Friday, January 27, 2017

Sa va sans dire

What is the writer's intent when composing? In concert with that generalized question, what is your intent when you compose? And in the spirit of your wish to keep matters clear and direct, is their a difference in your intent when you compose fiction and when you compose nonfiction such as a review, essay, or some aspect of memoir?

To add ingredients to this goulash, there is this question: Which is more meaningful to you, the dramatic principles of invention so far as you have learned them to date, or the observations of factual accuracy as you observe that quality to be.

You could also add this question: What were you looking for when you began to realize how reading could be a path you could follow, leading you from the constraints of your early age?  Didn't reading hold out the promise, then provide the fulfillment of escape from boredom and the conventional constraints of your early years?

Indeed you read at first to escape the boredom inherent in your surroundings. Your getaway car, its engine revving, was story. You brought back enough from reading story to turn huge expanses of empty lots into jungles, oceans, mountain ranges and, at one point, the Anatolian Plain wherein you undertook replications of The Iliad and The Odyssey.  

Most, but not all, nonfiction offered you information, but little opportunity to use it without yourself becoming boring. When you have no tangible opportunity to use information except to spout it or, worse, pontificate with it, you become the very boredom you dread.

Now that you revisit the matter, you wished through reading to observe others in their attempts to escape boredom and constraint. When you were not reading, you tended to admire and gravitate toward adults and peers who did not appear to be boring. 

At some point, perhaps in observation of the peers you were drawn to, you began to realize that you were more often drawn to liars and those who exaggerated the circumstances in which they found themselves.

There was an entire part of you who orchestrated exaggerations and lies as an escape route from boredom. You were attracted to the reading life because it offered the continuous promise of escape. The side benefit came from fact-based narrative, which is to say nonfiction. If you had enough demonstrable data at your hands, you were simultaneously building acceptance for your exaggerations and outright lies.

Two major works of nonfiction, Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, and The Journals of Lewis and Clark, because of their frequent lapses into conversational presentation of information, became standards against which you judged work that made no bones about being invented. And Twain, thanks to his magnificent introduction of his main character, the Mississippi River, led you to suspect that factual data--or the pretense of factual data--could be used to manipulate readers and, indeed, other characters within the same narrative.

There was little question, early on, which path you should follow. Thanks to some fourth grade misdeeds involving simple mathematics and, later, eleventh grade fisticuffs with algebra, you had no difficulty setting aside thoughts of becoming an aeronautical engineer. So far as becoming a restaurateur was concerned, you could indulge your appetites for cuisine either at your mother's table or by dining out.

"You are one devious, manipulative son of a bitch," an older person named Lou, who also had literary interests, told you, "but are you devious and manipulative enough to be a writer?"

"Nous verons, n'est-ce pas," you responded.

"I didn't know you spoke French," Lou said.

You didn't then, you don't now, but sa va sans dire, you were manipulative and devious then, as you are now.

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