Alright, keep your trousers on... I apologize for the hiatus, but this post isn't long, neither will there be many upcoming posts after this one either.
That being said, I promise, I haven't forgotten this blog! It won't let me. Occasionally it sits down next to me at my desk, taps me on the shoulder, wondering where I've gone and why I never touch it any more. And I proceed to punch it in the face for its audacity.
So far this year this school year, I've been writing in my journal, on my comparative religions project, close to a poem a week, a short story every two weeks, a bi-weekly column for the EOU campus newspaper The Voice, and, in my scarce free time, much-needed hand-written letters to friends.
I've also been helping with Cornerstone, planning service projects and Ars Poetica readings, doing the final edit on my senior film, exercising for an hour a day, reading my bible for 30 minutes, and about another book-per-week.
And school. Did I mention school?
So inquisitive readers, and my small blog sitting on the rocking chair, gazing at me with lovelorn eyes, I haven't forgotten you. Someday we'll be together again. Until then, I'm with my other lovers. Yeah. Sorry.
P.S. Did I mention I bought a portable typewriter? She's sexy and austere, everything I like in a woman. You think I'm kidding...
Tale of Two Cities in Hawaii08/22/2013
Hawaii is fecund. Fecund and variegated. Hawaii's adjectives. Freaking fecund.
Vivaciously variegated. Yup. All those green and red overlapping leaves--broad
and veined--forking off small, snaking branches, spread into overhead canopies,
coalescing into thicker branched stalks, arcing back into even thicker trunks,
curving down and down to the ground, surrounded by flowers and foilage: green,
raspberry red, periwinkle pink, coral-sea blue. Seriously. Variegated. Crayola
crayon color denominators must live in Hawaii.
A amidst this cornucopia of colors and plant life, a literary cornucopia of
description and language: A Tale of Two Cities.
First off, Charles Dickens is the Stephen Colbert of the 19th century, but far more
poignant, intellectual, and eloquent, hence far more profound. Hence far more
"Yes. It took four men, all four a-blaze with gorgeous decoration, and the Chief
of them unable to exist with fewer than two gold watches in his pocket,
emulative of the noble and chaste fashion set by monseigneur, to conduct the
happy chocolate to Monseigneur's lips... It was impossible for Monseigneur to
dispense with one of these attendants on the chocolate and hold his high place
under the admiring Heavens. Deep would have been the blot upon his escutcheon if
his chocolate had been ignobly waited on by only three men; he must have died of
Hah. Funny. Sarcastic and devastatingly invective to the then-contemporary monarchy
and their decadence.
His sarcastic remarks are raspberries on the side of a forest trail: walk by them
hundreds of times and you may miss them if you're not paying attention, buried
as they are in the foilage. Yet, attentive eyes and and a slow pace will reveal
the tiny bundles of red, and sweet will be their juicy explosions and seeds in
your mouth. Yummy.
His remarks are reminiscent of another well-known literary wit: Shakespeare, in
particular through his character Falstaff. Loquacious, garrulous, and always
profound, both Dickens and Falstaff are proof that humor can be intellectually
satisfying, transcending the well-warn humor so popular to contemporary
comedians,undergraduates, and YouTube: yo' mama jokes and anything to do with
Seriously. Dickens and Falstaff should do standup. Free dictionaries at the door,
compliments of the house. Yeah, yeah. They'd go broke the first night. Artists
and teachers are all in poverty.
So, imagine Charles Dickens were a genie, I, a wish-hungry Arabian, meandering
thrift-stores stroking small brass oil lamps. If I found him (he'd be green, I
just know it), and he gave me one wish, I'd wish he'd rewrite the story with
Madam Defarge appearing earlier in the book. She's the best character thus far!
And he waits until over half-way through the book to bring her (in any
significant manner), with the exception of a few descriptions, hidden, discrete,
small like precious ming vases hidden and inconspicuous on the back shelves of
the thrift stores, into the story! I suppose anticipation heightens the
pleasure, sure. But this treasure, this poised, purposed, devious, brooding
seamstress should be displayed on the central shelf!
"It is a long time," repeated his wife; "and when is it not a long time?
Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule...Tell me how long
it takes to prepare the earthquake?"
"A long time I suppose," said Defarge.
"But when it is ready, it takes place, and grinds to pieces everything before
it. In the meantime, it is always preparing, through it is not seen or heard.
That is your consolation. Keep it."
She tied a knot with flashing eyes, as if it throttled a foe.
Whew. Cold. I think I'd hire a full-time taste tester if I knew this praying mantis
was really crawling the plant-stalks of life.
Particulars aside, more and more as I'm immersed in quality literature and art, films and
poems and stories, worlds and locations, I'm affirmed and affirmed in the
conviction that people matter. Not in the sociological sense, in that
interpersonal relationships are (or should be) life's primary focus. Sure,
everyone knows that. Sort of... But I mean literary people. People that writerly
people create. Story people. In a story characters can't just be characters.
They must be persons, deep, vibrant, and interesting (even if interestingly
boring) if they are to capture a relationally-thirsty audience. To invest in a
story is to begin relationships with the characters, both as a reader and as a
Seriously, in good literature plot is secondary to character. Very boring characters can do very interesting things and fail utterly at literary profundity. And very
interesting characters can do very boring things and still brutally encompass
the human condition. Ingmar Bergman created an entire filmographic career, and a
pretty darn good one at that, by placing fascinating upper-middle-class,
emotionally pent up people in small rural houses and filming them break down and
talk to each other. That's it. No wars, battles, car chases, explosions,
assasinations, nothing. Just conversations. Real conversations. And the result
is fantastic! Seriously. He's the Shakespeare of film. Harry Levin says ****.
Both Shakespeare plays and Bergman films are pungent with it.
Back to the mantis. I can't decide whether if I met Madam Defarge if I'd ask for an
autograph or start checking my break lines before driving:
All the women knitted. They knitted worthless things... As the fingers went, the
eyes went, and the thoughts. And as Madame Defarge moved on from group to group,
all three went quicker and fiercer among every little knot of women that she had
spoken with, and left behind.
Her busband smoked at his door, looking after her with admiration. "A great
woman," said he, "a strong woman, a grand woman, a frightfully grand
Seriously, Mr. Defarge. If you ever have kids, watch it if your wife ever asks you to clean
inside the stove.
Another interesting Dickens thing. Dickens' scene descriptions have multiple layers of description:
The day was very hot, and heaps of flies, who were extending their inquisitive and
adventurous perquisitihons into all the glutinous little glasses near madame,
fell dead at the bottom. Their decease made no impression on the other flies out
promenading, who looked at them in the coolest manner (as if they themselves
were elephants, or something as far removed), until they met the same fate.
Curious to consider how heedless flies are!--perhaps they thought as much at
Court that sunny summer day.
As seen with the initial quote of this post, Dickens' descriptions don't only serve
to describe the thing, but also to comment on it. Often overt and detailed, they
are not necessarily Dickens' own commentary, though sometimes they are, but
sometimes, as in this case, double as character- or ambience-building language
for elements, characters, or groups in the story. The flies in the middle of St.
Antoine's become not only flies in a bar but also a metaphor for the way the
aristocracy views the layman of 18th century France. And we hate the snobs all
the more for it! This is quality description, hand picked elements from Dickens'
mental scenes that are both expert description and narrative character and mood
revelation. And that's one of many reasons why Dickens is a literary jaguar:
every move is precise and purposed. And I heard a rumor he had black fur
covering his entire body. Entire body. Yet, it could just be a rumor...
Enough for today. I'm on the beach and need to roll over, or I'll look like a pizza
cooked too close to the stove floor: black on my back, baby.