Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chemical Dependency

No matter how you approach the analysis, the results always have to do in one way or another with chemistry.  No matter how you approach your definitions of chemistry, the results seem based on the tangible sense of a shimmering, resonant presence.

This works whether you're talking about individuals you know in the real world, between characters in the novels and short stories of your preferred reading, and the sense of shimmering and resonant frequency you believe you find between actors, the persons whose art is defined in their portrayal of characters.

You'd be remiss if you fail to mention the chemical attractions you feel for characters you've brought out of the shadows and into the light of inquiry you shine on the circumstances in your own writing.  Suffice this brief note to remind you that the shadows you hope to bring your characters forth from are the shadows of derivative origins.

(An important thing to have learned and to expand upon:  Your present state of presence evolved in slow degree in direct proportion to the abandon with which you threw yourself into the reading of others, the ways you were influenced in positive or negative ways, the effects this reading had on your own composition, and, at last, the degree to which you moved on, past the influence and into your own take.)

You are in effect what you have become by writing what could be called parodies of the writers you admire and with whom you feel to this day some chemistry.  You are also what you have become by one way or another making fun of the writers whose styles and personalities offend you.  This is not to say in any absolute sense that they are offensive; they are in fact men and women with whom you share no deep bond of chemistry.

(This last awareness has been of great value to you as a reviewer and critic as well as an editor.  You can, and have edited authors whose work does not cause the heat of your enthusiasm to turn up, although there are times when you've finished editing such writers that you have the subversive feeling of having nudged them to a quality of observation and expression a notch or two above their normal ability to see and portray.)

Chemistry--the sense of affinity and, however irrational, connectedness--influence your choice of favorites.  You in fact had no real choice in the matter; the chemistry slipped in without your conscious awareness.  As you became aware of your feelings for a particular writer, Twain, for example, or Fitzgerald, or Cather, you became aware of them having empathy, insight, and overall awareness of such epic horizon that you despair of ever being able to do more than read them with the attention and admiration you felt they deserved.  

As Faulkner began to come alive for you, you found your attitude toward him shifting from a more or less generic distrust and disinclination to absorb to a writer with a vision of time that made such sense to you that, once again, you found yourself wanting to write as though you were him.  In the same sense, the same applied to the short stories of Hawthorne, then the short stories of D.H. Lawrence.

How fortunate for you that much of the chemistry you'd developed for other writers came early and to the extent that you could speak of their limitations as well as their strengths, meaning you'd learned things that were almost beyond your ability to articulate.  But if you couldn't articulate this chemistry and sense of limitation, what good was it to you as one who wishes to compose as well as read?  Thus were the writers you cherished pushing at you to learn how they accomplished many of the techniques they achieved, and they were doing so by remaining fresh and relevant for you. not under most circumstances committing the sin of becoming derivative of themselves.

There are benefits to be had from considering the possible reasons you were so drawn to Twain at such an early age, why Fitzgerald began to matter, then the two disparate O'Hara's, Frank and John, before Faulkner, leading you to the ladies, Cather, Austen, Mansfield, Eliot, and in more recent times, Eisenberg for the short story and Erdrich for the novel.

At the beginning of these paragraphs, you wrote of the shimmering, resonant sense of presence you experience when you read the works, sometimes again and again, of writers for whom you feel chemistry.

Now you are at the point where the exquisite difference between you resides, chemistry or not.  True enough, you like your work, and seek to send it off into the world with a shimmer and a resonance, but at this state of the arc that is you, best to forget such notions, instead, reading them and writing at every possible moment, hoping to see how they did it.

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