Sunday, November 29, 2015

Holidays in the slumber of a night-mind

"I feel like I have to smile and give the world a wink."
The holiday season is upon us and the world seems particularly irksome and intrusive right now. Thanksgiving groaned under the weight of retail just a little more this year and I wonder how long it will last as a holiday.

But its passing means I can decorate a Yule tree with Bertolt looking on. Still, I try to remember why I am doing this.

I feel like I have to smile and give the world a wink, which is of course the first of subtleties. Did a wink mean anything until we had language so we could express two things at once? I wish the world well at this time of year, but I wish it would also leave me alone.

Perhaps it is the light, and traditionally, that means the lessening of it. It is now thoroughly dark at 5:00 in the afternoon and the morning seems a thousand miles away, if miles could be measured in time...

...which they often are, but I just want to escape time and space and go to sleep like much of the rest of the world. I accompanied some friends to the Zoo her in Seattle the other day and was reminded that most beings are, like the maple trees and oaks, sensibly asleep right now. I don't know if the sloth bears were sleeping but I didn't see them. I saw no Tyger Tyger burning bright. Like a true Seattleite, the Komodo Dragon wasn't from here and it was desperately soaking up radiation from a sun lamp.

Perhaps it is all the Hawthorne. I do not mean the plant, but rather the counterpoint of Melville. This will be no place for a review of Hawthorne and I do not pretend to make any scholarly pronouncements. Rather, as a writer, I afford myself a chance to read him from something of a professional perspective, and the (now) obscure tales from Twice Told Tales, Mosses  from an Old Manse and The Snow-Image are wonderful at this time of year.

"Alice Doane's Appeal," for example contains a number of frightening aspects besides visitations from the dead who seem to populate New England as deeply as they do Japan. Hawthorne,  captivates me like the strange "Village Uncle" captivates a rapidly vanishing audience as the raconteur slowly dies at Thanksgiving.

But dark nights and dark books call for one another. Ebeneezer and I will make our annual acquaintance again, and I will once again ask why a "Scrooge" is not a byword for a reborn benevolent businessman. It doesn't seem fair, but then I remember that the world isn't fair. The other kind of Scrooge is much more ubiquitous and therefore we need a convenient Dickensian name.

I am not sure how much I will be posting here for a while since part of the reason I am returning to Hawthorne is to revisit basic texts that made the others that made me, either in reaction and rejection, or emulation and exercise. Since The Shadow Well died its peaceful death this Fall, it is time to return to basics and find new paths beneath the tangled woods.

The mud is dark but the Moon glints on its surface. The air is cold, and since the rest of our lives seem so vast in this abyss, I wish you Happy Holidays: the time for small events of beauty.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Blank Page: Or, The Death of a Novel

A Blank Page

Auld Bill Faulkner is famous for pronouncing capital punishment upon darlings... insofar as writing is concerned. I will not endeavor here to discuss that any further since I am a firm believe in letting others discuss what has been discussed. My interest is in something else, a sort of euthanasia of darlings.

For a few weeks now, Hagengard Studio has been a scene of grim resolve, like a ship that lists too much and is caught in the doldrums. The only thing good about it is that it was cold so we weren't sweltering under a sun that didn't seem to move. Grey, with indeterminate fog, a lodestone lost long ago, we knew that there was a Jonah on board.

David brought this Jonah on the ship a long time ago, before I had signed on (in the ludicrous extension of this already exhausted metaphor, I might as well talk about dead sea-birds). Its name was The Shadow Well and while I attempted to help with the novel somewhat, there was simply too much that had to be changed. Again.

That was the crucial problem. The text had been reworked over 3 times before I even saw it, and here is an interesting problem: like an archaeologist, I could delve beneath the many layers and see existing fossils of writing. The stray em-dash? Yes, that's was 2008 when David was rereading Ulysses. There were other remnants, such as the name 'Karen' which I saw popping in and out of earlier drafts. There was even a passage that referred to a time when it was set in Seattle, and I learned it began at the Edgewater.

The novel has moved around, attempting to find a narrative, but the problem as I saw it was the protagonist. I was not the protagonist of this novel, if that is what you suspect. I played only a minor supporting role and even then, I came in somewhat late in the game. There was not much I could do. I believe David plans on exorcising this protagonist in ways other than on the page, which is a good thing because the individual wasn't very interesting.

David and I ultimately arrived at a business decision.  Promotion and return upon investment did not seem lucrative enough for this novel. We agreed there were parts (mostly mine) that were intriguing enough to salvage for other work. His illustrations may find homes elsewhere. For those who have met Trudi von Hippe, Theresa Darl and Kanute Eldredsohn, do not worry. They will be back.

I often chide David on this blog and those with whom I privately correspond get a more highly seasoned version of that discourse, but if I am somewhat acerbic, it is because I care. I believe he will post something on that Tumblr of his that will go into more detail. I know this decision was not easy for him and I'm leaving him the last word on this topic.

So you will not be seeing The Shadow Well on the shelves of any bookstore in February, or for that matter, any which when. We have filled in that well. (I did find the title entrancing enough to use for one of my poems).

What does this mean for Hagengard Studio? It is almost time for the turn of the sun and a return to basics: short fiction and the proetic graphic essay as the main outlets—this blog is often an example of the latter. David will work on his artwork some more. There are some classes at Hugo House worth looking at which is fitting since that is where David and I first met when we were starting our creative careers over the first time.

So it is a return to blank pages, which is like a new sail: perfect for a strong wind and clear skies.