Monday, February 25, 2013

There's something about words...

The human mind is capable of many things, building rockets, super computers, or genetically engineered vegetables, but through all of our accomplishments art, it seems is the most difficult thing to get right.  There are two kind of rocket, one that goes into space and one that blows up.  There are not many that are kind of in the middle, like they got the alloys right but, the fuel mixture could have been better, or it's exit from the earth's atmosphere could have been a bit more moving and have a more human touch. A rocket scientist either gets everything perfect, or stops being a rocket scientist.  On the other hand, artists and authors live an entirely different life and at the the upper levels are just as detail oriented. Authors have to have every aspect of their story right, every word in just the right place, every paragraph perfect, but they can still be building a rocket that wont fly.  In some cases it is this attention to detail that makes their story fall to the ground, uninspiring, and hard to clean up.  Many of the authors that we have read in this class share this problem.  They work so hard on getting all the word int he right order that the story becomes essentially a computer, spitting out sentences that work well together, punching periods in just the right place, splitting images and slicing them with others.  It is a beautiful thing to read, it makes it hard to put down, designed to take the reader to a different place.  All of the stories do this, but none of them grab hold and make the reader nostalgic for that story later. None of them become part of the reader, and emerge in surprising and sometimes startling ways.  An authors job is  to create beauty in the mind.  Beauty that hold the reader long after reading.  There are short stories that have become part of me. Only one in this collection got close, it was hiding, it took me a second look for it to get me a little. Jorge Luis Borges' August 25, 1983.

This story brings the reader to a hotel where the narrator  Borges, is checking in.  He finds that he had already checked in, and races to encounter his future self on his death bed.  The conversation they have is poignant, peaceful and a little hard to read at times.  They go through emotions of helplessness, victory, frustration and blinding disappointment.   The younger Borges is defiant in his youth, and hopeful for his future even though he can see what lies ahead.  At first I thought this story was a little cliche  but he does such a good job of encapsulating what one must feel when talking to another version of them self.  He clearly shows the foolishness we live by, the fact that we stand proud, looking to the future as a land of opportunities  even if we know that what lies ahead is a sad old man committing suicide in a dark hotel, alone.  He blends the barriers between dream and life, and makes the reader question what is real and what is dream, and who in the dream is doing the dreaming.  The story ends predictably like it should, no clever twist, no grand lesson. Just the simple fact that humans will keep going, hopeful and confidant that the man in that dream was just a character made up by the doubts and self loathing that we all carry with us into the night.

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