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Higgins
08-08-2008, 09:54 PM
I had not really thought much about it before...certainly not before Bart's throught-provoking thread on Afterlife...

But my mind is really on this life. And I guess in my writing, I talk about characters who have to learn to deepen their relationship with the multileveled, interlocking realities of this world...or of the experience of the worldlines of the world, the strange density of its being, the strange otherness of even everyday things: parties, patios, appliances...

I guess I take a round-about way of getting at this worldly density...but I think evoking that density is one of my main motives for writing anything at all.

Ruv Draba
08-09-2008, 04:12 AM
The best humanistic writing I've seen is typically an unflinching examination of the interplay of conflicting ethos. To the extent that each of our 'layers' of reality has its own moral character, conflicting 'realities' generally conflict in their ethos.

Picking up on your point Higgins, a married couple can quarrel over (say) replacing their toaster. That argument can bring in the function of the toaster, their preferences for toast, home economy, the symbolism of the toaster as a wedding gift, the character of the toaster's giver, family politics, energy consumption and the environment, the couple's communication skills and attitudes to one another.

While psychologists and mediators might argue that the toaster argument is 'really' about the couple's relationship, as a writer I take a broader view: the argument is about all the things that both parties agree it's about. If both parties agree that it's a concern, then it's a concern.

Writers like Harold Pinter and Ian McEwan excel in getting layers to conflict. One could consider this writing atheistic in the sense that there's no reconciliation between the layers; no moral cohesion to be found; no binding ideology. We're left pondering the issues at each level, what they reveal about the characters as a whole, and perhaps with some appreciation for human resilience -- and equally, disgust at our lack of integrity.

To my mind, the benefit of such writing is not just that it's 'worldly', but that it's naturalistic. When the stories are written by a keen, unflinching observer we're confronted with suppressed truths of ourselves. We may have no idea what to do with those truths, but at least we can begin to accept them.

veinglory
08-09-2008, 11:56 PM
I would think that being fully invested in this world might encourage writing about the complexity of material reality--of which human relationships are surely a wonderful example.

AMCrenshaw
08-10-2008, 12:13 AM
Higgins: I recommend Six Memos by Italo Calvino.

But, I would say that most people who write have this somewhere in the back of their heads, whether or not they would or could communicate it. I think this is particularly true of the novel, with its closed-in focal points. The otherness, to Calvino, is what is pleasurable in the world and so it is in fiction. Or, if everything was vague, the fiction would be a clean blue sky, which is beautiful perhaps, but not as interesting as a sky full of clouds.

In that film, Adaptation, do you remember that lecturer, McKee? He's screaming at Charlie, "Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your mind?"

It makes me smile because when I consider just how interesting it is to have, you know, flavored ice-cream (mint ting-a-ling, for example). To write, to somehow communicate the near-absurdity of such phenomena, is always a goal in that we can't write an infinite number of words to describe the infinite layers of our existence, nor the infinite ways in which our realities seem to conflict when the rest of reality is not conflicted at all. Tom Robbins, if you've read him, has an interesting way of writing. He writes one sentene at a time, re-writing it until it's perfect. Why? To evoke the Zen universe in each sentence. Density to him is more than an aesthetic quality of the universe (as Calvino might argue), but the actual condition of it.

"When the stories are written by a keen, unflinching observer we're confronted with suppressed truths of ourselves. We may have no idea what to do with those truths, but at least we can begin to accept them."

My only advice in filming was: Don't turn away the camera. I think it's quite applicable to writing as well.

It's as if allowing the world to express itself might yield something. Or to put it this way: Something that has always existed might become clear to us as humans. And that prospect is what fills and empties my fountain-pen, my mind, my spirit.

Higgins
08-11-2008, 04:41 PM
While psychologists and mediators might argue that the toaster argument is 'really' about the couple's relationship, as a writer I take a broader view: the argument is about all the things that both parties agree it's about. If both parties agree that it's a concern, then it's a concern.

Writers like Harold Pinter and Ian McEwan excel in getting layers to conflict. One could consider this writing atheistic in the sense that there's no reconciliation between the layers; no moral cohesion to be found; no binding ideology. We're left pondering the issues at each level, what they reveal about the characters as a whole, and perhaps with some appreciation for human resilience -- and equally, disgust at our lack of integrity.

To my mind, the benefit of such writing is not just that it's 'worldly', but that it's naturalistic. When the stories are written by a keen, unflinching observer we're confronted with suppressed truths of ourselves. We may have no idea what to do with those truths, but at least we can begin to accept them.


I would think that being fully invested in this world might encourage writing about the complexity of material reality--of which human relationships are surely a wonderful example.





"When the stories are written by a keen, unflinching observer we're confronted with suppressed truths of ourselves. We may have no idea what to do with those truths, but at least we can begin to accept them."

My only advice in filming was: Don't turn away the camera. I think it's quite applicable to writing as well.

It's as if allowing the world to express itself might yield something. Or to put it this way: Something that has always existed might become clear to us as humans. And that prospect is what fills and empties my fountain-pen, my mind, my spirit.

Hmmm...and yet part of the tension that one wants to get at in writing has to do with the continual human attempt to re-write reality so that it doesn't offer quite so much otherness (a kinder, gentler aspect of what Freud calls the death drive, the drive to reach stasis or equilibrium).
So...the toaster...the couple argues about it, but perhaps at that point they wish they could avoid the whole thing. Live on a beautiful island full of hilarious re-enacted natives. Since I write sci-fi, I'm kind of on the side of people who want to invent an easier-to-escape reality...without toasters or wives and yet the only worthwhile lessons of sci-fi have to do with getting back to this one world we know something about.
So escape to another world is really about how to get home and home is really about inventing another world and calling it home.