Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Screw Moderation

 Discussions with a varying group of friends and acquaintances about the recent motion picture from the Coen Brothers, Inside Lewyn Davis, (which you quite enjoyed) has led you to return to a recent decision.

You prefer a story that has more figurative, coded information than the linear, plot-driven narrative. You in fact prefer thematic distractions to the point where, if you are not careful, you can with some ease pour too much theme, description, and connective tissue into your own narratives.  This realization is not a surprise to you.  

Two related incidents cause this awareness to resonate inside your brain pan.  The first of these is your current activity in polishing and in some cases reentering the batch of twelve short stories that will appear in March.  The second incident was the pleasant surprise of being joined at lunch by a musician you've followed since the mid 1960s, and have known personally since the late 1970s.

Charles Lloyd, alto saxophone and flute, and in recent years, experimenter with a Hungarian reed horn, remarking on the meditative powers inherent in being on tour with a group, playing the same piece daily in different venues.

Some of the stories want replaying in order for you to get a more thematic sense of them, which you hope to put in the revised version.  Replaying also reveals places with the literary equivalent of squeaky reeds or unnecessary repetition.

Hearing your narrative read aloud is the key because, although you see things, you hear them better.  And when you are doing the reading, an occasional word or sentence will have the same effect on you as an aggressive street person, wanting spare change.  Simple truth:  you do not have spare change.  You have change you toss in an old oatmeal tin, then redeem at a machine or supermarket or bank.  

You are both chipper and grouchy about giving money away.  If the request is pleasant and shows awareness of the seriousness of being underfunded, expressed as the true meaning of humor, you're up for sharing.  If the request is a growl or demand or, worse yet, an apparent scam, such as so-called law enforcement benevolent societies, you can feel your hand tightening on your money clip and spare change.

You are both chipper and grouchy about composition.  Depends which mood is upon you.  The important thing is to begin, to work your way beyond moderation to the point where you care and it shows.

Simple truth:  Sometimes you've let things slip through the cracks or you've read through the work so many times that the glitches become invisible.

Simple solution:  Get the work to where you think it is ready for performance.  Then set it aside for at least a day.

Another simple solution:  Think of a story as a spirited comeback to some perceived insult or slight.  Write the response, but don't send it.  Wait a day.  Perhaps two.  Then reread it.  You did this once, some years back.  The result is still with you.  When you reread the snotty, insulting comeback you'd written, you had a long moment of wondering what the stimulus had become.

Simple truth:  a story or essay or review is a performance.  The more you see it and live it, the more it will be balanced between the literal, straightforward expressions of action, reaction, and thought and the figurative, with its potential for ambiguity and thematic distraction.  Balance is the key.  You write to achieve it.  You edit to achieve it.  You read it and the work of others to achieve it.

Because you speak of balance, this does not make you by intent or default a moderate or a centrist.  You are neither.  To you, not caring is a moderate position.  Caring is extreme.  You either care or you are a moderate.  

The lunch at which you ran into the musician was the final, let us say secular part of a yearly anniversary, a pagan ritual, really, from a tradition of which you are a part.  During the ritual, you were spending some considerable time trying to focus on aspects of you as self.  Some in this culture would call this meditation.

You hesitate to call it that because of potential associations with religion.  Although you consider yourself an atheist, you recognize a good, practical basis for spending time looking for and examining aspects of self in terms of self being related to a larger picture.  A drop of water being related to a stream or a rain storm.

Some degree of the self that is you continues to discover in your self the qualities of enthusiasm, mischief, and curiosity.  Through reflection (but not meditation) on those qualities, you on occasion see things to work at deleting or changing, things to consider in new ways.

The narrative in you and your stories has the same basic essentials, but over time and with reflection and a measure of patience, you see ways of editing, of revision.

You're comfortable with the likelihood that enthusiasm, mischief, and curiosity will remain as essential adjectives describing the noun that is your self.  But perhaps tomorrow, when next you look or read through, you will catch something you missed before.

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