Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bon chance, President Obama! Here's hoping!

But you see my dying trial! In an age of three card sharkism, celluloid, animation, videotape, holograms, all kinds of Anansi webs and nets, smoke and mirrors, in other words lie and 'tory raised to de infinite power, the man wants transparency! Barack, dost though know where thou sittest down to sup? Hast thou thy long spoon?

I can’t hold a watching brief where the 44th president is concerned. I have to believe that the fact that 50 million people voted for this man means that a creature, Decent America, evolving by some unearthly grace, has stirred and is struggling to its feet. I must trust that it will get up, must will it up, and even if it’s wobbly at first, hope that it will find firm feet, then walk, and perhaps even in due course, trot along. I’m refusing to be detached, distant, world weary. It's not my style, and it's such a tired pose.

What Americans do, how they and their government behave, materially affects us all. This Earth, which North Americans (Canadians especially) pollute with their abuse of energy resources, is my planet, our planet. This World, which Americans have felt is theirs to mess with as they wish, is my world, our world. And Jah (who has a sense of humour, BTW — how else to explain a man named Hussein being president of the USA at this hour?) occasionally puts his foot down. S/he has just done exactly that.

If you mess where you please, when you want, because you feel like it, eventually you will foul your own backyard. If you are greedy and nyam up everything in sight, then your bowels will be full, and the excrement you deposit will be (1) trillions of mounds high, (2) stink to heaven and (3) require a large number of backs and buckets to move it. I will resist obvious remarks about who have been history’s hewers of wood, drawers of water and movers of night soil. What's the point at this point? As Obama says, Americans had all better “pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start remaking America”. Much the same applies to the rest of the world!

The Toronto Star published a feature about Barack Obama when he was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990. Read it and you’ll see that he isn’t a product of the last three years, a media artifact, a 'spun' fiction. Who he is now is pretty much who he was then. I find that encouraging. Cool is not something he learned last year. Nor is entertaining other people's opinions, especially those that diverge from his. There is, after all, very little point in ideology that works our undoing. We don't need the help of ideology – we're managing our undoing quite well otherwise!

I cannot think what madness has possessed this man to want to do this thing, for the job of President of the USA is not one anybody in their right mind should want at this moment. Let it be said, though, that God is good, and makes provision. History, blood, sunsum, intellect, temperament and character (for they are different) and broughtupcy have uniquely equipped Obama. He says ‘Thank you’ constantly; he and Michelle applaud other people all the time.

And he uses "we" a lot, so when he says "I," you listen up.

So here's to all of us. Here’s to good will. Here’s hoping! Perhaps we should all pause at midday, or midnight, or just every now and then, and wish Barack Obama and his administration well, wish one another well, wish all earthlings well, and bless the planet itself. It wouldn’t hurt and it might just make a difference. Selah!

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 " 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!