Sunday, November 23, 2014

Parallel Lines, in Story and Reality

Some of the more obvious parallels for you, between the essay and the story, involve the thrust to arrive at some kind of outcome, a condition you speak of as negotiated settlement, when you write about and think about story.  The essay arrives at an outcome you've begun to regard as a position, which is your way of saying an opinion or stand.

Story and essay require an emphasis, the former based on an emotional journey through a landscape of fantasy purporting to be real, the latter, by no means lacking in emotions, is more a journey through the imagination.  Each medium is filled with potential distraction and, thus, anticlimax, your recognition that each in its way, the story and the essay, is dramatic.

You take to the essay for an opportunity to argue with and for yourself.  You call upon your sensory apparatus to evaluate, decide, then arrive at some form of marching orders that will guide your behavior in the world about you. You've in a sense prepared yourself while writing an essay to enter a conversation with other individuals in a setting of Reality--some specific place, some specific event.  

You often enter these conversations as a way of essaying--testing--these marching orders, hopeful they will stand up, but not feel threatened should they collapse in the chaos of a failed train of ideas.   

When you enter story, you are meting out your impressions and questions to an ensemble cast of characters you've created in order to supply yourself the kinds of emotional experiences that fuel your awareness and add spice to your inner dreams and the Reality about you.  

There are times when you forget the arguments and discussions you've forged out in essays, but more often than not, you remember the characters you've created.  Their exploits and risk taking fuel your senses to the point where you might be tempted to think the events you dramatize in a story have had real time presence in Reality.

Your purpose here is to expand on essay, the subtle way it effects your writing story and writing about story, the way it defines you by describing you for yourself.

Writing story is putting fantasy and imagination together, writing scripts you'd be pleased to serve as director thereof.  Writing essay is the essence of writing memoir of you.  With the possible exception of some notes, business letters, and mere logistics--Yes, see you at Cafe Luna at two on Thursday.  Yes, understood, coffee at The Daily Grind on Monday--no starch on the shirts--everything else is a part of your memoir.  

Forget that you have not in any formal sense set out to write a memoir.  Indeed, forget you've been teaching a memoir class for four years, are signed to give a day-long memoir workshop in February.  Forget that you have managed to inject story into your memoir classes, emphasizing the difference between the evoked presence of individuals at specific incidents, instead of providing a mere description, as though the individuals and events were journalism.

Additional things to forget:  Forget that the journals, notebooks, and intermediate jottings you've written since about age eighteen are for the most part focused on prising out the secrets of story telling from the walnut shell in which it has been encased for all these years.  You, trying to figure out how to understand a story, make the format work for you, then dig a bit deeper, trying to get the walnut out in one piece, are writing your memoir, whether by deliberate action or compulsive action.

If this is true, and you're beginning to believe it is, and you've been at your memoir students to tell their memoirs as story, you have some serious essaying to do.  You like story because of its structure, its outright inhospitable attitude to what I call information dumps, information included so it will not go to waste.

If lists of things liked and not liked, scraps and portions of narratives, outlines for books that may or may not be written, scrawled descriptions and overheard bits of conversation, may be said to be memoir, you have a good deal of thinking to do.

A favored saying of yours within the classroom is, "In geometry, parallel lines meet only in infinity.  In story, they meet in the last chapter."

If memoir and story are parallel lines, you bloody well have to find a way to get to infinity, or arrange some kind of meeting.


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