2/9/12

Get it, Toni

So I'm working on the capstone essay for my M.A. and it's about Toni Morrison, and I'm reading through Playing in the Dark looking for material to plug into my introduction, and I come across this quote: 

"Writing and reading are not all that distinct for a writer. Both exercises require being alert and ready for unaccountable beauty, for the intricateness or simple elegance of the writer's imagination, for the world that imagination evokes. Both require being mindful of the places where imagination sabotages itself, locks its own gates, pollutes its vision. Writing and reading mean being aware of the writer's notions of risk and safety, the serene achievement of, or sweaty fight for, meaning and response-ability" (xi).

And I'm going, Yeah Toni. Writing and reading, for a writer, are the same thing, require the same involvement, the same set of actions, establish the same connection between imagination and language. We're always writing, composing, listening to and mulling over the words in our minds. We've all read books that we've turned around and written back to themselves. By consuming and understanding the language, letting it ring deep in our hearts, chewing on the words like sensuous candy, metaphysical mouthfuls, we've tasted ourselves, tasted humanity. Our engagement, our decision to chew, swallow, or spit, is our "response-ability."

We're all writers, y'all. We all have words and thoughts and expressions. Our bodies and the trappings we've built around us serve as textual mediums, same as a book or magazine or computer screen. Better, even. In 3-D.

And I'm thinking of Robert Olen Butler who says fiction comes from the same place from where you dream. That's the name of his book, From Where You Dream. Writing allows a writer to relay her dream to others. Only the internal censor prevents a writer from fully fleshing that dream, being open all its crevices and nuances, honestly portraying the events as they unfold in the mind. Writing lets you reach across spatial and temporal boundaries to express your human self.

Get down with your bad human self!

Then I remember a conversation I had last night with W-- at the Beer Snobbery. We got to talking about Stephen King's Thinner, where a gypsy casts a hex on an obese man and the man gets thinner and thinner until he's in danger of disappearing into nothing. Joe Montegna steps in and blows the gypsy camp to bits, and to save his daughter, the gypsy father makes a truce with the thinning man, the "white man from town." The gypsy stabs the mans hand with a knife and milks the blood into a pie. From that point, the man starts to put his weight back on, but he must get someone to eat the pie, and soon. Whoever eats the pie will face their certain demise. He goes home and feeds it to his wife who's been cheating on him with the doctor. Spoiler alert: Everybody, including the innocent daughter, dies.

There's another Stephen King story I read recently called "The Breathing Method." A woman in the 1920's learns the breathing method for labor from a doctor who's ahead of his time. People think she's whacko but she keeps huffing and puffing and when she goes into labor, on the way to the hospital, her cab skids on some ice and throws her from the vehicle. She gets decapitated by the wreckage, and the doctor runs down the steps and sees her headless body still wheezing rhythmically from it's exposed esophagus. 10 minutes after the accident, the body, still  breathing in short, rapid bursts, gives birth to the child.

Now come on. Who would let themselves write stuff like that? Or John Coffee, the Magical Negro who can cure what ails you with his magic hands and lungs full of fairy dust. I'm convinced. Stephen King has no censor. He writes quickly, outracing internal criticism, and creates these fantasies grounded in folklore and imagination that appeal to the widest audience.

I'm not saying we should all write like Stephen King--plain prose, proletariat, a "literary Big Mac"--but to turn off that censor and allow yourself to create. To be aware of language and let it speak itself, flow forth from the conduit of your body. Awareness without judgment. What are you trying to hide? It belongs to us all.

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