Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rocks and Narrative Voice

There was a recent time when you were awakened from a sound sleep, not sure if the waking noise were a gun shot or a car in back-fire mode.  The fact of your accelerated heart beat told you that whatever the sound, you heard it as a gun shot. Thus the nature of a perception in its willingness to jump to a conclusion.

When you lived on Calle Mesones in Mexico City, you were often awakened by the sound of explosions, but because you knew in advance you lived over a fire cracker factory, your sudden transition from sleep to wakefulness was accompanied only by noise, no accompanyment of peril.

Narrative voice has similar effects on you, runing the gamut of emotional responses including the response of you being delivered into gales of laughter or waves of sadness. One writer whose work you admire, Daniel Woodreell, is said by reviewers and critics to have invented his own genre, Ozark noir. With the exception of a few earlier works set in that diverse and mischievous area between Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, his novels are set in and about the Ozark Mountain area of Missouria, featuring the men, women, animals, and misplaced, battered codes of ethical behavior.

Woodrell's narrative voice has the effect of an unsilenced pistol being discharged in the hours between midnight and four or five in the morning, times when the odds favor the targets to be humans as opposed to such intruders as, say, snakes or rodents. 

Through his choice of words, his narrative cadence, and the way his sentences indicate some hard reality sitting outside in the carf with the motor running, Woodrell filters hope through his characters in ways that suggest hope is something best not entertained, even during the Christmas season.

You are drawn to Woodrell and other writers whose work could be described as noir for reasons associated with your political beliefs rather than your own balance sheet with achievements and social stratification. your own personal history shows a past in which you were not notably abused, ignored, or discriminated against to any extreme degree. You in fact got pretty much what you earned. To put it another way, you're hard put to recall significantg events where you were denied the fruits of your efforts.

Nevertheless, you are drawn to the narrative where an interesting character finds him- or herself in the dramatic equivalent of a rigged game, even if that walled-in feeling comes as a direct consequence of his or her own maneuvering within the social framework. You began to notice what you now think of as noir aspects and settings in the novels of Dickens and Thackeray, becoming even more weighted against lead characters as the nineteenth century ran down. and writers such as Thomas Hardy and H.G. Wells began to publish.

If ever the rhetorical invitation to writers to throw rocks at their characters, both Wells and Hardy would stand out as forerunners of the trend, reaching a high point, but by no means the apex, in Shirley Jackson's iconic story, "The Lottery," in 1948.  Authors still throw rocks at characters, and set them in circumstances where passing events are armed with a few choice missiles of their own.

The very sound of such dramatic interventions appeals to you, not from any possible sense of schadenfreude but rather from your growing observation that reality and dramatic incident overlap at those places where some arm, whether the synecdoche arm of the Law or of Fate are poised with a stone or two to cast or the arm of another person, an antagonist, can be seen, hefting a rock for a sense of how much damage it might inflict.

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