Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What's That, You Say? Or What's That You Say?

 We look for many things in story judging our experience as a reader or viewer in terms of how many of those things were present, to what degree, and how well they are orchestrated.

In the past few weeks, while working on what may well be yiour next longford work of nonfiction, you've had to find ways to return to the you who first encountered these "things," describe what they were, what effect they had on you, and how, over the years, they played out as things you remember and use.

You were well along in reading to the point where the principal at your California grammar school offered you the choice of any book in her office, provided you brought it back within a week.  You can still remember some of these books, mostly stories for young people, most of them inspiring you to read  at the joyous random of whim.  

With that as background, the first book of serious consequence came your way when you were ten; it changed your life in several ways, and played into the early choice you made of career path you wished to follow.

The single most important thing about that book was the quality you now recognize as voice, which is to say the sound the narrative makes inside of you as you read.  You were some years recognizing this quality in ways that allowed you to distinguish it as voice.  Even then, you'd have to reach to be able to distinguish voice from style, particularly because you were growing up at a time when the short stories and longford work of Ernest Hemingway were reaching tentacles of influence into every corner.

Whether coincidence or not, that same Ernest Hemingway said of the book you recognized early on as having a changing effect on your life,"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.." You can imagine the early, ten- or-twelve-year-old you saying of Huck Finn, "I like the way it sounds in my head when I read it."  And wouldn't it be nice to think of you also being able to say at that age, "I trust Huck because of his honesty and because I never caught him deliberately trying to avoid telling the truth."

You liked the form of the story as well because it seemed to mosey and meander, words you plucked from Mark Twain's vocabulary to the point where you were telling people in your life that you thgought you'd mosey over to school or the playground, or the park.  

Instead of describing your principal mode of locomotion as walking, you thought to meander to a place, which meant to you going from home to a standard destination, you took different routes and, thus, meandered.

Thanks to Mr. Twain, Huck's narrtative meandered all over the place, unlike some of the relentless plot progressions of other books you'd read.  In later years, after you'd committed to trying your hand at storytelling, you understood how you were more of a meanderer and wanderer than a straight-line plot where each scene seemed determined to trigger the succeeding scene.

In later years, committed to the study of literature at the university, you became aware of the picaresque novel, which seemed heaven-sent to you because that was your method of taking a character into an incident, then trusting some new distraction to emerge, presenting itself to the character as an irresistable path to follow.

Thus you'd gone from what was either reading to escape the time-on-your-hands boredom of those younger years and the adventure potential of discovering new information and ways to interact with people to a basic breakdown of elements.  You had story, the way it was told, the people it was about, and the way they behaved when they were in danger of being discovered or revealed.  You had what was going on in the background of the stories you read, and you had that impatience to become able to embark on your own adventures.

Adding to the chemistry that was you, you'd managed to begin a growing spurt, whereby you were no longer "Shorty," you were pushing beyond the six foot mark, earning you a much welcomed revision on your nickname.  Now, you were "Lange lucksh," which is Yiddish for long noodle.

Soon, through devious trading with a contemporary named Neil, you came into an equivalent learner's permit to fly a single-engine airplane, which you forged into completion, including a certifying MD's name and registration number.

You were able to present that forged ID at Mae Burke's cocktail lounge, adjacent the Fox Wilshire Theater, where a number of your own adventures began.


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