Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fiction as Radical Philosophy (Look at George Elliott)


In the simplest of terms, a philosophy is a dispassionate study of the principles of being, knowledge, and conduct.  These principles thrust you into head-on confrontation with your own approach to story, which you appear to have gained through a slow, deliberate dialectic between description and dramatization.

When you use terms of equal simplicity for the metrics of your own vision, a dramatic incident is a representation of the attempts of one or more invented characters to come to some terms with the state of being, which includes her or his depth or shallowness of awareness, and the way she or he behaves in order to pursue goals.  The longer the work—narrative—the more the possibility arises to dramatize the spectrum of ethical behavior involved in the pursuit of goals.

Into these attempts for you to define the nature of story and your own relationship to it, you must add your wary relationship with descriptions rather than dramatization.

You find no comfort in the memories of all those wadded-up pages ripped from your note pads, pulled from your typewriter, and in more recent years, returned to wadded pages spewing from your printer, then subjected to your fountain pen.

The comfort to be found resides in the increasing number of completed projects where the dramatization grew beyond the explanation, where in fact the language seemed to shift from the tone and content you still associate with so many textbooks set before you when you were in junior and senior high schools, and into the number of novels you read as though your sense and understanding of being, knowledge, and conduct seemed to fly off the pages and into your heart regions.

Explanation of any sort still convey to you the state of instruction where you have less choice and are more often lulled into the sort of passivity that turns off thought and discourages emotional experimentation. You have in fact spent more time trying to unlearn the cultural codes impressed upon you by explanations dressed as education than you have spent learning vital tools of story and communication.

You were thinking earlier today that the acts of composing biographies of your characters and pairing those with the timelines of the arc of your stories would accomplish more for you toward establishing basis for story than any abstractions of cultural status or coding.  Focusing the goals of your stories directly on the character’s quest for being and understanding then produce the momentum for that character’s growing loss of patience, which you can relate to by recalling ways in which you lost patience with the speed and density of result.  Loss of patience often produces—and in your case indeed produced—departure from conventional behavior, which in its consequential turn produces reversals and conflicting energy, things that must be coped with because such mandates are a part of the genome of memorable characters through whom memorable story is transmitted.

This is in many ways a roundabout way of describing to you how you try to bring philosophy into story.  This also opens the door for further conversations with yourself and you characters about the Marxist and Hegelian concepts you see as they apply to Reality and which you try to introduce through indirection and osmosis into your dramatic writing.

No accident in the fact of you having returned through the years to readings of and about Leslie Fiedler, Karl Marx, and Georg Hegel, philosopher types who pursue via nonfiction the kinds of issues you have found as sources of frustration and opposition in your own life, indeed as you ponder matters of what being is and how characters cope with it.

Story, at the moment, means to you narrative of men and women, mindful and needful of relationships with themselves and others, seeking a way to act on their goals, starting with the discovery that sometimes their goals are revealed not to be their own, followed by the fallout.

Add the American novelist, Richard Powers, to the list, particularly with The Echo Maker.  Then add the Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, to the list.  Stir in your own questions.  Then push for answers, which you already know cannot be answered as explanations and are best addressed as drama.


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