Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Marxism of Story Telling


A significant reason behind your fondness for reading relates to your perception of the relationship between the reader and the writer.  On it’s face, the relationship is pretty simple:  Writer works at concocting a story, pursues it through a number of drafts, then sends it off for publication. Reader sees the story, reads enough to determine that he’s willing to see it through to the end, then does so.

You could tweak this formula somewhat with nonfiction, whether a news story, an instruction manual, an op-ed piece, even—here’s the tricky part—a textbook.  This last is tricky because it opens the door for committees associated with adaption for courses, in other words, men and women who have power over what we are taught, which is to say what we think we are learning.

Further, at certain levels, what power does the student have.  The student can scarcely refuse to read the book.  Best-case scenario is when the student objects to what is published in the textbook, finds contradicting or supplementary sources, then forms her opinions accordingly.  How often does education, particularly at the lower levels, work that way.

Thus this short cut to your theory those Marxist principals can apply to reading if there is an overdone cultural pressure applied to the reader.

You’ve reached the point where your reasons for reading something are pretty much based on your taste and curiosity as opposed to need.  You are in fact in a situation of power to the extent that you can and do assign reading for classes, holding the students responsible for a response to the contents of the reading. 

In one notable case during the last quarter, one of your favorite novels was on the reading list.  One of your students resented it, found it scattered, distracting, and ineffective.  You did not agree with her vision of the novel but you were pleased by the strength of her distaste, and for the way she was able to articulate the things she found lacking.  One major thing was the fact that all the chapters seemed like individual short stories.  You not only felt this to be true, you are also quite fond of short stories.  Your student did well for disagreeing with you in such articulate and vivid fashion, and was graded accordingly but you do not think she learned from the experience yet, thus the assignment of the book, the causing her to read it, was somewhat of a tyranny to her; she was being exploited in a sense as Marx equated the exploitation of workers.

You like reading because of the choice.  In the same way, you like writing because your choice of what to write is mediated, even dictated by your enthusiasm.  You have various committees to go through before your work reaches publication, but the most important of all of these committees are the ones resident within you, composed of aspects of you that pull a project together, assess it, edit it, allow it to go forth to the point where it can be seen by others.

Even when the work is in the hands of others, it will have reached there because what you did satisfied them enough to consider its potentials.  If and when it is published, it will experience its additional fate on the basis of what complete strangers think about it.  You are still the winner because you brought it to the closest point of your dream for it; you in effect had the opportunity to argue it into congruence with the image you first had of it.

Your own reading is yet another matter.  You follow the whim lines of curiosity.  When a reading project becomes unpleasant for you, there is nothing more in store for the relationship between you and it.

Pleasure in reading for you often means being caught up in a situation or locale you’d never have thought to enter.  Some of this is recognition that you enjoy being seduced into reading something you might not have read.  It also means that if you chose something because of your fondness for, say, the author, or the genre, there is no guarantee you will stay to the end; you may well begin to suspect this is something you will put down without having to return to it.

Nice to think of these two areas, reading and writing in the same critical way.  Makes you think of the times you speak of writing the way you talk and talking the way you write, bringing those two means of expression into congruence.  This is a good discipline to hold in mind because of your tendency to get formal in tone and somewhat longer in sentence than most readers find comfortable.

If you can write for the same reasons you read, then turn the process to read looking for the things you seek when you write, both activities will have the potential to crackle with excitement and intensity.  Not bad qualities for your reading or your writing to embrace.

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