#DailyPrompt: Buyers, Beware?

Dora Maar, Double Portrait, 1930I saw her eyes probing the object, a black square with no apparent feature. Behind the long eyelashes the green globes turned to me:

– “And may I ask what the content of this thing might be, if any?”

– “I cannot be absolutely sure… You see, like so many, I died in 2084, a while back…” smiling at the very beautiful young goddess in front of me… “and I lost track of all this. But what I can tell you is what it contained back then, before the fall…”

Hesitantly she said, as I remained silent: “and so… what was it, if this is not intruding?”

“Not at all, this old technology held millions of pictures, everything I could catch, wherever I went, in the days I could still roam this world… Pictures of people, trees, buildings, animals, objects…”

– “This must be worth a fortune… How can I be sure that those pictures are still there though?”

– “Well, this might be pricey, you see no-one is left today who really understands how this sort of thing works. I’d need to search for other items, cables, power boxes, that sort of thing…”

But I knew this was meaningless to her. The amazons had only very primitive technology, and their main weapons were all psychic. Still she was so attractive, for an old fleshless ghost like me.

– “I’ll tell you what. I propose a deal: I get this working and open the content for you, if you allow me in your village. How does that sound?”

I could see she hesitated, deep in thoughts. Of course she would have to consult with her coven. But I had plenty of time.

After a few hours of silence, she finally said: “We have a deal, I had to take responsibility for you… Will you find the other things you need?”

– “Sure,” I replied, “in my days I would have climbed mountains for you…”

Image: Dora Maar, Double Portrait, 1930

In a deep well, reflections on reading Haruki Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-up Bird ChronicleIt is a rare writer who can combine the spectra of recent history in its full horror, the dreams of love, and the mysteries of the soul. So is Monsieur Murakami.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle was published in Japan in 1995, and once again, I regretted my inability to read the novel in the writer’s language. Yet Jay Rubin’s translation is a wonder on its own right. This was perhaps, for this reader, the most difficult Murakami’s novel so far, considerably harder reading than 1Q84 or, my all-time favourite, Kafka on the Shore. Kafka’s influence, among many others, is there, for the central character, Toru Okada, has to endure a metamorphosis of his own, once the house cat disappears, shortly followed by mysterious and fragile Kumiko, Toru’s wife.

However I won’t spoil this read for my followers, those who haven’t yet read this extraordinary work. The story is rooted in the memories of the atrocious war fought on the periphery of the Asian continent, in the country Imperial Japan named Manchukuo. There the Japanese army faced the might of the Soviet Union, from the late thirties, before the war extended to the whole of Asia and Europe.

Perhaps uniquely in its descriptions, the Wind-up Bird Chronicle is pitiless in plunging the reader in the depth of man’s inhumanity to man, and nature. Toru, surrounded by strange women who may not all be human, just about survives the metamorphosis imposed on him, through the grace of friendship, and the skills of his protector, unforgettable Nutmeg. The truth, factual or not, is to be found at the bottom of the well.

In the strange loops that link the characters, across time and spaces, humble objects such a red vinyl hat, or a baseball hat, there resides the mystery of the human soul. And a small cat’s tail…

 

On page turning #amwriting #amediting

LoveEvery writer reaches this point, I expect, sooner or later, when a decision has to be taken: continue the story, or close it, refine it, not just through careful editing, but perhaps rewriting too.

After forty odd thousand words the story has its own momentum, and the characters their own agenda. Once one reaches the 100k, changing direction is like navigating the proverbial tanker! What interests me is the dynamics between author-story-characters as the work progresses. In this case the story is anchored on the City, and the characters’s ballet is centred on the City. One could say that the City is one of the characters, not a mere backdrop for the story. The City influences the (other) characters, some more deeply than others. In short, there is the trio of people who make up the current narrative, the City (and its siblings) and the author. Who best controls the story? Who is best placed to decide the future?

There may be a conflict of interests. The characters want to continue with their lives, and don’t give a damn about polishing or refining, or, for that matter, publishing! Since the City is more real than the story, it sees itself, should I say herself? – as the arbitrator. The author, of course, wishes to see a finished product. But the author also depends on the characters for inspiration, and on the City for belief. The City hosts the story, and protects the author against the inevitable drift and diversions. In one sense the book can only come to life, be born, in the City.

There are many ways to close the story. Killing one or more characters is one way. Getting the plot(s) to an unexpected ending is another. Needless to say the former is not popular with characters. Nor is the latter, since it means the end of their hopes and perhaps lives, in another way, just as final as death. There the characters and the City have a common cause.

I expect the author will have to work at two levels, and one of them is to continue with the story! The other being the boring stuff made of editing, and taking out, and rewriting, and… Stuff that!

To conclude: I suspect the author to be too much involved, and enjoying herself, with her characters to attempt anything final

Daily Prompt: Groupthink

Write a post that includes dialogue between two people — other than you. (For more of a challenge, try three or more people.)

Aliens They stay silent for a while, then Elga says:

“He’s observed well, but his memory is failing. I doubt that he will write much more about his experience…”

“I would not be so sure,” Gabrielle replies, “Besides, he’s not on his own.”

“Do you mean, Sarah, his wife?”

Gabrielle pauses, as if recalling some distant event:

“Of course, but there is also my protégée… That young woman has not finished with her old flame yet.”

“Do you think she would push him to write on what he already has difficulties in remembering?”

“This could be one reason. But I expect what he may not remember, she will, and what he may then write, would be her version of the story. Possibly that we would not chose to publicise…”

Elga looks up at her friend,

“But surely you have so much influence on that girl, she would follow you on this?”

“Ah,” replies Gabrielle with a sigh, “Sarah may be convinced that her husband is deluded, in a mild and inoffensive way, but Melissa, she knows the truth, she knows where he went, what he saw, what he was told…”

“And you think she would take his side, as it were?”

Gabrielle gathers her thoughts. They are, after all, conversing in a language which is still alien to both of them. After a few minutes:

“She’s independent now, what the encounter with Julian has created, is a new outlook on life for her: she thinks for herself.”

“And she may not be that sympathetic to our views,” adds Elga with a rare gesture of annoyance.

“I think we may have to be a bit careful, from now on, with Miss Baudoin.”

#WritersBlog ~ Feeling guilty, me?

“Les tenants de l’apparence restent fidèles à l’imitation. Ceux qui recherchent une réalité cachée derrière l’apparence définissent une doctrine de l’invention, de la création.”

Jean-Yves Tadié, Marcel Proust, L’artiste selon Ruskin

(The advocates of appearance stay loyal to imitation. Those who look for some reality behind appearances define a doctrine of invention, of creation.)

Jeunes filles, Marie LaurencinI have heard some dreadful accusations lately, and I wish to affirm that some people, yes people, are rather cheeky. They say, us, narrators, are voyeurs, that we spy on, and even abuse the characters in a novel: how’s that for defamation? What have we done, and specifically, what I have done, to deserve such treatment?

I do not, ever, prey on those characters, however vulnerable, or emotionally unstable, or, as my friend Jo-Anne (herself a delicious narratrice) says, exotic. Rather I try to convey their tragedy, sometimes the ironic side of their lives, as a good narrator should. Sometimes, I admit to a degree of curiosity. Let us read again this observation of Jean-Yves Tadié, the biographer of Marcel Proust, à propos La Prisonnière, perhaps the most poignant chapter of La Recherche:

“Le narrateur prend enfin congé d’Odette: ‘J’aurais voulu la serrer dans mes bras: j’aurais voulu lui dire que je l’aimais… Les larmes m’étranglaient. Je parcourus ce long vestibule, ce jardin délicieux dont le gravier des allées ne devait, hélas! plus jamais grincer sous mes pas.’

Que signifient cette jeune fille à jamais punie par le destin, la maladie incurable, cette distance entre elle et le narrateur, ce sentiment du temps qui a presque tout détruit? Marcel projette-t-il un amour impossible?”

(The narrator finally says farewell to Odette: ‘I would have held her in my arms: I would have told her I loved her… Tears were choking me. I walked down the long corridor, through the delicious garden and paths whose pebbles I would never again tread on.’ What is the meaning of this young woman for ever punished by fate, of the incurable illness, of the distance between her and the narrator, of that feeling of time destroying almost everything? Does Marcel evoke an impossible love?)

Distance indeed. Monsieur Tadié reveals the true position of the narrator in La Recherche: he is Marcel, the young man whose love for Odette is impossible (for reasons I would not comment on in this post). And yet this narrator, a full participant in the story, keeps his distance. You may argue that they are reasons for Marcel, and hence, the narrateur, not to get closer to Odette.

So do I. I admit a feeble sentiment for Melissa (and indeed for Odette too): I think she’s sinned against more than a sinner, and possibly innocent, but I don’t say anything: this is not what her author intends – as far as I can tell… In one word I try and keep away from the plot, from the lives of the characters, I just… well… narrate.

The role of narrator is at time painful: think about it, events unravel, according to the author’s fancy, characters love, suffer, fall ill, maybe even die. And what are we to do? Unless the author decides to get one of his creatures – will they forgive me for saying “creatures”? I somehow doubt it – to tell the tale herself, we have to present the facts to the reader, in the most interesting and honest way. Yes, I know, the case of a narrator also participant, from Marcel to the creations of Monsieur Murakami, is even more complicated. So is life.

Image: courtesy Maries Laurencin at http://films7.com/art/arts/marie-laurencin-jeunes-filles-proust-beaute-desir

Jane, on Respect #writing

Tiny Stories As many writers before me, I have noticed how restless some of my characters can be, from time to time. Then, they seem to resent the narrow jacket of the story, they want more from life, or, maybe, they just want to assert themselves, as independent beings, as their own persons, freed for a while from the authority of their creator.

Take Jane, for instance, Julian’s young sister. She can be very critical of the way she’s being portrayed, how her personality is stifled by “the plot”. And, of course, who am I to judge? Like parents, authors can create, but their creation is not always in agreement with their parents’ vision and aspiration. There may be rumbles in the jungle of the little people.

So, I thought I would at least attempt to give them a forum, outside of my own imagination, a place where they can express themselves the way they want, as opposed to be dictated a “role”. Whether this can be successful, for them as well as for me, will be up to their ultimate judgement.

Today, it is Jane’s turn.

“Little people”, this says it all: this is the way Honoré sees us, his creations, not as beings worthy of his respect and care, but as puppets at his disposal to move around the checkerboard of his silly stories.

Take me, for example. I am supposed to be a glamorous fashion model. What a joke! My role in his novel is one of support to his main character, my brother, the illustrious Julian. I am supposed to admire my brother, worse, to worship him, perhaps even lust for him in secret. Of course H makes me also a sometime lover of the wife, gorgeous Sarah. I am really H’s “bonne à tout faire”, literally. About my feelings, about the person I want to become, I have become, he says nothing at all.

What I am really doing in life, and why I am doing it, his readers cannot have a clue. They hear that I jet set around the place, strut my stuff on catwalks, and generally be admired, when I am not bedded by a variety of vague characters such as Julian’s ghost girlfriend, Melissa. Readers don’t know who I am really, how could they? For H, I am part of the background, popping in when he is short of ideas for the next scene. 

Can you imagine how uncomfortable it is for me to be “owned”, as it were, by such a tyrant? H is someone who can do with me what he wants, apparently. He sends me to funny places on errands for Julian. He has me participating to threesomes with some aliens from another galaxy. What is a girl to do? But there is worse.

What he writes about me is bad enough, but you should see (read?) but he does not say. Those fantasies are not all healthy, and I wish he would take some distance from his subjects, once in a while, allow us some privacy. He can explore my mind at will, or at least, he gives himself that privilege. Suddenly I feel different, distorted, as if my inner self has been modified, tampered with. Of course I resist, I want to be myself, not someone else’s puppet. A girl has her dignity, private corners of her own mind, her own thoughts and dreams. H trampled on all this, like the proverbial thugs crushing the porcelain of the Winter Palace.

I am not really “glamorous”, but unsure of myself. To tell the truth I am still searching for the real Jane, the one inside. My brother is a younger version of you-know-who, just as brutish at times. Yes I used to have something of a tender feeling for him, isn’t this usual, towards an older handsome brother? But I have my own life, not linked to his. As for Sarah, she’s a good friend, nothing more. I am not of that sort. I love men, and they love me. Thinking about it it, may be that is what makes H not so confident about me. He can be of a jealous type, the sort that would deny a woman her freedom of mind: the sort who think they know best…

Do you think I am complaining too much? Do you think characters have to allow their genitor some rights to manipulate their lives? Of course, this is creative license, up to a point. But what I ask for is some respect, for me, as a person, through his words, in his attitude toward me, and toward the others. Respect in the way I am being cast, or placed in situations that, myself, given a choice, I would not tolerate. In one word: I am no toy of his, and I want him to know.

Daily Prompt: Personal Space

To what extent is your blog a place for your own self-expression and creativity vs. a site designed to attract readers? How do you balance that? If sticking to certain topics and types of posts meant your readership would triple, would you do it?

Peace and Quiet It’s my space. Here I write on subjects that interest me, whatever they are. My only concession to readers is to have separated the blog into several, to accomodate specific interests, such as photography, erotica, travel, French language, and my novel. I welcome visitors and comments, but at the end of the day I write – here and anywhere – for my pleasure, and that of close friends. It’s a very egotistic hobby. I like to reread a good post, and, of course I appreciate a favourable comment – but I don’t seek those, let alone design the blog for it.

I don’t give a X for statistics of any sort generally, being a (still) good mathematician. I daresay the same applies to the novel’s readership, trotting on at its own pace. Life is too short for accounting! But I do appreciate meeting people with similar interests, when it’s genuine…

#WritersWednesdays: expectations, #amwriting

Act! Do we write to redesign all those actions that led to places we did not expect? Is our imagination of way of travelling back, and have our characters do what we did not dare? Looking at this the other way, from the viewpoint of the characters we create, what are their expectations, of us, of themselves? Are they constrained by our expectations, or are we by theirs? Should we as writers, write without expectation?

Those musings are a mere distraction from the serious business of… writing. I’d like to hear your views, dear followers…

Georges Polti