Friday, October 14, 2016

A Night out with the Buoys

You were scarcely into your early twenties as a wannabe writer when you already understood that the early bird did not get the worm, plenty of rolling stones gathered moss, and all was not well that ended well. Ducks were no worse off when they were not all in a row. P's and q's could be left unminded unless you happened to be a printer. A barking dog could well take time out of its complaint to bite

Even at this remove, whenever you hear the narrative, "And they all lived happily ever after." you feel yourself yanked back to eighteenth- and nineteenth century novels, along with some of their early twentieth-century descendants.

True enough, you learned to read from such novels, inhaling as you did so the thought that you could be a storyteller as well. To the credit of many of these earlier novels, they made the process of storytelling seem not only wonderful and transforming, but as well that you could do as they did: capture and hold an audience the way such writers as Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and his three adept contemporaries, Wilkie Collins, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Anthony Trollope did.

This is to acknowledge you didn't include Mark Twain, who, in the space of two or three novels and a group of memoir, made the process seem even more accessible to the metaphorical point of the magician whose illusions seem accessible until the moment you attempted to replicate one of his tricks.

Setting aside all the sturm und drang of the apprenticeship period (but not without acknowledging you are still sorting out and experimenting with the tricks and devices of the authors already named and quite a few to have come along since, you remain constant in your feelings about Happily ever after endings, which is to say you are suspicious of them to the point of being distrustful of them. 

Even as you were experiencing these endings for the first time, you were already of the awareness that things did not work out to that kind of happy ending. In this manner, you experienced your first philosophical battle with Story, and the common notion of  your culture wherein persistence is more than a virtue, it has the potential for being a manipulative tool of Class Warfare.

If you wanted a happy ending, you had to orchestrate your own, which meant you had to look for acceptable conclusions (dramatic justice) rather than the cultural gifts for a cheerful persistence (poetic justice). Like it or not, know it or not, you were (and continue to be) the mirror of your own Nature and Reality, however much you may agree with the likes of Hieronymous Bosch or the A.A. Milne who wrote for children. 

If you put mere adjectives, you merely describe. They must be your choices of adjectives, details, and judgments. The worm of cynicism bored its way into the apple of your acceptance of story as cultural propaganda rather than the way writers such as those you listed in earlier paragraphs used story to define their own cultural and ethical paradigms.

Happy endings for, say, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, meant for the former that things were pretty happy when the likes of Elizabeth Bennett married Fitzwilliam Darcy because Austen liked the notion of worthies from various social strata getting together. 

Happy endings for Dickens meant a person from the middle classes, through hard, honest work, could find a partner of similar virtue with whom to live a debt-free and prudent lifestyle.

There have been times when you have walked away from a situation you considered to be dead or moribund, uttering that famous phrase from Scarlet O'Hara, "Tomorrow is another day." But the probable ending you had in mind was one of irony rather than the virtue of persistence or, indeed, the prospect of revenge.

Seeing irony suits you. You take persistence in some things as a virtue, but as stupidity in others. And for you, the best revenge is not the revenge served cold, rather the revenge scenario seen as a clear option, then rejected out of hand for the irony of the tra-la-la tomorrow is another day option.

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