I’m already regretting yesterday’s post. The proposed reboot is likely doomed before it’s properly begun.
I got started with the best of intentions, letting a throw of the dice select a short story for me to read. After the first sentence I could tell that ordinarily I wouldn’t have made it to the second sentence before moving on. But that’s part of the point of the proposed project, to delve into fictions I might not otherwise choose. So I read the story top to bottom, confirming that for the most part it’s not my cup of tea. But the story is about something that’s of interest to me. I read it a second time: the way the story addresses its subject matter proved provocative. I thought about it for a while, then set it aside. That night I dreamed about it. Next day I thought about the story some more; I started writing a post about it, then set it aside. This morning I woke up early already thinking about the story.
It’s not just the story in isolation that’s gotten me captivated; it’s the story as connected with so many other things that have at times grabbed my attention, variously inspiring, perplexing, and disturbing me. These secondary concerns then started propagating through the network into tertiary concerns, taking me ever further afield from the story itself. I could write an alternative version of the story that’s longer than the original, a series of essays , a whole book elaborating on an array of themes centrally and tangentially addressed by the story. Maybe after a few months I’d be ready to deal with a second story.
Instead of conceding the reboot’s failure I could declare its success. I’ll be explicitly trying to reconnect my own fictional circuitry, is how I summarized my intent. It took only one story to get the wires hooked back up and the engine running again. I’ve come to realize that this is a habit of mine: sinking down into something, perhaps something trivial, and letting it extend and reticulate itself. This one story reactivated that habit.
But do I really want to set the habit loose? Its movements are obsessive, hermetic: when I finally resurface from the mines I typically find that one guy’s gold is the next guy’s dross. I’m not sure I want to delve back under again. Now, after only one trial run at panning in the stream, I’m already strapping on the headlamp and picking up the pick. It’s just too much.
So let’s say that I restrain myself, writing a brief online engagement with the short story. It would give the author one reader’s response, as well as an open invitation to engage in conversation about her work. When I was an active blogger I came to enjoy participating in the online discussions more than writing the posts. I didn’t mind if the conversation went wildly astray, since as far as I’m concerned nothing is so far off-topic that it can’t be looped back in. The story’s author has a blog, so I could drop a comment there telling her about my post and inviting her to enter into an online discussion.
Then again, I suspect that she wouldn’t much care for my reaction to her story, and if she came over here to discuss it we wouldn’t see eye to eye. More likely she’d not engage at all. She’s had books published, been nominated for prestigious awards: why bother with me? But I’m no mind reader, no deep empath: in my own fictions the characters are opaque to one another, to themselves, to the narrator. As a fiction writer I might not like it if somebody tells me they don’t appreciate or enjoy or understand something about what I’ve written, but as far as I’m concerned it’s better than hearing nothing at all except my own voice echoing through the empty canyons. If my post is short and open-ended, I can wait to see what the author — or some other reader for that matter — has to say, then elaborate interactively in response rather than turning the post into a discursive essay.
Okay, I’ve talked myself into carrying on with this latest reboot. À demain…