Tuesday, October 2, 2012


 A story is an experience heated in the crucible of plausibility, brought to a boil, and then resolved.  Your fondness for story goes well beyond your desire to write your own, past the pleasure of reading so many stories remarkable for their wonderfulness or their unabashed awfulness.

Within story is the subliminal, healing sense that there is some kind of order, some possibility of a dialogue with the individuals, institutions, and elements about us.

On a simplistic level, story tells us readers and writers that there is more to survival than mere getting by; it assures us of occasional ability to cope or understand with the fiery and relentless forces about us.  Story offers—but does not guarantee—understanding, even if what we understand is that we cannot go any farther.

Story presents us with a menu of options, some of which we know in advance to orbit beyond our reach.  Nevertheless, we try to accomplish, try to understand, try to sort out our emotions the way a craftsperson sorts her tools and supplies, the way a fisherman manages his equipment.

Thus we learn from story that emotions are tools; how you feel about a situation, a person, an organization will have an effect on the way you behave or do not behave.

In a real sense, having story in your life is like taking on a romantic partner, having a child, forming a relationship with one or more animals.  The moment the arrangements have been made, you are aware of responsibilities, differences of opinion, taste, and patience.

Your arrangements with animals at this level have been limited to dogs and cats, each species presenting you with a different set of behavior, differing expectations, and differing outcomes.

Your arrangements with story have been more diverse, ranging from narrative poetry to short stories, novels, and those coded, intricate wonders known as myths and fables.  All of these produce differing responses in you.

In recent years, you have lived in the midst of a number of feral cats as a sort of counterpoint to dog companions who might have had some feral instincts but these were balanced by an overwhelming sociability.

Some stories and tales seem to you like some of the feral cats.  They seem to regard you with suspicion and you have the experience to remind you that if you attempt to engage them in a social manner, they will flee, undoing any progress that might have been made toward their accepting you.

Some of the stories are like dogs, wanting frequent contact and socializing well beyond the dog’s awareness of you as a principal source of food.  An ideal life would include the presence of dogs, feral cats, domesticated and social cats, books and story that give off the impression of wanting to be read, with no guarantee that you will ever be close, nevertheless wanting to be near you.

You attract dogs and cats.  You attract story.  There is a symbiosis you’re aware of without any sense of complete understanding.  Whether you write some or any of the story you attract is another matter for you to address later.  You can say this because the symbiosis is there but it is also mysterious to you. Much in the manner of you and the feral cats, or the one neighborhood cat you reckon lives closest to you, sports a collar, and a medallion you have not yet been able to investigate.  You and this cat have an awareness of one another; you each realize you are not strangers.

Some stories are like that.  You recognize each other, story and reader or story and writer.  You would like to complete some of the earlier relationships to the point of seeing some form of dramatic closure.

For you, dramatic closure is bringing the story events, the feral cats, if you will, to some pivotal or critical point, then working a negotiated settlement where no one gives away too much.  You say this last, having embarked on teaching a class predicated on William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, in which one character, perhaps overall your favorite in the entire novel, gives up the sense of the I-self, to the point where, as he is being to a mental institution, he has stopped referring to himself as an I and instead tells us about him as though he were in the third person.

Thanks to your old pal, John Sanford, you celebrate the story in your life by writing these notes of which you are the protagonist in the second person.  You’ve now gone full circuit, from the early I to the more detached references to you as he, to this, where the I is probably off somewhere drinking coffee or with a certainty, making coffee in order to have something to sip while reading this, searching for clues, occult clues, secrets of the universe.  

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