Thursday, September 6, 2012

In the Event

  When a memoir, or work of fiction, or even biography/autobiography become too much like the ongoing pulse of Reality, your first tendency is to set the project to one side.  This tendency is followed in rapid succession by your wish to pile something—books, magazines, note pads, administrative communications from universities—on or about the project in the matter of camouflage.

With enough such things piled on or near the project, you and it will be distanced long enough so that when you return to it, recognize it for what it was and what it was not, you no longer feel any protective instincts about it.  In fact, your great likelihood is to feel irritation toward   the project.

The point here is that the events of Reality are not like the events in dramatic writing.

This begins with you in that you wish most of the events you engage to have some dramatic feel if not actual dramatic consequence to them.  This is why you began reading in the first place.

You read to get away from the painful effects going on about you related to the dregs of what has been called The Great Depression, and the trickle-down effects on your life of the rise and proliferation of The National Socialist Party in Germany.

In brief, your parents, once riding the crest of comfortable life style, saw their status tumble.  You read stories and, eventually, met individuals whose life had been further destabilized by the effects of The National Socialist Party taking bigger bites out of Europe and its populations.  You came to realize that were you to have lived in Europe, whence came your maternal and paternal grandparents, your life experiences would have been of a significant difference from what they were in the Reality of the city of your birth, Santa Monica, and the various suburbs of Los Angeles in which you lived before starting a journey to the eastern and, later, southern portions of the country of your own birth.

You lived in two bubbles, the bubble of Depression-era Los Angeles and the bubble of the books and magazines you read.  Then you moved to places where diversity, attitudes, and tastes were of significant difference from anything you’d seen or known.  At least one bus driver in Miami Beach, Florida, yanked the emergency brake to full ratchet, left his seat, and did a Woody Woodpecker on your chest with his index finger because you sat in your favorite bus seat, which happened to be behind a wide black line, dividing the interior of the bus into two parts.  You were the only person in the portion behind the wide black line, but, as you were told, if one of “them” got on the bus, and found you sitting where “they” customarily sat, “they” would feel uncomfortable because, once again, ”they” would feel exploited and God knew already that “they” were being exploited enough as it is, and your willingness to move, should anyone want to sit where you were sitting cut no mark because “they” were entitled to board a bus and see their place waiting for them at all times.

You’d had a similar experience when you were “caught” drinking out of the “wrong” water fountain in Washington D.C., where it was hot to the point where one of “them” might see you drinking out of “their” water spigot and decide that it was alright for you to drink out of “their” spigot but that they could never presume to drink from a proper spigot, not with all the trouble that had been stirred by allowing them to consider drinking in the same building in the first place.

There was always a first place, one of them being that it was all right for you to enter some of the buildings with signs on the lawn limiting who could and could not enter the building because you were providing a service each time you attempted to deliver a copy of the Miami Herald and had no thought of remaining in the building after you’d delivered it.

These were some of the events you were hoping to read your way beyond.  Other events were less dramatic in nature.  They were also more random, not connected by consistent attitudes.  Reality is not always consistent; it is in fact inconsistent in the same general way drama is always consistent.  Reality and story may both be irrational but they are irrational in idiosyncratic ways.

Story has a determinism and causality that distinguishes it from Reality.  Characters in story frequently observe a situation or event taking place that no one in reality would believe.  Individuals in Reality often observe that it is not some damned story or movie.  Writers and readers are amused by this seeming conundrum but both know that an event, however crazy it may seem, must be crazy enough to seem real, while at the same time, seem real enough that characters go along with it.

You observe individuals caught in the squeeze of not expecting things to work in Reality the way they are made to work in Story and not expecting Story to be too real, which is to say too filled with supportive logic, that fantasy or magic should be ruled out.

And yet, poorly written story often seems to mock the very Reality it seeks with such earnestness to portray.

Too real to be true, too true to be real.  The writer walks a narrow cusp, always pushed to greater feats of rebelliousness by a reader who will do anything rather than have to put up with another minute of Reality.

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