Saturday, June 29, 2013

Buckle Down and Turn the Page

Whether it turns out to be one or not, this past week has felt like a pivot point. One of the potential changes deals with the way my day is structured and which family commitments I'll be able to keep in the coming months. As I was thinking about this, I went back to Lake Jackson to spend a few days with my parents. I had just finished reading Stina Leicht's of Blood and Honey and was reeling from that novel. Traffic on I59 was awful; the slower the traffic moved, the more present the novel was in my head. The story was less fantastic than I had expected and yet the layering of the fantastic and historical conflict keep me reading. I didn't really want to.

Having read all the "good for you" literature that I ever wanted to read as an English major, I gravitate toward stories that are lighter in tone. I don't understand why anyone would want to read about war and cruelty when it is too present in everyday news. There is an unsettled layer, a kind of emotional fault line, I possess that responds with absolute fury to cruelty or certain kinds of inevitable destruction. It takes time to come down from that. Not only was this story darker than I'm used to, it was also set in a time period in which I was living a calm, happy suburban childhood in Texas and I kept flashing back on that with each new chapter and date indication. It was this contrast that partially triggered the trip to LJ.

of Blood and Honey refused any escape. The fae heritage of the main character didn't take away the human concerns and decisions he made and it didn't make him a hero by some kind of magical genetic ethical absolution. And why should it?

When I got home, I had the opportunity to take a day trip with my dad. We argued about whether we'd taken a trip to an old plantation near West Columbia and whether I'd been old enough to remember it. Despite hours of reconstructing family vacations, the move to Lake Jackson, the birth of my younger brother, etc., I never did remember going to the planation as a child. What I did remember was that one of my favorite things was going on family trips and being in that outward-focused mode that let us elide any internal conflicts.

My approach to conflict is to dive into details of something else, something concrete and factual. It shows up in my stories, as the detail grows excessive while the conflict withers into implication and elision. Fantasy was a good place to hide.

I'm not sure whether it still is.

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