Friday, October 10, 2014

Reality and Story Teeter on the Fulcrum of Distraction

Even though it is fraught, and at the present moment, filled with potential frustrations at the national political level, Reality is linear in comparison to Story, which by its implicit nature, is textured, braided, even incestuous.

The relationship between Reality and Story teeters on the fulcrum of Distraction,  If you were making characters of these three stunning forces, you'd have to find a well-grounded individual to portray Reality, perhaps even a character as afflicted as Raymond in The Rain Man, whose affliction had him grounded to the point where he cannot evolve.  

Raymond remains what he is, an idiot savant who is also rooted in child-like stasis.  Neither his savantness nor his emotional levels can grow.  He can age physically, but the mathematical and emotional abilities are what they are, day after day.    His projected tragedy is the fact of two imprisoned selves, unaware of their imprisonment.

A good candidate on which to base a dramatic personification of Story would be F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was so caught up in personal conflicts that he could have been the fictional product of his own most famous character, Jay Gatsby.  This lovely bit of sophistry is not so fanciful as it seems.  On one level, Fitzgerald's quest was Zelda, just as Gatsby's was Daisy.  Gatsby had to evolve from Jay Gatz from South Dakota in order to pursue, then reconnect with Daisy.  Fitzgerald had to become as good as he wanted and hoped to be, faster than his rate of development seemed to tolerate.

To give proper representation to a personification of Distraction, you'd have to inject something like Fitzgerald's own inability to cope with his alcoholism, something like his enormous ability to focus on his work in spite of his own distractions.  There was his friendship with Ring Lardner.  Which of the two was the greatest distraction on the other?  Of course you could say they were co-enablers, but a pattern for Distraction is beginning to emerge here.  Both men had family lives.  Both were prolific in spite of their distractions.

Fitzgerald and Lardner managed to spend significant enough periods of time within their own sense of Story to allow them to produce work that holds up with nobility and significance, beyond that theoretical fifty years after their death boundary by which we tend to measure literature.  Fitzgerald was gone in 1941, Lardner in 1933. 

On many occasions, you sat in a parked car directly across the street from 1403 North Laurel Avenue, just south of Sunset Boulevard, looking at the apartment complex where Fitzgerald lived at the time of his fatal heart attack.  On many other occasions, you frequented the cocktail lounge at 8152 Sunset Boulevard, the famed Garden of Allah Hotel, where Fitzgerald had also lived.  On one memorable occasion, you were there to visit Edward "Ted" Paramore, Jr., one of Fitzgerald's chums and, indeed, a character in Fitzgerald's second novel, The Beautiful and Damned.

You ate at Musso and Frank's Restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, where Fitzgerald ate, and you drank martinis there, where he drank martinis.  Don't forget your experiences next to Musso and Frank's, at the Pickwick Book store, and your conversations with Lloyd Harkema, the salesperson from whom Fitzgerald requested a copy of The Great Gatsby, thinking to give it to one of his Hollywood chums.  

To his regret, Harkema did not immediately recognize Fitzgerald, remarking instead that Fitzgerald was no longer alive.  Once more, unto the breech for Fitzgerald, who'd been on the wagon for a while.  He rushed next door to Musso and Franks, whereupon he dismounted the wagon.

You have no such detailed affinity with Lardner, no stalking his haunts and footsteps, only two things, the amazing sense when you read his short stories that he was talking directly and mischievously to you, and some run-ins with lit profs who did not think as well of him as you.

Lardner and Fitzgerald are distractions for you because of how alive and conflicted their lives seem to you, how resonant their works are for you.  In their short fiction you find ample hints of the voices and control resident in their individual work, and thoughts of them lead you to D.H. Lawrence, whose book, Studies in Classic American Literature, adds to the distraction from the work of your immediate focus with the book you have promised to wrote, Studies in Classic American Literature, vol. 2, which will have chapters, need you say, on Fitzgerald and Lardner.

Back to your point:  Reality is so damned linear.  Story is so tempting, so intertwined, incestuous, mischievous, and compelling.  Once you've entered, leaving for any reason becomes a pain.

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