Sunday, February 4, 2007

crude wooden hinges

Otto: “Remember those miniature scenes with tiny squirrels and rabbits and crows and badgers -- Wind in the Willows standard assortment variety -- carved by avuncular so-and-so’s as Xmas displays in store windows, or drawn in today’s increasingly virtualized reality as cartoon characters, or, shade of those willows, in fine old books like those of Kenneth Grahame or A.A. Milne, but no matter the fineness of the writing or wood-carving.

"The point is to take a minute and recall, reach down into the bottom debris of the cookie jar, and remember how very very much we, as children, identified with, adored, long to be with, these quaint little creatures, and how gladly we suspended our disbelief in their crude wooden hinges and felt vests and broom straw whiskers.

"Remember the sense of delight in climbing into some wind-up metal airplane of our imagination, strapping ourselves down into the cockpits of our minds, and giving Ratty or Mole the Thumbs Up as we flew off into the vivid blue skies of our own..."

Int: "Yes."

Otto: "THAT’S what a good day of writing should feel like, must feel like, and sometimes does."

Int: "I’m thinking of that story about the rabbits escaping the rabbit farm."

Otto: "Sort of. I mean yes, but, ‘Yes but’. That, being a book for grown-ups, felt it had to -- I see you’re smirking; don’t you believe books have feelings too? Or are those reserved for only their characters as experienced by their readers?"

Int. "Alright. I’ll give you this one."

Otto. "Thank you. On behalf of books everywhere... what was I saying?"

Int: "
Watership Down. Not sure what you were getting after."

Otto: "Oh yes. THAT book was for grown-ups, a children’s book for grown-ups. Its characters were forced by their authorial megalomaniac to deal with grown-up issues -- very grown-up issues. Indeed, grown-up issues too grown up for most grown-ups to handle in real life, or at least real like. They were confronting the placid illusions of their dreadfully exploited lives, and once they’d done that, they had to DO something about it. War. The great escape. The oh so dangerous quest."

Int: "Isn’t that the essential archetype for all good dramatic fiction?"

Otto: "Yes, but only because there is so much damning cruelty in the world, and that cruelty is so damaging to our imaginations. It makes for gripping reading -- books that grip one’s innards like a, a... well. I’m trope-less. Imagine that."

Int: "Imagine that."

Otto: "In real life, oops, I mean, in real writing, one can’t allow that. But since we’re not writing a book but discussing the meaning of fable, we’ll have to let it go and carry on. For now."

Int: "For now."

Otto: "I’m sure something will turn up. Oh, I suppose like some mythological hero chained to some rock while an eagle eats its liver while Our Hero struggles to escape and rescue the damsel in distress. Which is, somewhat digressively, the point. In drama, the reader allows himself to be chained to a writer’s rock -- not block -- and be savaged by some writer’s roc -- R-O-C, no K, the big bird -- because the reader knows he is the damsel in distress: save me from boredom!"

Int. "Well, I’d daresay that’s a bit of an oversimnplification."

Otto: "Yes. Victim of
a passing notion's bias. But, the point is to be entertained, to be entranced somehow. They say a hero is only as interesting as its villain, that a miracle is only as magical as the relative impossibility, but that is only the description of a junkie’s first high fading into the subsequent grey grind of addiction."

Int: "So then, the point really is?"

Otto: "The point is the High. Why does one want to escape the monster? To avoid pain, hideous annihilation. Why does one wish to rescue the damsel? To avoid the pain of knowing she wasn’t saved from pain and hideous annihilation, and what’s more, to save oneself from the pain of knowing YOU didn’t or couldn’t save her, but is avoiding pain ALL we do? Is pleasure merely the absence of pain? Or is it the burble of wonder, of wondrous merriment, of... I sound like W.B.Yeats teaching Sunday school, don’t I."

Int: "If you say so."

Otto: "When one takes codeine, or gains an endorphin rush from a mountain hike, the cessation of pain, of distress, that are endorphins and opiates’ function, is pleasant only insomuch as there was distress or pain beforehand. Worries, tired muscles, aching joints. But there’s another element: the novelty of it all. The first-time heroin-high doesn’t just make everything allll-right; it also fills one with the wonder of feeling alll-right. It’s new.

"Likewise, atop the mountain, the hiker grooves not only on the soothing rlaxation of a rest well-earned and the sudden increased spacing in the ratio of endorphins being pumped and nerves reporting bodily stress. One is suddenly an endorphonic, endorPHEENic, rich man. Feels good. But, there’s that other thing, the amazing vista from the mountain, the view for which one hiked four hours straight to begin with.

"My POINT is that the ultimate aim is not just the resolution of the murder mystery, nor the attainment, or reattainment, of the lover one has yearned for throughout the book, it is the receipt of that which the lover can provide or the solved mystery yields: something new and entrancing, like being a miniature wooden mouse with a wee zeppelin all one’s own and being blown by a mysterious wind over mountains into anew and exciting place.

"Children don’t need the threat of danger, which they scarcely know, to obtain aesthetic bliss. But we adults seem to require grounds in our coffer.

"You might say that my aim as a writer is to obtain higher grounds for better elevation?"
copyright Robin Morrison

The Book That Wrote Itself

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