Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Georgia on My Mind

You are now into your fourth year of teaching a Wednesday night fiction class, one of three you promised your late wife you'd carry on for her.  Now that you think about the matter, this current quarter will be the first time in those years when the entire enrollment will not have had the class  as taught by Anne.

Setting aside the differences in your respective approaches to teaching fiction, the class has produced one or two writers who appear to have the necessary resolve and vision required to take their work forward to a level of sufficient depth to merit publication.  

Of course there was the man who, a year or so ago, informed you a play of his, based on an original short story of his, was in rehearsal and was about to be performed.  When you wondered aloud how such a thing was possible when you saw a serious disconnect between the quality of dialogue in his short fiction and your perception of the dialogue necessary for a play, his response said it all.  He'd "commissioned" an out-of-work playwright to adapt his short story into play form.

This individual, an embodiment of the impatience for publication and the resulting ability to speak of one's self as a publisher, pales in comparison to an individual who has been in every one of these Wednesday night fiction courses since you began it, in January of 2011.  Aware from the title of the course and the fiction-writing aspects of your opening remarks, the individual nevertheless persists in presenting material that is, in his own words, "more or less memoir."

"Does that mean there are places," you've asked more than once, "where the material is significantly enough less memoir than it is in actuality memoir?"

The individual smiles at you with an expression you on most Wednesday nights would describe as enigmatic.  "I have,"  he persists in telling you, "a vision I follow."

You, of course, respond, "But you persist in keeping your vision secret, so that your vision is an enigma-in-the-making."

You often remind yourself when he reads his material that this is, after all, the Wednesday evening class.  If the man's vision is clear only to himself, it might as well be a source of amusement for you, an entertainment.

As a consequence, you have frequent conversations of an existential nature, conversations in which each of you becomes more impressed with the length and breadth of what the other knows.  You have caught this individual from time to time making statements you believe to be false.  

For a time, there were questions relating to whether this individual could withstand your attempts to draw certain lines of engagement and whether you in your turn could retain your sang froid, your sangre frio, without taking some precipitous action.

So far as you are concerned, the appearance of this individual is an essential of story.  Two or more individuals arrive at a setting, each convinced he is right about more things that not.  So long as this individual continues to enroll, then read things you are often forced to admit elude your powers of comprehension, you are engaged in some form of story dynamic with him.

Chances are excellent in favor of you not being so patient with this man during earlier days of your teaching or writing ventures.  You'd likely have seen these exchanges as encounters rather than the legitimate crossed purposes so often resident in story.

"What happens,"  you might have asked him, "when you take the f-u-c-k out of s-t-o-r-y?"

And he'd have replied, "There is no fuck in story,"  to which you would have agreed.  "Quod erat demonstratum."

These are not the best available teaching methods.  Over the years, you have had to do much shifting and adjusting to capture the attention of story.  More than once, you have watched in despair as it seemed in metaphor to have room on its dance card for everyone but you.

More than once, your relationship with story reminded you of your relationship with Georgia, a blond sixth-grade wraith seen always from your point-of-view as a fourth grader at Hancock Park Elementary School, in west central Los Angeles.

These were times well before you were able to accommodate metaphor to any practical extent.  You had no experience with witches, less yet with their bosoms, yet you were aware of the expression "Cold as a witch's tit."  On such nuances and hidden awareness your sophistication resided.

Each day you challenged Georgia to a game of tether ball.  For reasons well beyond your ability to understand, she nodded to each challenge, stepped to a tether ball court, then proceeded to humiliate you.  Day after day, you persisted.  One day, one magical day, you actually scored a point.  One magical point.  Thinking it over, you asked her the next day if she'd let you score.  Years later, when puberty and its arcane rituals came to you, there was another metaphor you learned that could have applied to Georgia, allowing you that one sympathy point.

Her answer to your question was to demonstrate once again the inevitable superiority of her tether-ball skills.

How nice it would be to be able to say that you later saw Georgia, the one or two years difference in your ages evaporated thanks to those arcane and mystical rituals of puberty.  You might have--who knows?
But you were off on an adventure that would take you away from Los Angeles, not returning you for what now seems forever, but was less than three, and Georgia's adventure, whatever it was and perhaps still is, is unknown to you, your only recourse an attempt to recount it in fiction.

You have done better with story than you did with Georgia.  At least, Georgia did not break your heart.

As for story, it did not show you sympathy, either.  You had to work to get its attention, resorting some times to outrageous tricks and stratagems.  "Look at me,"  you seemed to be saying.  Story was not impressed.  "Don't even think of playing,"  it seems to say, "not until you can give it a better shot than you ever realized you had." 


Post a Comment