13 April 2010

art for art's sake?

I know that I've written this before, perhaps as one of my first blog posts, but I can't help but look at many of the works of fiction that surround me and be reminded of Kathleen Kelly's line from You've Got Mail: "So much of what I see reminds me of something I've read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?" The sheer fact that I'm invoking that quote speaks to the influence fiction has had in my life: in a rather meta-like fashion, I can't explain my reliance on stories without calling upon these words from my vast storehouse of arcane quips, quotations, miscellany, potpourri, flotsam...and so on. I wonder if a day will come when I'll be able to see my life as the reference point, rather than some world made up out of an author's head. Or maybe my eternal summoning of the Literary Gods and their creations-- characters who resonate throughout generations, ink-smudged fingers, technological advances, and student complaints-- just speaks to the inevitable reality of a good book. It may become a mirror through which others see their lives; it may be an instruction booklet, flagged with "do not do this!" sticky-notes by passages describing the lovelorn and depressed; it may be a beacon to which readers can aspire; it may be a hand-holding presence to lovers unhappy and happy, nostalgic or prescient.
Lately I've been seeing myself in The Sun Also Rises, which I've been rereading with some of my students. I never pictured myself in a Hemingway saga, but here I am, strapped to a Hemingway hero on an up-and-down taxi voyage that readers have misunderstood for decades. Look, I'm no Lady Brett Ashley-- far from it, in fact, and anytime I attempt to make this personal identification known my students pipe up with "But she's slutty!" (So much for being open-minded.) The overall message that I take from Brett and Jake, though, is that love is often illogical and far from simple; people have wounds, and wounds become scars, and scars lead to twisted loves, on and off for a long time. Sometimes they make little sense. Sometimes others view them as making us weak. More often than not, our "pretty" relationships remain just as ambiguous to us as they do to everyone else; but somehow, as the parties involved, we see the value that other people fail to notice. It's in the shades of gray.
What does this say about me, that I can hold books up and see my reflection, like in a mirror? What does it say that I've often felt more kinship with figments than with flesh and blood? Is this the case for everyone, or will this always be a stumbling block for me? Another quote from the story-world is the only way to close: "I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So, goodnight, dear void."

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