Saturday, May 16, 2009

Happy Endings

There's this note, a pitch, I should say, that "literature" (and do mind that the word has four syllables and two beats: lit-er-a-ture) has this singular pitch it "should" always end on. Not sour, not depressing, exactly, not wholly devoid of happiness, and not even quite final. It is like, at the end of a good long stare (for us contact wearers) when the world begins to blur because the plastic has gotten dry, we are forced to blink. But we don't finish the blink. We only know that we must blink. That is the note. And it makes me cringe, I have to admit, when I come across it. When I write it. And don't get on my case for so many italicized words, because I do know when I press Control+I consecutively, and I do (most of the time) do it intentionally.

In any case, there is this note that I hear over and over again, and frankly, I'm coming down with it, and that makes me turn a sickly gray. Because it's what we're taught, you understand. We are instructed in our narrative arcs, so that each one ends succinctly at that glorious pot of gold, which is not, I might add, considerably artistic, and is, actually, I feel, somewhat generic. At this time. It is tradition, though. And woe to the writer who confronts tradition and grimaces, and then smiles politely, hoping the grimace had gone unnoticed--or, if it was noticed, that tradition has such a big head that it assumes the grimace was aimed at some foul stench produced (but, of course!) by the writer h'self (my gender-neutral reflexive pronoun).

Well, yes, if you mention it, I am in a sort of mood. Because I just realized that that note is the one all my stories long for, as if they were addicts, as if they were star-crossed lovers. Pining! It's damned embarrassing!

So I'm looking for an AA (or some such) group that'll help them get through it. Each of them.  Because, dear Grimm, though I'm fond as the next of your poor princesses who end up escaping their enemies with the help of the Big Bad Wolf's intestines, it's just not my cup of fictional tea anymore, you understand. I'm keen on Wolves and Little Reds who come to their senses. I'm appreciative of bargains wrought between Cinder and Stepmother. Compromises, you understand. I mean, really. You don't expect to hold a continuing monopoly on story endings into the 21st century, do you? Times, my dear Brothers, have changed, and the world may not be as bleak and sorcerous and damned dismal as it was when you wrote of it. And certainly not as final. No.

Oh! where is the heart, my fellow writers? Have you left it pumping, bleeding somewhere in the hands of villainous education? And though your ending may not be happy, where is the lifeblood that should flow through it, and through it, and through it, so that the reader can never be rid of it, never be cut off from it, find it bursting through the most mundane moments of life and on into death and beyond into eternity! If there is not death, and not eternity, at least into the next moment, at least beyond the closed cover.

I am tired, tired of this one note, my friends. Do not be deceived as to its glory. Does it sing? Can you hear it afterward? Does it break something in your chest when you hear it? Is it the laughter of the nations that are to rise, the roar of the Eternal applauding, its rush of tears, the sound of forgetting . . . ?

(I am only a little inebriated.)

Oh, how I want a new song to sing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reading List

An assignment for class: Make a "canon" of books/writers you consider important to contemporary literature. Addendum: Include your favorite 20 writers.

This is a compilation of fellow students' addenda, specifically to include those writers/books that received more than one mention (or that are particularly awesome, but mostly the former; particularly awesome books/writers shall be denoted by an asterisk).

In no particular order....

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ernest Hemingway*
William Faulkner
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Kurt Vonnegut*
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Virginia Woolf
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin*
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
Madame Bovary by Flaubert
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William Gass
To the White Sea by James Dickey*
J.D. Salinger
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Conner
James Joyce*
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Micahel Chabon
Night by Elie Wiesel
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Feel free to add....