Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day, A Great Day...

A great day, this, to be back online, and a new day, hopefully, for American politics. I'm wishing that the Force be with Barack Obama, 44th President of the USA, whose inauguration day it is. He's going to need a seriously Superior Force in the days ahead, not a fighting force, but a moral force – a committed, courageous, bold and decent force of men and women of good will. A sober inaugural speech, and the hallmark Obama graciousness on the part of him, Michelle and his daughters. Such a treat to look at a presidential family of real people (not dumb people, Sarah, real people!), whose faces occasionally show tiredness, who touch each other and other people in a natural way, whose children are confident and self aware but not cocky or rude. And Joe Biden and his wife and family cut of the same jib, smiling real smiles, looking truly rejoiced. I'm celebrating with our neighbours to the South, and struggling not to entertain a Nunc dimittis feeling... Such a pleasure, too, to see so many black people, indeed to see the faces of so many races on the screen. Where were they all this time, I wonder? I have to confess that Rev. Lowery has found himself a fan! Worn pebbles of cliché transform in his mouth to pearls of great price! He prayed for an America in which "...black won't have to stand back, brown can stick around, yellow will be mellow, the red man can get ahead man, and white will choose right..." Got away with that, I tell you! And a final signifying on that lovely verse in Micah: "Let those who do justice and love kindness say 'Amen'!" And the people said a resounding amen. Maybe we finally have something with which to face the mageddons that assail us.

I've been away working on a play, among other things. EL NUMERO UNO OR THE PIG FROM LOPINOT had a great 3-day workshop at the Lorraine Kimsa Young People's Theatre in Toronto last week. Amazing actors, a wonderful director in ahdri zina mandiela, a stalwart, indulgent dramaturg in Stephen Colella, and great support all round. Allen MacInnes runs such a fine establishment. Thanks so much, señors y señoras. Go visit LKYPT soon! And I promise to keep you updated on progess with UNO, and maybe post a scene or two.

Also been revising my novel, CIPHER, or perhaps WRITING HOME. More on that in due course too. Put the revision one side because I got snared by a discussion started by Nalo Hopkinson on Facebook, about reverie and the advisibality of its use in fiction. I read all the posts in a pretty long discussion and am standing in my shoes and wondering.

So what's reverie?

The reverie is the moment when the protagonist (or on occasion another character) meditates on his own character, usually in terms of a flashback, to achieve a "profound dialogic and polemical nature of self-awareness and self affirmation" (Bakhtin). ... What should already be known to us, the context of the world, is delivered as memory, and more specifically, as story. ... Reverie and self-contemplation, far from creating depth, break the sense of immersion in a society, and are fundamentally antithetical to either character development or an immersive structure. It is a false mimesis that reminds us that we are in a narrated text and that
the protagonist's version must be true." Dr. Farah Mendlesohn in THE RHETORICS OF FANTASY.

Them's fighting words to a poet, being as poetry must have that essential, "recollection in tranquillity", ergo reverie, element. But maybe that's poetry, and so, different. Let's try to infer, working with the quote we have: our critic says that reverie is a "false mimesis", for it reminds us we are in a narrated text. That means, I guess, that it interrupts our suspension of disbelief. So a true mimesis is a text in which reverie is omitted, our credence is uninterrupted and we remain immersed? I'd have thought that reverie, as dream, or self-reflection, or merely mulling over things, is what makes us homo sapiens and if we are faithfully reported, we must indulge in reverie. After all, homo ludens needs to take a break from just doing fun stuff or tragic stuff or war stuff! Nor does the protagonist's version in a reverie necessarily have to be true. Surely you can write it slant, so the character can be undone by his own reverie? And there have been texts in which several protagonists explore the same events in reverie, and what is described acquires depth and density just so. But it is a useful matter to think about. Might it be an issue of writing reverie well, a matter of craft? Does this dictum apply to the fantasy genre alone, and preclude other fiction? Do the discourse devices of the linguistic code have any bearing? Suppose the language of the text is uninflected for the past, would that make a difference? What of the proposition that all literature is reverie?

Your thoughts welcome, bredren and sistren. Blessings and peace and warmth and plenty be upon you in 2009!


Ruthibelle said...

Wow. So much knowledge here.

First of all, happy (post-)inauguration. We all stand in awe, and wait and watch to see what only time can tell us.

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

Pam.... well, you know how I feel about Obama's election.

About the reverie thing. The criticism almost sound like the Gardner guideline about a "vivid and continuous dream" with which I agree.

As long as the reverie advances the plot and is done well, I don't see why anyone would find it objectionable. But, you know, there are always those that even if you give them ice cream, they will complain that it is cold and sweet.

Nalo said...

Pam, Geoffrey; bear in mind that Farah is talking specifically about the genre of fantasy fiction, not about poetry. In fiction, there are usually much better ways to advance the plot, even using the characters' memories and self-reflection.

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

Nalo, I hear you. The reading of fantasy fiction, however, is no different from reading fiction in any genre and some of the same rules apply: plausibilty etc.
Also as you said on Facebook: "Or to tell it slant: "A whifflebird flew... " and "So often you end up saying, "Don't do x, unless it works."
What works is craft and intelligence.

If you don't break the reading experience: this is how you perceive the character in that moment, AND you can pull it off, then do it.

Otherwise, as Gaiman notes wisely, "leave it out."

clarabella said...

Hi Ruthibelle! Happy 2009! Happy post-Obama era! Blessings and high hopes for peace and plenty on the planet! 1Love.

clarabella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clarabella said...

Hi Geoffrey, Nalo! Howdy and I hope you are both warm and well. These are heartfelt hopes, from one who now, especially after the 24-hour blackout, deeply appreciates warmth and wellness. My position is, as people in the long discussion said, Nalo herself included, and like you say, Geoff, that you can do almost anything that's well done and therefore works. Nalo, I wasn't thinking about poetry (it could hardly apply there, bar storypoems) except insofar as it is an imaginative construct, like short and long fiction and indeed all literature, and reverie is therefore at its root. (I am tempted to make the case for language as reverie too, but won't go there now...) Farah seemed to be eschewing all recollection-in- tranquility: I read and reread the excerpt several times. I wondered whether she was talking about the fantasy genre only, and suspected so, but, as Geoff says, good rules often carry across from genre to genre. Nalo excludes characters' self-reflection and memories from reverie; Farah included them, or so it seemed to me, and I make copious use of both in CIPHER. I also found myself thinking that codes like creoles, which have very rootsy discourse strategies and are uninflected for the past, can transition from self-reflection to reverie to recollection in a fluid way, such as not to mark them as discrete... But it was a good exchange Nalo, so thanks very much.