Thursday, July 19, 2012

Into the Pot

Having spent the past several days on Tolkien reading, in the one case a series of essays and in the other his own "On Fairy Stories," I have begun to think in terms of the Pot that Tolkien postulated contained the various story elements. From this are dipped the various stories, in all their different variations. Because this is a pot shared by both people in general and cultures in specific, historical figures may be included along with the mythical elements (such as "love at first sight"). He doesn't suggest that everyday people also go into the pot, but we do--at least in terms of family stories and the like. As much as I like this metaphor, and as much as I sense it in the family stories (we don't quite make it beyond the Purgatory of a practical degree into Paradise of graduate school, for example and some of us sacrificed Art for Piety), I find myself more interested in the way that my memories are hung in the interstices of the text and the way they pop out as I read. How does fiction form a substrate for memory? Why is reading Tolkien or about Tolkien such a quick reminder of things as diverse as my parents' laundry room, the bed in my childhood room, walking into town for one of those candies that came with a pressed sugar stick you rolled in flavored powder? Some of these things may have been directly related to my reading, but some aren't. Moreover, not every book that I read as a child carries the same charge. It's similar to when you are sick and you are suddenly flashing back to other times someone was caring for you. A state of mind, a core of experience that runs through your life not like a taste of soup but like a tentpole, to which everything is tied. To which today, and this keyboard, and the sight of the sleeping dogs, and the light coming through the blinds is being bound by loops of thought around the serifs of another paragraph. Why this paragraph and not another?

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