Friday, May 11, 2012

The Housemaid as Editor


Time was, you didn’t have much patience for the individual sentence; nothing more than a cursory look to see if it had the grammatical equivalent of both shoes on, laces tied, ready to go.  Those were the days where your average sentence was declarative and assertive.

Yes, you were more than aware of Ernest Miller Hemingway.  You even went to school with one of his sons, who sent one of your pastiches home, where ever that happened to be, and got a reply saying the pastiche was pretty good, which you even then understood meant you weren’t enough of a threat for the old man to fly into one of his rages against you as, indeed, he did with his son as well as any number of contemporary writers.

You wrote in straightforward declarative sentences not so much because you wanted to call the old man out as though you were some gunslinger but rather from the belief that this approach would get you published so that you could then show your own stuff.

Your own stuff wasn’t anything like the Nick Adams stories or “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” or even “Hills Like White Elephants.”  You were not keen on hunting, only mildly aware of fishing, and cared not one whit for war or guns or camping trips.  You were getting to be pretty good at drinking, but even then, you did not see much future there.

You sent your sentences forth in a flurry, mistaking quantity for talent.  The memory of those days still persists the way mosquitoes persist on summer days, causing you to wonder from time to time if there was then and still is a relationship between the layout of your room and your prose.

For the past year or so, your living circumstances have changed.  If you count the bathroom as a separate room, you are in a three-room studio.  If you do not count the bathroom, your turf is a kitchen comfortable in its largeness, perhaps the largest of your adult life, and a catch-all room you do such things as sleep, read, write, edit books and student papers, and look for misplaced things.  Your current quest is for two missing fountain pens, a Waterman and a Sailor.  But that is another matter.

Is it another matter?

You sometimes lose things in your prose, then go scurrying through it in search of the missing trope or reference or quotation.  Back to the question:  Is there a correlation between the organization and condition of your narrative and your room, rooms, bathroom (where, for reasons now lost to you, you persist in keeping a copy of The Death of Virgil, a novel by Herman Broch amidst tubs of shaving soap, antihistamines, and colognes)?

Thanks to weekly touch-up from Lupe, your room is no archetypal bachelor pad.  If you look with a sharp enough eye, you might even see neatness and  order, threatening to take over.

Meanwhile, you wonder.

For some considerable time, you have attempted to follow the discipline of writing the way you speak, thus speaking the way you write, adding yet the additional element of thought into the triangulation.  As much as it is possible to keep such things conflated, you try to do so because the notion seems so focused on individuality as opposed to attempting conformity to some eternal standard or set of conventions.

Thus you have entered the stage of pursuing a goal not out of some belief that it follows the best path of logic available to you but rather because the goal feels worthwhile, satisfying as opposed to satisfactory.

You make no such attempts to conflate your thoughts or prose style or speaking idiosyncrasy with the condition of your room.  You do know that books are encroaching, in a sense like Birnam Wood to Dunsanine come.  One entire bookcase is devoted to short story collections.  Another shelf has your published work; directly to its right is a growing stack of books about literature, literary theory, and reading, sending a growing message of its envy of the bookshelves, wanting one more to join the clamor of narrative massing at the entryway to this combination sleep, read, edit, write room.  Why was it that you’d ordered Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel:  Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding?

At the moment, you are left with the uncomfortable feeling that there is some relationship between your room and your prose style.  There are ample questions in each.

Lupe has tried to cope with the growing stack of literary journals on either side of the passageway from the kitchen to the omnibus room.  This gives you the concept of the maid as editor.  You have in the past and will without doubt in the future question certain editorial suggestions or follow through on editorial queries.  As well, you have in the past and will without doubt speak up for the need for the editorial vision.

Are you standing at the cusp of some discovery?

What shall you discover in this early draft of a room?

If you had your druthers, first discovery would be the whereabouts of the Sailor and Waterman fountain pens, but we do not always get what we seek, in rooms or writing.


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