Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thoughts While Waiting in Naomi Bloom's Closet

You had liked the story the moment you began to see where it would go.  The protagonist and you have few things in common; neither of you would seek the other for friendship.  For one thing, he plays chess with a certain écBloom's Closetlat while your chess borders on hopeless.  He would not be comfortable for long with you as an opponent.

Turning the tables, you'd have the same reactions toward him if the game were Scrabble, or the variation on a Scrabble theme, favored by you and your undergraduate friends.

In the nevertheless areas, which is to say, nevertheless, you'd accept a meeting for coffee, a conversation.  Each of you might have cause to consult the other for professional matters, he being a tax accountant.

Were you to pursue a conversation, you might discover a shared tendency to be caught up in a surprise infatuation with a thing, such as a painting or sculpting, a place, or, even more dramatic, a person.  Infatuation is fine enough, but given your and the protagonist's levels of enthusiasm, infatuation is not enough; you each wish the evolving discovery that the infatuation is only a primary wrapping.  The real prize is inside, possibly even nested in layers, much like the nested sets of Russian dolls,

In the story you are thinking of, which you named out of fondness for the English writer, Graham Greene, you knew that your protagonist, quite smitten with a particular woman as he had rarely been smitten before, should find himself, as the story wound to the closure of discovery, hiding in the woman's closet.  She knows he is there.  She has in fact told him to "Get in there," while an overly solicitous son is checking up on her, urging her to get more involved in social activities.

You could, if you pursued the matter, attach influence to Flannery O'Connor's short story, "Good Country People," in which, among other things, there is a character named Joy, who has a wooden leg, and a traveling salesman who, upon learning of the wooden leg, is overcome by a desire to steal it.

If this influence is true--and it could well be--what does it say for the range of things that influence you and in effect impinge upon your imagination?  Graham Greene and Flannery O'Connor; what a pair.

Your story, as you had originally seen it through, or to put the matter with greater attention to the detail of process, as the story presented itself to you, is about individuals who wish to break out of cultural traps and into the potentially greater abyss of an attraction powerful enough to cause both parties to abandon safety nets.

With that in mind, you sent it off to an editor you admired, an individual who had taken other of your work and who had said of you that you were now a regular.  He had only one small suggestion, which you saw having a helping hand toward the effect you were seeking with the story.  The story was published where you were pleased to have it published.

After some time, you happened on the  story in printed form.  In the intervening time, you'd grown a bit here and there.  A few things spoke to you, telling you they could have been better expressed.

This is a philosophy you endorse.  The story still gave you pleasure, but here it was, in a sense chiding you for allowing it out in the cold without sufficient covering.  Then the aha moment of an edition of some of your stories to be done in book form.  The aha was the awareness that this story could go into the collection, with the needed tweaks.

Even while enjoying the opening moments and the development of the story, you were bracing yourself for the closure, still a tad beyond your reach.  You did all the things a writer would do under such circumstances.  You walked large and short distances, ate remarkable and expensive meals, ate inexpensive meals that were remarkable in yet another way.  

You read, ignored the story, worked on other stories and other things, coped with teaching chores, gave a convincing depiction of a happy, productive writer who has a forthcoming collection of some of his short fiction.

Then the ending presented itself to you.  Once again, your protagonist was in charge of his quest to see if Naomi Bloom were indeed the love of his life, which is a good half the battle, the other half being whether he has a corresponding role in her life.  You took that to a point you thought conveyed everything it ought, then sent it along.

Here you are again, looking at a note from the Publisher:  The editor loved the story, right up to the end, but there's something troubling her.  Right around the end.  Here's the manuscript with her note.  Could you please take another look after you've finished the other edits we asked you to consider?

And so, here you are once again, inside Naomi Bloom's closet, inhaling the scents of her sachets and colognes, her small, serviceable, in some cases even flamboyant wardrobe hung in neat array about you.  You are looking, sniffing, speculating for clues.  You are waiting.  Listening.  

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