Friday, May 22, 2015


It’s a boring old truism that one of the jobs of a writer is to spend some level of mind-time, *all* the time, on finely observing people, the world, and experience and quantifying these things for themselves so they can eventually steal these considerations, then cannibalize and synthesize them within stories.

It’s a fascinating fact that this self-consuming manufacture comes out of our minds into really cool stories, plays, movies, poems, the texts of graphic novels, and all the genres and forms my wee and paltry little brain has slighted or forgotten. The recent reading of H. G. Wells has provided a master class in tension and character, and the ridiculous as well as the finer points of a society we’d like to pretend was consigned to a dustbin 103 years ago … And all in what, at bottom, is the straight
forward and simple story of two people who get married. If I reduced Marriage to its plot, nothing could compel most people to read it. It would not be possible to baldly explain his wit; and yet, phrases from throughout the work have stuck with me, and may do so for a long time to come.

THAT is awfully good writing.

Now and then, I contemplate regurgitating those things on which I spend my own mind-time day by day. I consider blogging the experience of my commute home, or the way the rain fell yesterday – not from the sky, but from a single oak tree, shuddering from what unknown cause I could not imagine – or the absorbing and yet ugly sensations of what it is like to suffer from prolonged, untreated eczema intentionally, at its height and in preparation to meet a new doctor.

Most of the time, I either turn away from writing these minute observations or vignettes. Illness and injury are my stumbling blocks, and I am all too likely to tarry on the details there, because honestly this sort of experience engages me – probably unhealthily – but there it is. Usually, though, I go in real time, writing my moments or those I witness, letting the words mean something in their course, and letting them go as they pass. Not unheeded, but unrecorded. Some considerations need no more memorial than that we know they *are*, that life has been witnessed. Maybe a prayer, later on. Maybe oblivion, though the moment becomes part of that great swath of memory whose details are invisible, but exist even so.

All caveats intact (though Marriage is nowhere near so awfully uncomfortable as The Cone, it has its share of problematic philosophies), I spent every page – indeed, almost every paragraph, through many long passages – dying to know What Comes Next. What would happen, what decision might be made? Marriage___ may be the deepest exploration of (mostly) two characters I have ever read, and certainly it does expend copious philosophy in the bargain. The latter may be less gripping, but I never put it down, as it were. I read every word, and committed many to memory on purpose.

I honestly recommend it pretty widely – and people who know me know I am rarely to be found spouting about my reading. Either because I have this intimacy issue with my reading, or because in my childhood I was often amusedly chided for sharing in exhaustive detail every last story that crossed my path, *sharing* a book is all but imposible for me except in the most personal of circumstances. And yet – for my readership here, the writers, the history lovers, the random one-offs – I hereby recommend a book. Its language is sumptuous and wonderfully slightly-foreign. Its story is ordinary, and yet keeps you wanting more throughout. Plain as it is, it’s also an astoundingly limber piece of literature. A drawing room comedy; a Sagan- or Tyson-esque musing on science, religion (and the lack of it) and philosopy; a scathing social critique and/or satire at moments; a road novel; a romance. It’s the most acute rendering of a young girl’s mind I’ve ever seen an old man render, and at points an evocation of family relationships par excellence.

Yes. There is recourse to the term half-breed in one act of this saga, which is queasily unforgiveable, and the gender and Semitic politics have aged badly. Indeed, the recurrence, for a while, of the term Eugenics is not clearly pejorative, which is giddy-making in the extreme.

No good-guy here wears a purely white hat; even if there aren’t really any black-hats on hand. And it’s not as if we’re above such problematic currents in any writing today … Perhaps, in a way, it’s worthwhile to read flawed fiction in any case – warts and all.


For those of my readers who are writers: do you write down your vignette moments? Do you blog them? (Or share them in the vomments at Janet Reid’s blog?)

I wonder sometimes whether it’s economy or callousness on my part, that I let go so easily of the screeds, scenes, and letters I write half-in-my-sleep; that I sacrifice moments which excite me one hour, but I lose because time gets away from me?

How much of what you think to put on your own blogs/sites do you think better of later, or for one reason or other file away unpublished – invisible, but there, like those experiences we all observe … ?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I certainly don't put such observations in my humble blog, but I sometimes (more before than currently) write them in my paper journal.

My stories tend to be minimalist makings. I don't throw in fine observations unless they suit the tone or theme I'm trying to achieve.