Friday, April 26, 2013

Point-of-View: First person cantankerous.

Questions arise with great consequential consistency.  One such question is, Where are you?  This has existential and geographical aspects. 

 At the moment, you are in a motel outside Monterrey, California, which is an understandable part of a well-orchestrated plan.  So much for the geography.

Existential is different.  You feel yourself somewhere between "Get's it," and "Ignorant."  Both these conditions are of equal ambiguity.

"Get's it" is intended to mean understands his present-day circumstances, appreciates them, has elaborate plans for activities which, when followed, have the potential for leaving him contented, even happy.  "Get's it" implies an understanding and acceptance of the "Ignorance" meme.  "Ignorant" as opposed to "stupid," which means you don't get that there are so many things of which you betray gaping holes of ignorance.

You believe the matter has a possible resolution, which depends to a significant degree on a technical issue you face each time you undertake to compose fiction.  Point-of-view is the filter through which fiction--any fiction, including yours--is filtered.  A significant question to ask about any point of view is, How reliable is the narrator?  

You believe in your own reliability, but of course there was always a great chance you might do that.  You believe others see you as reliable at least sixty percent of the time, leading you to consider what good numbers in that sense are.  How many people regard you as at least sixty percent reliable?  How many give you negative marks?  If you are not careful with how you file and refer to these questions, your conversations and writings might well suffer.

Another matter to take up with you as narrator:  Are you a naive narrator?  Of late, you've come to see Mr. Stephens, the protagonist of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day as a consummate naive narrator.  He is by no means a bad person.  You've said of him that "He simply doesn't get it."  You've just said that you believe you do.

You are in fact composing these lines and having these thoughts in Monterrey, the Monterrey of California as opposed to the one in Mexico, which you visited some years back and find yourself liking more than the Monterrey in California.  In relative terms, you'd rather be in Monterrey, Mexico than the California namesake, but you'd prefer Monterrey in California to any number of places in California, ruling out the argument that you have something against Monterrey.

Perhaps you are a cantankerous narrator.  Perhaps this location is existential and geographical.  You might for a time delight in the assessment, feeling you'd arrived at a destination wherein you'd experienced a diverse menu of experiences sufficient to qualify you as reliably cantankerous.

Narrators in story should not, you believe, feel comfortable, leading you to wonder at your own motives for choosing the qualities of cantankerousness to define you.  Comfort has been on your mind for a time, but when you spend too much time with the concept, nice as it sounds, dare you even say, comforting as it sounds, your cantankerous self steps forward to remind you that comfort does not produce good art or good story.

All right then, here you are in Monterrey, having once again visited Goldfarb, the brown tabby who will accompany you home on Monday to be your room mate.  Will he be Felix to your Oscar?

1 comment:

Thea Iberall said...

Well said, Shelly. You forgot to mention how we all believe in the moment that we are right. It's an aspect of our brains. Now I have to track down where I read this. See, you are still giving me homework assignments. I hope you remember me from USC because I remember you and everything you said about my novel The Swallow and the Nightingale which I am now trying to finish. Write to me sometime. Thea