n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Day Fever

So, after the long wallowing rant post- last class, I am still alive and well... pretty clear on the same old fact that much of my panic & anxiety and career angst has to do with feeling insecure about the future without someone's shoulder to lean on. Something about shoulders that put life into perspective... ah, Bville, I may soon turn away from your bony limbs... such good family, such beautiful shores, so many neat people, so very few friends.


Anyhow, a question out of curiosity: Have you ever done something that was extremely generous or difficult, and the person you did this for never knew you did it, or if they did, never knew how difficult/costly the act was for you? If yes: Why did you do it? & Why didn't you tell them?


I returned to a book on the shelf today; don't know why - I have plenty of books I've never read that are waiting around, without having to return to old books. Except in this case, it was a collection of Russian literature written during Gorbachov's days, and within it is a short story that touched me when I first read it at 18, and - as I remember it - changed the way I approached writing.

Although I stopped thinking about the story so much after a bit, I do remember consciously trying to emulate the style of narrative in my first writing courses - never with much success or encouragement (from that god-awful teacher, Rick - no wonder). 'Course, I didn't find out until my narrative design class in grad school that the style falls under the category "modular" and is very effective for undermining chronological time and a stable sense of reality--two of the three characteristics I most admired about the style of "Left Behind" when I first read it. The third characteristics being the sense of connection between different characters and themes... the ability to run different stories separately and have them come together to make an idea more resonant, more powerful than any one person's story could be alone. Course, it's hard to write well, and for me has led to an erosion of the ability to write sequentially even when I want to, but you know... whatever.

Anyhow, I thought I ought to read the short story again, and am not feeling well today, so curled up on my bed with some vitamins, water, and the old book. Upon opening the book, an old pressed yellow rose fell out of the pages... I try to remember from where, or why I put it there, but only have a vague memory of deciding to do so, but not why.

Upon re-reading, I still see why "Left Behind" seemed so powerful, but I'm rather startled: it is a story about intense love, solitude, growing old, and writing... but I remembered it as a story about fantasy and family. I guess it's about all of those, but I read it completely differently this time (now that I'm almost 15 years older). Aside from the rather stark/simple language (always a possibility that this is due to the translation), which I also don't remember, Makanin's story prods at the pain of being broken up with, and of people drifting apart--never, ever to come together. And it's about the psychological turnings of loneliness (masked in such metaphors as being left behind, violence, convolute conversations, prospecting) and intimacy (spoken overtly of in the story as compassion, empathy, love, silence). It's fairly bleak at the same time as having some beautiful passages that give one the overall feeling that the only intimacy humanity actually has access to is the common experience of falling behind, and falling away. I'd say the story's pretty unrelenting too - in true Russian fashion, no happy ending.

I thought I'd put up some of my favorite parts:
I was astounded: I was convinced that Lera was fragile, tender, gentle, and shy in conversation--that's how I knew and saw her--it turns out, however, that with all that, she was also independent. (Glasnost 208)

And when, perhaps out of professional habit, I attempt an analysis, a belated and not completely reliable reevaluation of my transformed relationship with Lera, I also remember (painfully! and sharply!) above all else how my own words turned against me. I remember, I think, searching not for the meaning--what's the use of that meaning now--but for the feeling of those days, although why do I need that feeling, anyway? What's the use, if the lesson is unnecessary and the relived feeling does nothing but tantalize and beckon with its marvelousness when I try to capture not so much that time, which is already past, as my failure to keep up with that time. I don't love Lera, Vasily, and myself as we were then (although I do love all three of them) , as much as I love that time which I have left behind. (Glasnost 237)

The novel was drawing to an end, the last pages were being written. At night I'd leave the dorm--I couldn't sleep. I'd roam the lane of young poplars (now they're monstrous spires, piercing the sky and intolerably clogging the highway and the entire surrounding area with their white down); I'd walk, tired and overwhelmed, and have mental conversations with Lera; I complained, reproached her for her unfaithfulness, and at the same time told her that it was she, she who gave me the strength to write my novel, because I saw my mountains, my No Name and my wild rose bushes in a new light, because only now had I discovered what I'd loved. I'd talk to her, tell her how my novel was gradually being written, how a youth who "heard" chased after a gold prospectors' artel from one mountain to the next, and Lera would answer me, that Lera of old, would answer: "Yes, my dear, yes, yes." (Glasnost 253)

I was at an age when you burn novels or tear them up right on the street, but it was hard to tear up: either my hands got suddenly weak or the paper was resistant, so I just threw it away. (Glasnost 253)

But I was truly deaf, at times I couldn't see or hear. And it hurt. And I felt that it would be easier to submit to life, see its distorted features, illness, or even death, than to see this transformation. Her toughness and rudeness seemed inexplicable. I was silent and just grew numb, I felt sudden stabs of pain in my chest and heart; I felt so much pity for her and experienced a constant sensation of losing her, losing her. (Glasnost 258)

But still, something in me bent this way and that until it snapped very quietly, like a brittle wire. And somehow I all of a sudden said: "I'm leaving," and began to get packed. They saw me off quietly and kindly, as if I'd asked them. (Glasnost 259-60)

She pronounced her words as before. And, as before, was responsive in her silence. She was with me, which, of course, was the best testimony to the fact that that time was over and she was gone. (Glasnost 263)

Once, having fallen behind, Lyosha and his cousin Kolya saw a wolf on a hill up close. It had a broad chest and strong, unblinking eyes. It stood there, looking. Both boys passed right by him as they crossed the mountain. And somewhat humorously Cousin Kolya kept saying to the wolf: "You're a good dog. You won't hurt us... Good dogs don't hurt little boys." He said "dog," as if he were unaware of who was looking at them from the hill, he said "good dog," deceiving himself, Lyosha, the wolf on the hill, the valley, the rocks around and the clouds. (Glasnost 266)

Yesterday father said: "But I yell at you because I love you!" In the past years I've heard this famous word in a variety of combinations and with all sorts of connotations; however, this word, when said to one's own son in a telephone booth with shattered windows, in a Moscow suburb, in the dark, at three in the morning, then this word still has meaning. (Glasnost 268)
And okay, but I'm still working on a series of pieces about spiders, connection, place, etc... It's coming along. I pretty much know the next series of steps I'm taking. Some of my challenges are how to introduce texture to computer collage (avoid that slick chic vibe), and how to keep my computer from crashing on a 3' x 4' collage of Illustrator drawings and scanned maps, pictures, and photographs. Here is where I'm at on one set:

jk collage work*

And now I'm off to be a productive teacher.
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