Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What Kind of Person Would Write Such a Thing?

There are times when you find yourself baffled by things you have composed, suffering from a sense of disconnect with the person you are under normal composition conditions.

This is by no means to suggest that "normal compositions" are all that normal, merely that they seem normal to you; their results often do not surprise you.

The times in which you are baffled are occasions when the copilot is at the controls or some aspect of your personality wishes to step beyond the more or less democratic process you have forged with yourselves over the years of the simple approach of making your writing seem to conflate with the way you speak and, of course, the reverse, where you speak with the same sense of presence as when you write.

This concept of the person you are under most normal conditions is a matter of some interest to you.  The interest becomes more acute when persons you know speak of you in terms you'd like to think you achieved, terms such as balanced, measured, non-judgmental, even open-minded.  You have great wishes to be all those things, but catch sight of yourself at times being driven by one of the less experienced of your chauffeurs, say impatience or irritation, or that state of recognition where the thing you are observing in action causes you to express your disbelief at it.

By taking pains to develop characters of many opposing views, you are in effect causing some of your own component parts to step out of the shadows to ask for a turn at the wheel, so to speak.

"Couldn't we try being a bit more wait-and-see?"  Or perhaps, "How about we just watch this unfold, see if there's a story in it or something to somehow be learned?"

Tomorrow will be the nine-months anniversary of you having the cat, Goldfarb, as a roommate, a fact that has caused you on a number of occasions to reflect on the sort of person you are.

You are no stranger to having animals as roommates.  Your first actual pet chose you rather than you selecting him.  He was a short-haired domestic with some tabby markings and a large expanse of white chest and belly.  He roomed with your next-door neighbor in the Hollywood Hills, although you did not know this until a reverse kind of inertia was underway.

He came to you when you were writing a novel a month, trying to live on the earnings, moonlighting sometimes of necessity by writing short stories.  Those days, you instrument was a fire engine red Olivetti manual portable, which, among other things you liked about it, had the Italian type face, Bodoni.  The cat, whose name you did not know at the time, surely heard you at work, knew you were there, had some occasion to have caught wind of your preference for grilling lamb or pork chops or Sea Bass on a hibachi.

One day, the cat clambered in your open window to pay you a visit.  Charmed by the gesture, you offered him the remains of a pork chop, which he dragged into the bedroom to eat.

On his next visit, you began the habit of calling him Sam.  Some days later, you heard his owner calling him, a shortened version of Beethoven--actually Beetho.  "Shhh," he seemed to be telling you, at the sound of his owner's call.

"You really should go,"  you said.  "He's obviously wanting your company."  You went to the kitchen door, opened it, and motioned.

After a month or so of Ray, your neighbor, calling his cat, and you wondering aloud to Sam, who was becoming a regular, "Do people call cats?  And if they do, do cats listen and respond?"  All this by way of demonstrating that unlike many individuals you know who have cats for companions, you do not know what cats think.

Events developed where Ray in effect told Beetho he was absolved of that name, was now to answer to Sam, and was to become your roommate, where he spent the remainder of his life.

Before Sam came into your life, you'd given serious thought to a Beagle, an Australian Shepherd, and an amalgam of breeds, which is to say an agreeable mutt.  After Sam was laid to rest at the Woodman Avenue home of a writer friend, your next animal was a dog, a breed you'd long heard of, but had never seen.  The dog, a Bluetick Hound, was secured to fill the enormous hole left by Sam's departure.  Thus you have told a succession of dogs of their debt to Sam.

You in large measure knew what your dogs were thinking.  A number of cats entered your life along the way, and now you are down to one roommate, Goldfarb, with whom you get on in an agreeable, considerate way roommates have.

The only serious issue you've had with Goldfarb is his recent tendency to want to groom you at the precise area of your head where male pattern baldness has left you wishing he would chose some other way to show his affection.  When Sam groomed you, your hair was rather thick.

You know enough about cats to know affection when you see it; indeed you have had enough cats to know lack of affection when you see it.
You are a dog person, a dog person who has had cats, who has had two or three--Goldfarb included--whom he cherishes.

You are a short story person.  Even though you have written and published more novels than you have short stories, you are still a short story person.  Even though your hope for the next book immediately after you finish the nonfiction book about characters and acting techniques will  be to complete a novel you've been brooding and carrying on about, you are still a short story person.

Novels talk to you; you even know what they think in many cases.  But you know about yourself that you are a short story person.

Pasta with red clam sauce is quite to your liking, but you are a pasta-with-white-clam-sauce person.  Soft, fluffy matzo balls are okay, but your father got you to thinking what would happen if a matzo ball were so compacted and hard that it would break the plate, should it fall off the spoon.

You can make similar observations about various types of music, because you are this combination of component parts.  In the unlikely event that you will be able to chose the last music you hear before you depart your present form, you will have had a serious argument about whether it is to be Wanda Landowska, playing the first segment of J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavicord, any of several pianists playing Maurice Ravel's The Waltz or Sonatine, or perhaps Bill Evans, playing I Loves You, Porgy, Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray in their epic tenor sax battle, The Chase, or Miles Davis with So What?  Depending on your mood at the time, you might throw in Lynn Harrell, playing Dvorak's Cello Concerto, and hey, what about Mozart's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor, #20?

There are many such examples of you arguing for primacy, causing you to realize that the important description is of a man who has become a disconnect from predictability; your preferences are all leaps of some kind or other.  If you were the sort who fancied a tombstone, if only to leave an enigmatic epitaph or description, it would be one word, and a punctuation mark.


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