The Grass is Black/The Air is Pink

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#Writing

The Lingerie Theory of Narration (4)

Opening and Closing The Curtain

The lingerie ad, like the short story, is neither the beginning of a striptease nor its end, but more of what occurs in the middle. The subject of the lingerie ad was once dressed and will, presumably, not be dressed at all very soon, but right now, in the picture before us, we see the subject frozen in time- in the act of disrobing.

Fiction is also a frozen moment in time. It generally catches characters in the middle of their lives, just when their habitual way of being in the world is about to give away. The playwright Edward Albee once said that the beginning of a piece of fiction is like the opening of a curtain on a scene that was already in progress before the curtain parted, and that the closing of the curtain does’nt mean the action of the story ceases, but merely that we are prevented from watching it any longer.

The challenge facing the story writer- and the model in the lingerie ad- is to imply a great deal about what happened before (“I was once dressed”) through exposition or implication (“There are my pants on the floor”) and to imply, as well, what may happen once the curtain closes again (“I will soon be undressed. See how my bra strap is slipping off my shoulder?”), but- and this is important- to always keep the reader’s attention totally and completely focused on what is happening right now.

words by Julie Checkoway
to be continued…

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#Writing

The Lingerie Theory of Narration (3)

Overcome Overwriting

Sometimes writers become so enthralled with specificity and description that they begin to confuse them with more wordiness. Overwriting, as this tendency is called, is a form of excessive love of language and as such is important and even necessary for writers to indulge in occasionally. The solution to overcoming overwriting is simply to remember the notion of economy and to learn to exercise restraint.

In an effort to conquer her overwriting, an acquaintance of mine used to cut her dearest overwritten sentences (the ones than Annie Dillard says in The Writing Life come with “price tags” attached) out of her manuscript with scissors and deposit them in a manila folder she called her Goddess file. Anytime she was blue or just wanted to see what a brilliant writer she was, all she had to do was open up the Goddess file and admire snippets of her handiwork. If cutting back on adjectives and adverbs and fancy, unnecessary verbs or keeping a Goddess (or God) file doesn’t work for you, you might just have to wait it out. In time, it will pass. But bring supplies along- canned goods and a pup tent- and gather firewood. Sometimes it takes a while.

The important thing to remember is that overwriting occurs when a writer is interested in seducing only herself, when she has become drunk on her own language, inebriated by her own ideas. In the end, overwriting is a date with only yourself, the ultimate lonely hearts endeavor. It’s a lingerie ad posed so elaborately and intricately and with so many signals and cues that no viewer will ever be able to, or want to, fully take in.

words by Julie Checkoway
to be continued…

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(Even when a river of tears…) Izumi Shikibu

Even when a river of tears
courses through
this body,
the flame of love
cannot be quenched.

Filed under: desire,desire,desire..., that crazy,little thing called love, , , , , ,

Existence

Awake…
turn the blinds at seven
let the sun in
open the window, inhale the fresh air

Noon…
do you take tea?
the floor you’ll sweep
he will take a lunch break
she will try on a new dress
of black lace with a satin hem

Evening…
Repose. Relax. Kick off your shoes.
Have a drink, or a smoke…
Come with me into the bedroom
I’ll close the curtains
You dim the lights
Goodnight.

written: April 16, 2011

Filed under: life, regarding myself, Uncategorized, , , , ,

#Writing

The Lingerie Theory of Narration (2)

The Problem of Overexposure

Clear description- of setting, of character- is fundamental to good fiction, and becoming as concrete as possible in description should be a writer’s first goal. Some writers know intuitively how much description is enough and how much is too much, but for others it’s an acquired skill. There are several useful things to remember in order to master it.

The first is the old saw that fiction is, at its heart, economical (stories more than novels, of course), and that one must choose material with a conservative, even sometimes miserly, touch. Description should therefore not be wasteful or redundant (unless you’re trying to make some thematic point by being repetive or maximal). One needs only to describe a house once, for example, as long as nothing has changed the second time we visit it. One needs only to say only once that the paint is flaking and that the tree is dying. And, as my former teacher John Barth, himself a maximalist, used to say, description needs to be “illustrative” rather than “exhaustive”, meaning that you need to give the reader information that is useful and thematically important rather than information that is merely compulsively comprehensive or too intently microscopic.

One secret to deciding if a particular passage of description is necessary to the story as a whole is to think of the story as an arrow pointing toward what Edgar Allan Poe called “the unified effect,” that moment when all the story’s elements come together. Does the particular passage of description point toward the unified effect or away from it? Whenever you encounter a passage of your own description about which you are unsure, ask yourself: What function does this passage have in this piece? What am I trying to achieve by putting this in, and what of any essential nature would be lost if I were to leave it out?

It would’nt do, for example, in a lingerie ad for hosiery, to have a model wearing an elaborately sequined and very showy full-length slip. If the unified effect is “buy these panty hose,” then the camera should focus on the panty hose and its closely related accoutrements. It’s a matter of remembering the overall goal of the work of art. It’s as simple as that.

words by: Julie Checkoway
to be continued…

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from “The Lover of God” Rabindranath Tagore

Spring at last! The amuzas flare,
half-opened, trembling with bees.
A river of shadows flows through the grove.
I’m thrilled, dear trusted friend,
shocked by this pleasure-flame-
am I not a flame in his eyes?
His absence tears at me-
love blooms, and then spring
blows the petals from the world.
In my heart’s grove the cuckoos pour out
a bewildering fountain of pleasure-drops,
jewels of the universe.
Even the bee-opened flowers mock me:
“Where is your lover, Radha?
Does he sleep without you
on this scented night of spring?”

Filed under: desire,desire,desire..., that crazy,little thing called love, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

Enchanted though Resisting

we turned off the lights, so there was
only darkness and our anxious skin
we lit the vanilla candle, “does he
not like the smell of wine on my breath?”

I dabbed French brandy behind my
ears, I did’nt wear panties
I was nervous the first time
but I did’nt vomit until the second
time, when we tried to make love;
make love, have sex, fuck
anything but faire l’amour

the feeling that he’s capable of giving me
the feeling that is so overwhelming it
provokes fear, thinking of the vulgar
state that my body is in, is poetry
in its rawest, purest form
better than what anyone can write onto
a piece of paper with a pen
the feeling is a lie because it owns me,
so he owns me but my heart
is with another…

written: June 14, 2011

Filed under: desire,desire,desire..., regarding myself, that crazy,little thing called love, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,