The Vivid Experience: Words Approximate
The anemone of the human brain
Combs through a sea of mind:
The skull as porous as a sponge
To soak ideas from passing tides
The syllables of words or shapes…
Or music scored on silent stave
The needle placed upon the groove
Replays, whenever brain is tuned
To Beethoven’s vibration.
Reality and Perception
The ‘Sea of Mind’ Metaphysical Connections.
The impulse to re-focus this blog emerged from reading a book snatched at a Morrison’s checkout- not the sort of book I normally choose, and because it was a present had to be consumed at speed. The book was David Nicholl’s ‘US’, built like an American sandwich, simple ingredients, carefully layered. A deceptively breezy and sometimes deliciously droll account of the ending of a marriage while doing a ‘European Grand Tour’ to educate a bolshy and unsanitary son before he flew the nest (and hopefully patch-plaster the widening cracks).
Superficially light hearted and self deprecating, the profundity lies between the lines. We start to bear witness to the reluctant understanding of the aggrieved and desperate father, Douglas, whose certainty in his moral and practical virtues (and his perplexity that they are never appreciated) becomes the pedantry and dullness his wife longs to escape and his son runs away from at the first opportune excuse.
That led me to this emphasis on perception. All his intentions were laudable, all his stratagems for the sake of his family loving and appropriate. That was what his wife and son could not stand. They were imprisoned by his good intentions, foresight, and all that safety. They wanted to be allowed their chaos, and ill-discipline, wanted to wing it, but he followed maps and itineraries, saving them from themselves. I feel that saving us from ourselves is omnipresent in so many writing guides, programmes, checklists. There may be safety in numbers, but I’m not sure whether there are numbers in safety.
What was important was not what he did, but how it was perceived. There was no bridging this divide, not even atypical heroism on his part. This very funny book was ultimately tragic. No reality changed their perception, once lodged.
Perceptions about Writing.
You can see where I am going with this? The timing of this book chimed with my own necessity to re-think my frustrations. The world of writers and writing is all about perception. Anything that stretches the boundaries beyond the perceived limits (appropriate genres, plausible characters, believable predicaments, even outré sci-fi constructions) are deemed not merely un-commercial but somehow illegitimate, and if too bold, reprehensible. The experiences which might demand new languages, (in my case newly termed by a new reader ‘symphonic prose‘ to escape the perception of po-e-try as ‘difficult’ ‘obscure’, or just hard going- when in fact it makes the story of Western Scientific thought easier), and which could help break down those limited categorisations are fiercely resisted. Considered pretentious, called excessive.
Like all modern minimalism what is de rigeur must be understated, yet write the History of Science in poetry and minimalism is no longer applauded. It seems we occupy those Victorian strip gardens, in which only one unorthodoxy is permitted to visit the out-house at a time, but all button up before coming out. (Perhaps in this unstructured world we feel safer behind bars? Even self imposed ones.)
Self publishing accepts the Challenge- to be as good as the ‘Others.’
Even self published writers who, for the present, strive for recognition by conforming to emphatic exhortation, work within the accepted parameters. They push past the gatekeepers (the traditional publishing strait jackets) but mostly with perfectly edited, professionally covered books to prove the gatekeepers blinkered or myopic. Not fundamentally wrong. The numerous advisers on how to write novels, draft dialogue, plot plots, end chapters with requisite hooks, are basing those injunctions on the standards applied by those they seek to trump. Know your market, establish your platform, work the algorithms are all ways to compete along the known pathways.
When I began, knowing nothing ( I still know very little), I took courses in how to pitch, how to frame a synopsis, how to hook in a bio, and the more of it I did, the more I realised that nothing I wanted to write about would fit any of the assumptions, or answer any of the questions. Precisely because my experiences that underpinned writing were all out of the box too. Way out. An accidental (but unrepentant) square peg. But truth must always be stranger than fiction, so keep truth out.
Not Wrong, but Not Enough.
I am not suggesting these advisers are wrong. They give generously of their knowledge. Those things work. MacDonalds sell a lot of hamburgers too. What I am hoping to do is to question the perceptions that make those established procedures the only acceptable ones. Like Douglas in ‘US’ I have my own rigidity, mainly aesthetic and relating to language itself. I too find adverbs in excess irritating. I also find the implausible remark out of context, or heavy duty exposition as though I cannot be trusted to make connections, enough to abandon. As I would any pub bore by making my excuses. But I read an author whose books are far from copy perfect, have occasional errors, but are riveting in terms of ideas and judging by the five stars he gets on a daily basis many others read him with devotion and pleasure.
He does not need to care. Or simply chooses not to care. I hope one day to achieve his sanguinity; I will never achieve his prolific output. His ideas are far ahead of those prevailing, yet revealed through fictional situations and sympathetic characters. He breaks all the rules about dialogue; introduces philosophy and at some length; writes in multifarious genres, including essays; sails close to sermons and laughs at convention and himself. I suspect he is not a joiner of groups and has not researched his ‘likely readership’ or where they ‘hang out’, or written a pitch perfect letter. I am sure he knows exactly how far out to swim, and still keep a toe hold on a reader’s expectations. I envy his debonair savoir faire. His books will never be blockbusters ( they are too challenging) but alone he is proving the conform police over prescriptive. Most of the books I admire and some I choose to review are of this nature:original, far out, demanding.
I believe in collective creation. What we adhere to becomes stronger: What we cease to respect will incrementally dissolve. Together we can really change the circus; alone we’ll die unknown and un-mourned.
Adventures usually begin by destroying barriers. Mostly those in the mind. I would like to find other writers who feel the same and together we may locate readers who value beasts who push through hedgerows rather than gates. I hope that interviews with a few brave pioneers will illuminate the wires they want to cut, the palisades they’d like to scale. And, if appropriate, how they have? Next post I will attempt to defend the use of symphonic prose, or argue its legitimacy.
If you want to be interviewed for a guest appearance and say what you never have elsewhere, (away from the peril of consequences) feel free to subscribe to this blog or email me (address provided on the right). I can write you an interview or host a let rip, providing it is civil to people. About ideas, and indignations I am open to anything. I have been told I do not exist, ( no footprints in the web sand) so like Harry with his invisibility cloak I have new freedoms. I intend to enjoy them, keep writing, and hope for company.