Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Emperor's Closet

Peering into the telescope of perspective for clues has been helpful, but not to the point where you can pinpoint those early days, when you became aware that anger was one of your default positions.  Nor can you locate a specific time when you were able to see anger in its relationship to fear.

You can remember a time when, driving your old first car, a 1939 Pontiac coupe, you were all but runn off the road by a passing eighteen-wheeler.  As the adrenaline and fear wore down, you felt a tsunami of anger and resentment toward the truch, prompting visions of speeding up, overtaking the eighteen-wheeler, then giving it a dose of its own medecine by forcing it off the road.

Soon, a third default status, laughter, arrived on the scene, directed at you for thinking you could catch up to the offending truch, then maneuver it off the road.  Through such visitations from these internal mechanisms, your awareness of your resident preferences began to emerge.  You are happy to report the process is still in progress, visiting you late into the evening yesterday, while preparing for today's lecture and discussion in your noir fiction class.

The specific discussion was the assigned reading, Richard Price's quite excellent noir novel, Lush Life.  You make this judgment because of Price's finely tuned ear for dialogue, his range of characters, the moral choices he forces these characters to make, and their outcomes.  All this is done without a trace of Price insinuating himself into the narrative as a control freak author.  

This last observation is crucial because Price achieves his narrative voice by inference and control, in direct and, admittedly, unfair comparison with Ayn Rand, who cannot allow her passion for the story to define it, instead seizing every available opportunity to rail and blather in the service of her own political beliefs when a more thoughtful writer would allow the actions and opinions of the characters carry the water.

After some deliberation, you realize you cannot at this moment compare Rand to a writer of her set of beliefs with any thought of the comparison being apt and fair.  In consequence, you're going to load the deck against her by comparing her to a quite opposite philosophy, yet one who uses the control and restraint you admire as much as you admire his politics.  Thus Eric Blair, who wrote as George Orwell.

You are tempted to compare Rand with two who more closely resemble her political and personal visions, Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh.  But this would only ratify your belief that there is no fairness in comparing Rand with anyone.  Because Amis and Waugh bring you to the position you wish to explore, you're also tempted to compare Rand with that quintessential nineteenth century phenomenon, Horatio Alger.

The position is of exaggerated humor, which has become what your early anger has evolved to.  You were thinking about your fondness for a wide spectrum of noir literature, even to the point where Hilary Mantell's masterful, historical Wolf Hall has noir elements.  

You were also thinking of the more straightforward noir, brought about by real time circumstances of more modern times.  The Dust Bowl/Okies exodus in The Grapes of Wrath for an instance, and of course Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and your own candidates for noir, Willa Cather's My Antonia, and the collected short stories of Katherine Mansfield you took along with you to class this evening.  Much as you appreciate and relate to and are able to connect dots between such titles, these are not the kinds of noir you write.

You are about revealing the truth behind the emperor having no clothing, the kind of truth that extends to the emperor having a commodious closet, in which hangs empty hangars.  It is not enough to show him as naked, he is not complete unless he is seen as thinking there is plenty more like that, at home in his closet.

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