Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pussaliah, That's It

Ben is currently throwing (imaginary) webs at Rocky a la Spiderman. Now he just informed me that he's webbed my head off. This is what law school does to a person.

In class the other day this chick was all, "Do you care about plot? Or do you just care about language?" And I, deftly realizing that the entire class wanted me to care about plot, said, "Well, I don't want the reader to be like, 'What the fuuuuuuck?!'" But something bothered me about my answer, and it wasn't the stoner speak. The more I thought about it the more I realized that, yes, I do only care about language. That's where my interest begins, that's where my interest ends. I'm obsessed with getting the exact right word, the exact image, and whether or not there's a climax or a denouement means practically nothing to me. Perhaps this is my own selfishness, in that it may seem that I don't care about the reader, but I do, because the reader is always, always, going to be me. (I am ridiculous, I admit this wholeheartedly.)

But the shit of it is that what I go to, what I'm inspired by, are stories with perfectly crafted plots (The Paper Boy, for one). I was utterly annoyed by Laura Mullen's Murmur because I couldn't follow its plot, though its language was quite beautiful. (However, The Stones of Summer is my favorite book, and its joys, for me, are entirely language-driven.) And I'm obsessed by motive and background (this is due both to an early-instilled reverence for cop/investigative shows and my training at Lee Strasberg, I'm sure).

I just hate the idea that I have to direct a piece in a certain way so that the reader leaves with, as the chick in class put it, "a revelation." Why can't the revelation be different for each reader? Isn't that what criticism is, anyway? A writer puts something out and then the readers decide what the writer was going for, what the purpose of the book was. Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle about the plight of immigrants, but the readers took it for a manifesto on the horrors of slaughterhouses. "I aimed for their hearts and hit their stomachs," he lamented. There's something so freeing in that--the fact that intention begins and ends with the writer.

Another kid in class was all, "I didn't really care about the plot, really. I didn't think about it." All evidence points to that kid being a stoner. Have I finally found my audience?


Anonymous said...

not at all. not at all a stoner.

Lindsay said...

I'm an idiot and you're anonymous.