Saturday, May 16, 2009

Crushed Kibble

The vet provided Merlin with a puppy kit for large dogs, the only one available at our appointment. The kibble is gargantuan, compared to Merlin's mouth. He's managed to scatter it all over the house, since he scoops up mouthfuls of it and runs around, dropping some on his pile of toys, some behind the chair, some in the kitchen in anticipation of other treats. This morning I crushed piece of it to dust trying to navigate around the sink while looking at Merlin. Within seconds, that piece of kibble had been inhaled by the dog.

It didn't seem surprising at the time; however, just having read Joyce's "The Dead," I was in a mood to see it as a metaphor--an example of the way that some things must be reduced in order to be consumed or recognized. Some stories are able to do this, to crumble enough of your perceptions together with those of the characters to give you and insight or a change of perspective.

It's not an uncommon thought or a particularly insightful realization, more of a reminder of the way that literature can work.

I remember reading stories in school and not having the life experience to understand them and I remember taken some of them in directly, but I don't remember much of what was read, except that we were reading for a purpose, which gives you leave to ignore everything but that purpose. Reading for theme? Pick one (or invent one) and tag as much as possible so that you can write five paragraphs on it later. I've been relearning how to read ever since.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

And In MY World

A friend loaned me a small book yesterday (Lee Killough's Checking on Culture) on building realistic structures of culture and ecology in a created world. The author had several suggestions for further reading, but provided an excellent checklist for cultural components, everything from law to cosmetics. There were brief examples scattered throughout the text, many of which were reminders about the variations in human culture through societies. Some examples were taken from the author's work, but these were relevant and gave an author's eye viewpoint that tended to encourage one's own interest in how or why to include a component. On the whole, a handy overview with a checklist that I'm looking forward to using.

I was disappointed by the lack of an editorial hand in the text's grammar, however. The author used several sentence fragments, along with several "..." that could have been better converted to other structures. While I don't feel this takes away from the information presented in the text, it does make it read more awkwardly and is distracting. I've gotten over feeling like ogre saying that grammar and proper editing is important--if it reads like unpolished English, then the reader is not only distracted by the errors but is also cheated of the casual confirmation of existing grammatical structures that reinforce his or her grammatical understanding.

While grammar may be a luxury at this point, the information provided in the text is something that will improve my own understanding of stories that I'm reading. When I have the opportunity, I'm going to pick up a copy of Checking on Culture for my own reference shelf (rapidly expanding into several shelves).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Live Long

We are all thinking about napping, even I, with my nose in a book of essays on The Lord of the Rings, can feel my eyelids slipping slower across my eyes. Each essay gives a different version of encountering Tolkien; i.e, being bought off by family, needing a place to escape family, etc. The essays remind me of the passages that I've forgotten and of reading in my bedroom as a child and what it was to have no space of my own but the book I'd fallen into.

Reading is the furnishing of the space of my own, the charting and plotting of my own imagination. Since not every book that I read will become something I remember or think of, I can't say that I'm charting the author's vision, exactly. More accurately, I've been given a map and have been left to find the seas and the islands on my own.

As I grow older, my mind is less flexible and I am spoiled by the physical realities of a home of my own. The space that I charted is less accessible, the ideals fainter and the edges of the old charts burned, torn, and ragged. I can hear my knees creak as I try to twist around the edge of the laundry totem tent (otherwise known as the drying rack)and keep an eye on the tussling puppy. It's too easy to sit in front of the tv and let it dream for me.

The essays don't let me off the hook for this. I'm reminded that Tolkien spent decades in creating and refining and writing, that if I'm willing to outsource my imagination now, I'm letting the degradation begin--of the language, the ideas, the morality, the will--that will cause my carefully charted self to become a landfill of flash and emotion and reflexive need for stuff. Of course, I still want books--but I need to remember that I want to create and chart a space that is consonant with what I judge to be good, not with the echoes of emptiness and formula.

And yet, good is often found in unexpected places. At the movies today, I found myself getting chills from the narration at the end of the latest Star Trek movie. Somehow, the calm intonation of Spock filling a theater upon which the stars and planets swerved brought me to tears--in this, too, I at one time believed, that through exploration we are saved and that logic and a strong team were the appogee of the adult world.