Friday, August 7, 2015

Uses of Butterfly Nets in Writing Stories

 Because you have a significant admiration for his fiction and have, at times, used--with proper attributions--some of his interpretations of literature when you were in a teaching role, you tend to think of Vladimir Nabokov from time to time in the pursuit of one of his serious side activities, tracking down and collecting butterflies.  

You've seen more than one picture of him thus engaged, quite possibly being photographed by his wife.  What a lovely connection to make in relationship to him--a major writer, wandering about likely landscapes in search of rare butterflies.  

In a quirky, wonderful way, this vision of Nabokov causes you to appreciate his writing at yet another level, the level of a serious, informed, opinionated man, stalking rare species in order to preserve them, study them, and write about them.

This association allows you the enjoyable metaphor of any writer--but you in particular--moving cautiously amid the dense foliage of sense and sensation, trying to net a rare concept or, even more to your liking, a splendid example of an ordinary concept, then to bring it home for study and writing.

The activity has become, for you, an ongoing attempt to pursue the exotic or its polar opposite, the overwhelming presence of the ordinary.  Each, in its way, is attractive, a different side of the coin of challenge.  

While you do enjoy the exotic and seem to be able to identify it when you are in its neighborhood or when it trespasses into yours, you recognize a gravitation to the ordinary.  You enjoy the way ordinary presents itself in the kind of determination exemplified by a volunteer plant, taking root in the crack within a roadway or sidewalk. You identify with and cheer for the plant.

Such outlier volunteers are often called weeds, regarded, if at all, with the kind of annoyance manifest in discovering a single hair growing on, say, a nose or ear lobe, or some place where the presence of a single hair is an impertinence.  Thus do you frequently find you describing yourself, intrusive, insolent, irreverent, but also, with Mr. Nabokov in mind, searching for the rare and common ironies fluttering and darting about in the forest of humanity.

Irony seems to flutter its wings at you, inviting pursuit, which you hope to capture, then analyze, your hopes expanding to the point where you can dramatize the irony, show individuals, through their behavior, doing and, when appropriate, not doing things that add to the available displays of irony.  

Is it your extensive experience with such things that leads you to recognize the difficulty in describing what you've netted?  And of course, you wouldn't be honest with yourself if you didn't question your overall abilities:  Are you in fact as able as you will ever be, you wonder, at being able to represent what you've captured?  

Your extensive experience carries with it enough confidence to balance out the amateurish Q and A of the Inner Editor, allowing you to in effect extract the butterfly from the net, then begin getting at the circumstances of its drama.  Every writer you know has similar problems.  

The writers whose lives ended before you came upon the scene, and those contemporary writers you know only from their written reports, have gone through the process as well, their work shimmering before you not only because of its exotic beauty but because of the degree of work they required to make the work seem so effortless.

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