels set in England and the U.S.

The early English novels ended in marriage, which is surely one way of ending novels, but it seemed to you that those early novelists saw that as a kind of poetic justice, a stability, even a fortress of social gathering.  Later novels, thanks to influences from France and Russia, did not consider marriage as necessarily harmonic as, say, Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice.  Even Charlotte Bronte’s sister, Emily, was in on the potential for marital mischief, and the matter really got going with George Sand in Middlemarch.

With this definition more in mind, you set forth, driven by the things that have driven you over your own lifespan, your own observations of society about you, and an overwhelming potential for long-term relationships to suggest some of the remarkable extremes of possibility, ranging from your own parents and the apparent train wrecks at the other end of the spectrum.

More to the point here, there are times when your complaining about not having the time have led you to developing strategies for writing something every day, causing a dramatic upswing in your production and publications, and in addition occasional flights of whim, fancy, and pure improvisation that have effectively let this tiger out of its cage to wander about as it pleases, stopping to take your attention when it pleases.  Of course you give it.  Who would not attend a tiger?

 Thus, arrival at the point:  For all your recent discourse and investigation of various elephants in various rooms of the house, there is the unleashed tiger, that stealthy, prowling animal who is in search of a romp.  What better romp than a seemingly ordinary situation that can and often does speak to harmonious relationship or a pleasing-but-ultimately-humdrum conclusion?  Perhaps it is a turn of phrase that reminds you of Twain.  Maybe a simple statement of something as undeniable fact that is in fact deniable at a high order.  Possibly someone stakes claim to secrets of the universe or moral high ground.  Whatever the trigger, it produces an effect that nuzzles against you, saying "Let’s romp."  And you do.  That has to be recognized and dealt with.  That has to be lived with.

Antic revelry is alive and well in downtown Santa Barbara, a worthy opponent to the you who took—and is often in danger still of taking—everything so bloody awful seriously.



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