Friday, June 20, 2014

The Writer as Process Server


 In its generic way, story is the human joke; it is the way each of us approaches a particular narrative.  Story is a shared event, each participant believing he or she is right; if a story is not directly about a character we can identify with, then it nevertheless is about our individual interpretation. 

 Story is about the reader or the writer, noting some details, being oblivious to others until later, when they are pointed out to by others.  These "others," are equal in their amazement at the things "we" have caught.


If being an egotist or narcissist were civil crimes rather than social crimes or pure bad taste, you've have been even luckier than you were to get out of your early years without a visit or two from a process server or two.

True enough, you looked--and continue to look for tangible clues leading to the discovery of persons about you want, what their true motives are, how these individuals mean to achieve their agendas, which is to say, how they will pay up when the bill is tendered and they must confront consequences

From your investigations, you've at last closed in on your own agenda of all these years, understanding what a story is and the social accommodations that attend the consequences of story.

Although story began much earlier, let's say modern story began on November 6, 1740, when a printer named Samuel Richardson more or less self-published a book called Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded.  Excepting for a class of scholars, critics, and bored housewives, few readers had had sufficient connections with books of this sort to consider it a novel.  

Many of those who came upon Pamela back then took it to be quite literal, took it to be as truthful in its depictions, took the eponymous narrative focus to have been quite real and, in the bargain, to have been quite put upon so far as her virtue was concerned.  

Richardson could well have had a real person in mind as his model for Pamela, the subject of a popular scandal in the newspapers of the day.  But the possibility exists that the sedate and innocent protagonist was formed from much whole cloth supplied by Richardson.

Pamela was represented (and accepted among readers) as a real individual.  Perhaps, given the persistent sexual implications, Pamela's name had been changed to protect her privacy, but real she was in the minds of the many readers of her exploits and the attempts of her impulsive young employer to have his way with her.  Many readers became indignant upon the discovery that Pamela was unreal.

Such was the nature of many readers in those eighteenth-century days.  A scant twenty years earlier, readers had been taken in by Daniel DeFoe's account of a character he named Robinson Crusoe.  There was some greater reason to think Crusoe was real; a contemporary story of an island-bound castaway had documented accounts.

Such is the nature of the way the novel has evolved, from expectations of it being an actual account to the point where fiction is often given greater credibility than nonfiction.  Even if the reader were not "there," when the characters met and interacted, the reader has evolved along with the novel.  Now, the reader is offered (and readily accepts) the sense of being a fly-on-the-wall presence.  Even if the fiction addresses the reader in the first-person, the reader is all too willing to believe Pip or Huck Finn, or Holden Caulfield or Augie March is there, telling the story for the reader.

Another thing to consider here is the way story has grown from two or three basic fonts which can be and have been repeated endlessly, the evolution being found more in the nature of the narrative than the enlargement of the fonts. 

Thus story has led you from self-absorption to an enormous curiosity to know the details others find exciting and transformative.  You are slogging along the path, having just passed the point where you are absorbed in curiosity.

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