Friday, September 30, 2016

A Detail Is Not a Detail Unless It Triggers an Apparent Digression

How like fiction it is to remind you if important connections by sending trivial details your way. Much as you enjoy the often clear voice of nonfiction, presenting things to you for connection, the arguments of characters in fiction seem to provoke the most reflection and absorption, once they get to arguing.

Isn't it, after all, the arguments over the details that lead you to turn the pages, hopeful of finding answers? Isn't it, after all, the arguments and their increasing insistence, that lead you to see you will have to interpret those same details, in fact take sides in those arguments that lead you on with such persistence?

Fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are all necessary food to feed the imagination. You could no more ignore poetry and nonfiction if you goal was to explore and calculate the distances and orbits of the night sky, but you would want some experience with seeing the universe as a poet and essayist saw it before attempting to adjust the field of vision on your telescope.

You accept how relative in messiness and lack of system your approach to fiction is, piles of various works in progress, awaiting added illumination by your reading and thinking of poetry or nonfiction before you are able to say, for example, these two piles are now related; they belong in the same pile. 

Don't even think of your internal critic telling you how often it is you are able to stroll out into a clear night, where you indeed may see light reaching you from a star that has long since gone dead. How are you to tell, you internal critic will ask of you, from which of these piles of notes and speculations gone dead?  

You make it a point not to listen to such questions, nor, to mix the metaphor-in-progress, through which end of the telescope you may be looking. The process has worked some for you, leaving you the comfort of acknowledging you are not by any means possible an astronomer, yet you are one who finds the night skies of such a quality that it speaks to him.

You scarcely opened the mailbox, which you share with E., your landlady, when--if we're going to stay for a moment with the starry sky metaphor--cosmic forces aligned to present a catalogue from Ben Silver, the Charleston S.C. haberdasher from whom you on occasion buy some items of clothing. 

A feature on regimental-striped neckties and more whimsical and less formal ones struck you at last as more than a mere fact, rather as a fact related to two characters. a sworn-police officer/ homicide detective, and a private detective,  both of whom appear in the two works in progress you've brought to various states of form over the past two or three years.

Disclosure: the current project of your serious focus is nonfiction, one that called you away from these two novels-in-the-making.

You'd wanted the homicide cop and the PI to have something more than casual mutual awareness, perhaps even a friendship in potential, although in many cases, neither man is like the other.  Except that upon opening the Ben Silver catalogue this morning, you understood detail # 1, which is that both men purchase neckties from the Ben Silver catalogue, an aspect of choice or, if you will, taste demonstrated by each.

The SBPO will have noticed the PI's choice, even asked to confirm the coincidence, a plausible string of details that have no meaning to anyone, much less a reader, until the cop acts on it by hiring the PI to perform a long, comprehensive survey of his personal finances because of his growing awareness that Internal Affairs of the SBPD are interested in how he, on the basis of his pay grade, has so much net worth.

The details begin to coalesce. A police officer of net worth beyond the status of his pay grade, taking steps to document his honesty, integrity, and to create the added similarity between the cop and the PI of each having enough assets to leave curiosity about his background and ethics.

You can even see, and are fearful of indulging an improvisation of the conversation, the scene where the cop approaches the PI, who is at lunch in a restaurant where most cops are not likely to go, and how the conversation will begin, and what each will say to the other.

You will of course replay the scene until it sounds the way you wish, with each man having come away from it with some awareness of vulnerability and self-consciousness resident in the other. The PI, once a teacher at Santa Barbara High School, owns residential and real property in SB, does not by any means have to take cases of no interest to him.

If you like the scene well enough, you will find a way to keep it in the novel, which has to do with the husband of one of the PIs employees being found dead in her hotel room, and the PI's strongly held conviction that the employee, already known to us to travel in cognito, will never be seen again--which, now that you think about it, gives us the end of the story.

All this from a mail order catalogue.

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