Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How Did the Little Girl Get into the Rabbit Hole?

 There you are, half way through a book you hadn't read for about ten years, going through it to make notes for a lecture you'd want to give to a group of students reading it in your Explorations in Literature Class.  

Your first encounter with the novel in question was back in your days as an undergraduate at UCLA, where it seemed you had time not only for reading but for classes and those two requisites of any decent university education, beer and girls.

Your reading of the novel, Sinclain Lewis' Main Street, came at about the same time you read another memorable narrative which you should have connected at the time, but did not. In a way a small loss since, these many years later, during which youve reread both novels several times, you still had not made the connection--until now. 

Thus the point: You can no more run away from your past than you can run away from your future. The former will come back to haunt you and the latter will linger around to surprise you. They will meet on frequent levels at frequent times in your life, whether or not you've read about the circularity theories of Giambattista Vico (1668--1744) or his distinctly non-Cartesian posit that truth isn't observed, it is constructed from action.

So there you are, well before the most recent time of being midway through Main Street. In fact you are in a classroom, presided over by the chair of the English Department, dapper in his textured waistcoat, clapping his hands together to punctuate his question, "How did the little girl get into the rabbit hole?" 

You have relived and reused that moment several times over, that moment of being launched into an orbit created by a professor relative to something you'd read earlier as a child.  When you were at the age of having read Alice for the first time, you took it at face value, which was the probable stretch capacity of your ability to infer, deduce, interpret. 

You understood that the characters and circumstances were imaginary, but you did not yet understand how even imaginary beings could be seen as substitutes for other things.

You were at a literal age. A thing was itself; it was not anything else.  Comic book characters were not real; they were elements of a story, which was not real, but seemed real. Think then of the potential for culture shock. You first read Main Street within months of being led into the rabbit hole for perhaps the tenth time, but in this instance under the guidance of the chair of the English Department.

You are not so much surprised that you missed the connection between the two works as annoyed because now, at this remove from Alice, and into Main Street for at least the fourth time of close reading, you see a perfect parallel. Never mind that the author of Main Street may not have seen the connection even though he may well have read Alice.

In your estimation, there is safety in you telling your fiction writing classes that details must serve a greater purpose than mere decoration. Details are points of beginnings, of facts and sensations being set in some orbital path about the galaxies of your mind and its imaginative capabilities.

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