When you first set forth to write, your inspiration is from the things you’d read, set against the counterpoint of the life you’d been living. Not too much action or adventure in the life you had going. There were occasional bursts of imaginative play, the guaranteed Saturday afternoon double-feature movie with cartoon and serial. The occasional comic book with some sense of plausibility built into it.
For the major part, life was simply okay, Los Angeles in the waning years of the Depression, great sunny stretches of days, your own awareness that your parents considered themselves on a downward turn of fortunes from what had been more agreeable comfort.
Your own fortunes wrapped around the usual childhood misadventures: tripping in an empty lot, landing on something sharp enough to warrant stitches in your left wrist. Chicken pox, of course. Glasses. Being short of stature. Finances requiring you to make shoes do by cementing drug store retread soles on to the worn-out soles. The cement not holding. Getting used to the flapping sound accompanying each step.
Your sister’s wise observation that some of your wealthier companions were no less bored. Boys, she observed, need to learn to make their own adventures, otherwise they’re stuck waiting until they grow up, and grown-ups are every bit as eager for adventures as boys are.
An irony you were not to realize until your late twenties was your daily search for adventure, as evidenced by your scribbling down potential sources of adventure in the neighborhood, on the way to school, and in the vast, undeveloped acreage that was not yet Park La Brea Towers, a gigantic array of apartments, duplexes, and five or six maximum-height towers, the limits addressed in respect of potential earthquake temblors.
At one stage in your life, you wrote a weekly television program called I Search for Adventure. Your job was to skim through eight-millimeter film made by amateur explorers, write narrative to be read by the guest explorer, followed by five minutes of “conversation” with the host of the program.
Sometimes, friends of yours working at the same studio would stop by to see if you were free for lunch or coffee. They would ask you with deadpan seriousness what you were doing.
“Searching for adventure,” came your reply. Sometimes, if the film were bad enough, you’d say, “Searching for story.”
Things have not changed all that much. This morning, over breakfast conversation with a friend, you recognized that your essentials were still focused on adventure and story. You did not tell her about I Search for Adventure, but you did see how important it is for the individual to pursue the quest. The concept of adventure has certainly evolved as your years have increased, but a constant factor is risk. At the early time, the your at five three and then a grudging five four were risking boredom, tempting it by clambering up to rooftop of garages, then jumping to patches of grass below, an enterprise that seemed to satisfy some physical needs, but the risks of the imagination were variations on themes of adventure stories.
Not until you began to have your characters take the risks you were fearful of taking in Reality did the sense of boredom begin to pack its bags and make for the door. The risks shifted from foreign locales and mere anomaly to the more pronounced risk of what you might learn by trying to find out what made things and people and societies and organizations work, most of all what made you work, even more to the point, which of all the characters of your invention was the closest to the real you.
All of them were, but you needed a good deal of writing to get to that understanding, a good deal more writing yet to reach the point where you knew how to approach the information you’d dug up.
You appear to have gone through a particular crisis of identity without having realized it, no doubt attributing the symptoms to other elements. The crisis had to do with the accident of you working toward developing and recognizing and welcoming your identity at about the time you became aware of the concept of the unreliable narrator.
You spent years trying to convince yourself you were reliable. The effort was not entirely wasted because you did get to look at parts of yourself you’d come to think of as nerdy or self-important or, worse, stodgy, which were in fact your earlier attributions for reliable individuals.
Parts of you are still reliable, but with the forgiveness of humor. Reliable is no longer self-important.
As you got to know the constituency, you found the unreliables had a plurality. Pleasing to know how easy it is to be able to live with that. The reliable forces are committed to getting you to work every day, the unreliable forces are bent on anarchy and curiosity and mischief. The coalition has been in force for some time now. We are not expecting splinter votes.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Posted by Shelly Lowenkopf at 9:30 PM