Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Chemical Reaction to Stories and People

No matter what has happened to individuals in real life or characters trying to work their way through stories, the persons who matter the most to you are ones who do not consider themselves victims.

Within the landscape of your vision, victims belong to the extraordinary set of individuals who serve as some kind of warning signal to you in Real Time and to characters within story.  These victims are harbingers of what can happen if you're not careful.  They serve as warnings to characters in story, serve in fact as an additional layer of pressure to send them over the edge, Sisyphus's rock, starting yet another downward trip from the peak.

You try hard to like most people, which is altogether a different course from trying to be the Politico or Friend to Everyone.  Your approach here is to look for a preponderance of attractive qualities in anyone you see, making a point to select qualities and techniques you envy to the point of admiration.  In this manner, you are able to be respectful, even appreciative.  

Friends are another matter.  Admiration, envy, confidence, trust all figure in the calculus of friendship, but more important is the less easy to define word of chemistry, perhaps because there are so many kinds of love and because chemistry is the advance guard of chemistry.  

Persons you consider close friends have often experienced some measure of disaster, disappointment, perhaps even severe disillusionment, but they do not for one moment look upon themselves as victims.

You know a few individuals who are well off to the point of being affluent, who have achieved their affluence as a sort of Teflon coating against their at one time having been victims, even now nursing resentments and suspicion.  You can get on with such persons, but you do so in recognition that there is little potential for chemistry.

The same essentials obtain for the relationship you experience with characters, certainly your own and emphatically with those of other writers .  You have respect and sympathy for some of the more notable characters of the previous two centuries, but no real chemistry.  The characters with whom you experience that tingle of chemistry surprise you in the range of their appearances and, indeed, their authors.  

Much as the voice and style and technique at evocation rather than description you find in Hemingway leaves you,even at this remove from having studied him with such intensity,  impressed and respectful, your response dpes not approaching chemical.

The same regard, arrived at in grudging steps and quite a bit of stubborn resistance on your part is there for Henry James.  This regard is an irony, arrived at because of two writers with whom you do feel a chemistry, Cynthia Ozick and Colm Toibin, in whose writings about James and their own homages to him show you things you were not able to see directly from him, not until as recently as fifteen years ago, right on the cusp of the present century.

Your reading of James provides you a sense of a number of individuals who have worked their way into positions where they either refuse to see obviois truths or have suffered humiliation, but they do not take the victim's way out.  And you recognize in James the ability to see a psychological nuance, but still there is no chemistry, while on any given page of an Ozick or Toibin, you can feel the chemistry sparking.

The matter comes down to the ability some authors have to put the emotions of their characters into the foreground and the ability some individuals have to allow for the easy access to their own feelings as a tangible means of expression.

With the passage of time and your studies of your own craft, you have come to value evocation where you once valued and sought to capture description.  Feelings can and have been described, sometimes with stunning effect.  Landscapes can and have been described, in prose and poetry, once again with the occasional memorable and stunning effect.

Nevertheless, there is little to compare with the feelings of connection you get when you are able to see persons in Real Time or characters in story doing things in response to the events Reality or Story have presented them.

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