After eons of use, a broken heart continues to survive as an apt metaphor. Along with its adjectival—heart-breaking—use, broken heart remains the go-to description for a loss or disappointment of wrenching, epic intensity. In its simplicity is the artful descriptive conveyance of raised and dashed hopes, the pottery of dreams in shards, the promise of connection to a vision or another person as forlorn as two unmatching sox in a drawer.
Broken heart, as a trope, also reminds you on a daily basis of two essentials to being a writer:
1) the number of times every day you are disappointed as a writer and as a person
2) the ongoing need as a writer and as a person to remain vulnerable to having your heart broken.
Without openness to experience and the potential any experience has for immediate explosion or meltdown or entropy, you are no longer a witness and thus you have no miracle to reflect upon and report, no illusion to be shattered or exposed, no expectation for some small ragamuffin of extraordinary beauty and impact to invite your senses to dance.
Being thus vulnerable is not without risk. You will be seen as moody, melodramatic, self-important, all things you in fact become when the right stimulus pickpockets your wallet of propriety. When a dog with a worried expression or a cat seeming to be trapped on a ledge become reminders that the jungle out there of hyperbole is never far from encroaching, you are of course moody for unknown things outside yourself When a publisher speaks of your next project after the next one you owe, you strike poses from Verdi and Rossini and Mozart opera, flamboyant, Italian. How are you not self-important when filled with visions you wish to share, fearful you cannot convey the grace and individuality of a particular thing, a particular place, a person who radiates the quality of a cornflower volunteered within a sidewalk crack?
You have completed a scene in which you have set into dramatic motion everything you wish to include, well aware you held back on details that were quite dear and meaningful to you, lest you be seen as too literal, too controlling, too unwilling to trust the already heavy breathing of your details. An editor you trust will suggest things to you that seem so sure, so accurate, so achingly apt that you now wonder how you could have missed them. And your heart is broken. Yet again.
The new barista with the topaz eyes at the coffee shop meets your gaze two days in succession with an attitude that you realize, as you sip your latte, has broken your heart although you don’t quite know why. And on the third day, your heart having been broken twice, your eyes meet and there is no attitude, only recognition, and you are again devastated as you are hours later when a sentence that seemed to greet you with that same fresh, I-m-alive attitude seems to have lost something in the context of the previous sentence.
To be sure, there is no device sensitive enough to tally all the flashing music of discovery you experience during a fraction of a day, no measure of the times some nerve ending or sensory receptor sends you a letter of acceptance, informing you some part of your body enjoyed some idea or figment or sight or sound or smell. Much less yet can you account for all the thousands of times you have not even noticed “feeling good” about something although, had you not “felt good” about it, you would have noticed with that brooding ache of subsurface dissatisfaction.
Life is like the super cargo ships, laden, packed, filled. Like the cargo ships, life sometimes has unintended passengers. Certain anthropologists will speak with glee of the unintended transport throughout the world of the Norwegian brown rat or the rattus rattus black rat species species. Life has rats in some of its cargo. You have to be vulnerable to be heartbroken if you are to have any hope of seeing and trying to capture those remarkable sentences and senses and baristas with topaz eyes.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
Sometimes the voices in your head remind you of a family gathering before the meal is served, tinged with hunger and impatience. Other times, the voices remind you of a faculty meeting before the agenda is addressed. The atmospheres of each is crowded with the resonance of new arguments to be explored, new jokes to be tried out, and the democratic leavening of gossip offered about as an hors d’oerve. Old complaints appear with the ant-like persistence of Ron Paul posters, appearing two days after an election.
These voices are nothing to be concerned about; you’ve heard them most of your life, although it was not until you were moving along into and beyond your teens when you realized they were mostly you in your various stages and states.
The others were a clutter of authority sorts, real and concocted by you as a kind of universal, adult “them” at whom to vent your smoldering resentments at what you called the vital lies, things you were supposed to take at face value.
Because you came up during a golden era of what you will call “radio before television,” some of the voices were of individuals you listened to for their sounds as well as their content, not yet aware that you’d have to have a range of voices much like the watercolors in your favored watercolor tin.
Some of your voices beyond parents and teachers were Aimee Macpherson, Jack Benny, George Burns, a woman named Eleanor Dean, who read stories on a local radio station, yet another evangelist, Sister Mirandy, and two men with wide differences in their voices, the nasal, twangy, Mel Lamond, and another known only as Old Pal Gus. These two were the respective voices of the Los Angeles Times, and Examiner Sunday morning comic section read. You were not at all interested in evangelism, Sisters Aimee and Mirandy had voices that informed you of places of excitement and enthusiasm within yourself you recognized but did not yet know how to articulate.
Your favorite voice of all was the nightly newscaster, Chet Huntley, whom you admired for his voice and for his political commentary, a respect that carried over when he moved to New York, then teamed with David Brinkley on the nightly NBC television news when television news had some measure of substance.
The voices are the reason you sometimes leave the quiet and comfort of home, venturing to the Café Luna in Summerland, or Peet’s on upper State Street, where the voices to be overcome are not your own but rather the voices of a wide range of others, finding themselves in need of a place to work.
You’ve not discussed this with anyone else but there is some sense you are on the right track thinking the buzz and chatter of others presents the right degree of distraction that must be overcome in order for the work to come.
Sometimes at home, one of the voices has won out and there is no need to go anywhere other than where you are, where you still have access to Peet’s coffee from your freezer, and a range of Bialetti stove-top espresso makers should you feel the need.
Voice is the way you sound when you write. Although you often hear the material as though Chet Huntley was discussing it, when you read it aloud, there are wry traces of David Brinkley present. Both men provide good platforms for putting satisfying voice into the work, getting it in shape to the point where you then remove these two so that what remains is you—all of you, or those who argue with the most force and conviction.
Whether the work at hand is fiction or nonfiction, you believe it needs a voice to impart life and attitude. Without voice, fiction and nonfiction are mere bundles of information, the fiction being more emotional information, the nonfiction carrying fact along a pathway toward a conclusion that is both informative and emotional.
You believe story without voice is every bit as much a flailing neophyte swimmer as the youngsters you see in the instructional classes at the Y. You also believe that voice without story is of a piece with a musician running scales or a dancer practicing steps or an actor doing vocal exercises.
The human experience is overloaded with conflicting and supporting techniques that allow us to present dramatic and factual information as well as to receive it. Herein reside the troubles you confront as a person and as a writer on a daily basis. You chose with care the individuals you wish to spend time with, whose works you read; you chose friends, intimates with the belief that you can understand and relate to them at the same time you provide them access to your meanings and intentions.
You are not always successful.
The work you do with story is by increased degrees of complexity more problematic because you may be telling one story in good faith while a second story or third or fourth is being received in equally good faith. You toe the high wire of ambiguity in good faith. When you slip or fall, you get up and begin again, your good faith still present but having gone through gauntlets of risk to the point where it has become now the good faith that has taken some falls, sees the potential for more, trudges on without the confidential shine and empathy it had in the beginning.
Your voices begin shouting instructions.
Are we there yet?
Are we lost?
Is this worth it?
Shut up, you explain.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
- The Greek myth involving Phaedra, Hippolytus, and Theseus
- Sinclair Lewis’s remarkable (and you think best of all) 1929 novel, Dodsworth.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012