Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writing as Domestic Violence


Sometimes you can hear them arguing, even to the point of losing their tempers.

It is a painful experience because they are having the argument where you cannot possibly ignore it, using words you would have thought were used only by Republican presidential aspirants.  Their voices grow intense with aggravation that explodes over into rancor.

You try such things as music to drown them out. The Berlioz Requiem is always a worthwhile candidate to mask their verbal impropriety.  Some big band jazz couldn’t hurt.  Even some Count Baisie, who, though a small band, had that splendid range of bigness.  Once or twice, the big sound of the Stan Kenton orchestra helped with the task so did the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for Organ, by JSB.

You could try reading, but the arguing seems to grow in intensity.  Don’t even think about trying to write your way through the exchanges, the vituperations, thrusts, and counter surges.  After all, the argument is about writing in the first place.  

One of the arguers is The Witness, who takes the job seriously, wishes to get the minutiae and nuance along with the sense of truth clinging to the material like the patina on a plum.  The Witness wants the narrative to be accurate, believable.  The Witness, unlike many a newbie writer, is not holding up protest signs that read:  “But it really happened that way!” so much as wanting the effect to appear as though what is put down could be believed to have happened as represented.  The Witness wants to be a reliable narrator; much the same way Rachael Maddow in fact is a reliable narrator.

The other arguer is The Writer, who doesn’t care if an event happened or not, caring instead to expand and extend to the point where it sounds so provocative that it more or less proves its validity.

“So you’re saying lying is permissible,” The Witness challenges.

  “Oh, please,” The Writer says.  “In life and fiction, events have to go where they don’t dare go because of polite convention.”

The Witness and The Writer Agree that narrative is a garden hose, turned on at full blast, propelling drama without commercial break.  Where they differ is when The Writer speaks of the narrative stream as a dropped water hose, spurting and spraying, the kinesthetic, rapturous splash of story, soaking everything in its path, even managing to get the writer wet.

The Witness protests that this is anarchy.

“Yes?” the Writer counters.  “So what else is new?  Since when does narrative that does not spray become story?”

The Witness insists on decorum, order, a narrative equation to match the Keatsian “Truth is beauty and beauty is truth” trope.

The Writer says that way is not the heart of the matter.  The Writer says Moby Dick was beautiful not because it was truthful but because it was a rendition of an ugliness that could have taken place.  The Writer says we have to raise things to the level where Bill Sykes’ dog betrayed him after Bill, in a drunken fit, bludgeoned Nancy to her untimely death.

The Witness is all over the place, pulling books off the shelves.  They are, of course not real books, nor are they eBooks; they are books you have read.  After all, this is a metaphor and within its parameters are these two characters who are aspects of you.

Nevertheless, they are throwing books at one another, yelling, arguing about the need to keep the fire going under the crucible, because there would not be any kind of story at all if there were no arguing, no setting one against the other of worthy opponents, no neighbors such as your sorry-ass self who, at one time, one early, long ago time, thought such things could be compartmentalized, kept at discreet remove from one another.

Police, when responding to charges of domestic violence in progress, are wary of being turned on by both parties, including the one they’d come to protect.  You are not so much fearful of being harmed as of being kept up, jangling as if from too much coffee, quite willing to let sleeping parts of you solve the battle, quite willing for the adrenaline to dissipate, but certain your fate is not to be settled with such simple measures.  In a sense, they both turn on you, The Witness and The Writer, reminding you how it was you who brought them into being in the first place.

“Through hundreds, thousands of dreadful things until you reached some competence and invited us into the picture, we had to suffer,"  they said, turning on you as you attempted to separate them, quiet them down so you could get back to doing some work.  "Now, you can suck it up and keep the vigil with us.  We are in this together.”



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