Monday, March 26, 2012

You Call This Conversation?


Well before you began to nourish the idea that there might be fun to be had in reviewing books, when you were in a landscape where you were required to read certain books, whether you enjoyed them or not, when you were at a stage in life where you either liked or did not like a particular book without understanding all the reasons that went with your feelings, the process of selecting a new book to read bordered on the traumatic.

You can recall browsing news stands, used bookstores, and libraries for upward of two hours, sometimes returning home with no selection.  Part of this picky approach was because of the unspoken belief that there was somewhere in the world a single book that would serve the transformative purpose of forging you into the writer you envisioned yourself becoming. Although this notion was clearly in the realm of hoping for some miracle, its saving grace was the verb tense, becoming.  The transformation would not be an immediate transformation.

While you had notions of wishing as well to become a better student than you were, you included in your vision quest a book that would help you reach the state of a closer reader, one who could extract the methods, theories, and intentions resting slightly below the surface of books you were required to read and comment on as well as in such books you shared some resonant frequency with.

How fortunate you came to your senses, realizing as you did that such books were in effect Maltese falcons, chimeras, literary equivalents of Ponzi schemes.  Such books did not exist except in the abstract or your own abstractions.  If you wished to heft such books in your hands, you would have to be their author.

Through this slow evolution of process, although you still cast about for reading material with increasing levels of frustration (there were many, many books, but not enough to suit your tastes) you still believed in the powers of reading to forge connections and guide you through whatever age you required being guided through.

A crumb of wisdom, landing on your shirtfront, where, indeed, too many crumbs of brioche and croissants also land, allowed you the additional awareness that the quickest way to find books of interest to you was for you to be engaged in writing something of interest to you.

In so many ways, this has come to form the balance of an equation in which reading and writing are linked to conversation.

Earlier this morning, while you were at breakfast in one of your frequent haunts, the CafĂ© Luna, your pen flying over your usual lined note pad, taking down dictation, as it were, of an approach to the presentation you are to give this Saturday at the Ojai Word fest.  You were enjoying the approach that began appearing, causing you to warm to it.  A writer whom you find unreadable and in general unreasonably full of himself, plunked himself down in the chair opposite you with questions and observations about what you were doing.  This was the second time within a week you’d had such a confrontation with him.  This time you dispatched him with borderline rudeness, a considerable uptick from your earlier encounter with him.

This behavior had little to do with him interrupting you at work; that happens all the time.  The culprit was your interpretation of his it’s-all-about-me type of conversation.

You relish interesting conversation.  Your two closest friends are masters of it.  Your late wife was brilliant at it to the point where, when the two of you were conversing in public, you were often interrupted by strangers who, hearing you, were moved to join in.

In many ways, you chose your friends for the facility of their conversation, avoiding where ever possible individuals whose interest appears to be playing and replaying scenarios in which they have cast themselves in the starring role to the point where the exchange is more of a testimonial than a conversation.

Disclosure time:  you are well capable of inane or mundane, What up, doc? Conversations.  You know this about yourself.  You are also, to use a metaphor, somewhat of a short fuse when it comes to the likes of individuals such as the unreadable writer this morning, of students in writing classes who are unwilling to listen, who have no mechanism for listening, or who use the “But it really happened that way” approach as a justification for why a thing must be kept as they have written it, no suggestions allowed, tolerated, or countenanced.

That said, you come to the conclusion here in which the difficulties of finding something apt and particular to read may be linked to the pleasures to be had from a discussion that bends your thought and creative processes to a more imaginative angle.

You must put forth considerable effort at having significant conversation with yourself, which is to say you must edit, hone, and otherwise enhance your interior monologue, avoiding inane and mundane conversation with yourself, watching that you do not bombard yourself with cliché or patent untruths or rumors.

Writing and conversing require attention and respect to the process to, among other things, prevent you from keeping it all about you, to prevent you from trying to promote yourself or fantasy banquets honoring you.  This is the first in a series of steps that will you to write things of genuine interest to you and to carry forth conversation of genuine interest to others, whereby you may gain to some measure that great reward, surprise.


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