Thursday, July 31, 2014

taking apart the Changeling

What did I do today? Well, I rewrote a dozen or so paragraphs from the Changeling--a novel by Joy Williams. That took up most of my morning into the early afternoon.

Why? Because it destroyed me last week is why. I read it in one sitting. Five hours it took me and I couldn't put it down. (I'M NOT BRAGGING. It's not that thick.) And for an hour after I was through, it felt as though I'd been involved in a physically/emotionally violent incident. Fresh complexes hello! I couldn't walk right. I couldn't talk right.

What I really wanted to do was talk about it. But didn't have anyone to talk to. Which is usually the case when it comes to things like this. The looks I get when I want to talk about a book! God. Like I should get over myself. There's no one I know who's read it anyway. I mean I know a couple people who mean to--who've had the book on their shelves for years! But good luck with that. Good luck with the Magic Mountain and the Goldfinch and Infinite Jest. Tell me about it over tea sometime.

Why did I rewrite the paragraphs? To see what it must've felt like to write them of course. Although I realized, like immediately, that these things can hardly be a straight shoot. The paragraphs in the Changeling are heavily manicured. A no brainer, yes. But seeing that taught me something, too. That overwriting is a key; as well as a constant repositioning of things... That the editing process is where actual craft is born--extracted like gems in a cave... That the whittling and chiseling is the refining of raw elements aka 'the purge'. Optimum cohesion equals obsession. Like what's the joy of driving a nice car if the interior's cluttered with dust and a million gum wrappers? Redundancies...

Even the most organized's like the ice block before it gets hacked into a swan, or better yet-- an ice skating Yeti couple mid-fling and snatch. A hairy visual indeed! And a cold one! Brrrr. It's similar to a fetus finding its features in the womb. Raw potential being culled from the bones and blood of its mother. All guided by a blueprint. A seed. A technique that furls alive through phases. Enough with the metaphors! Okay, okay. (I didn't ask you to come here ya know.)

I'm pasting an example of today's efforts below. To show that I'm not just full of ass talk:

    “I wish I was pretty, “ Franny lamented, yanking at the flowers in a careless way.
    “It is not for human beings to be pretty, Franny,” Thomas said. “We have language and intelligence, which has to be enough. We must leave the prettiness to the animals.”
    Timmy pounced at a lizard near Lincoln's foot, jarring the table.
    “In one of the Greek accounts of creation,” Thomas went on, “the god Epimetheus was given the responsibility for distributing the ingredients of biological creation among all the creatures. He lavished everything upon the wild animals, beautiful fur and feathers, gracefulness and form, strength and agility. By the time he came to man, he had run out of desirable characteristics. Man was left with just weakness and ugliness. It was his brother Prometheus who gave man dominance to keep him from shame.”
    “I don't mind being ugly,” said Tracker, “but I won't be weak.” (187) – (here we go again with the historical wisdom incorporated into a character's knowledge-base which produces the effect of making the character likable by making the character smart/educated, applying learned knowledge into a conversation and also setting a precedent, moving narration along with a story of doom and creation as a parallel to amplify things to come with the shape-shifting mystery of the children. There's also the timeless commentary regarding humans in general. None of this appears to be diatribe. It's tucked within the character's voice.)

The commentary that follows in bold is mine. The take. The idea is to absorb without imitation (which IS flattering, yes but, no) so I write everything down: the paragraphs, my thoughts, and then try forget about it. I mean it's the direct equivalent of doing calculus for fun. I realize that. 

I'm going to take a shower now and join the party known as being alive and healthy in America. If anyone reads his beside me then hello! Welcome! And Goodbye!

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