31 May 2007

Pieces of our heart

We are about to turn the page on this month, and there will be a new archive link on this blog.

I have about 25 entries.

I haven't tried very hard to make this blog accessible, which I know is annoying at least one person (so far, the readers I know about are all people to whom I've given this link. Anyone who wandered here by mistake would have had to be very lucky to find it.)

So, why am doing this again? It's a valid question.

Mostly, it's practice. Writing is, for me, an extremely intimate form of communication. I can and will talk your ear off, and my patter can be so rapid fire and obtuse that you really will have no idea what I'm talking about. And I won't explain, I'll just keep talking. And I haven't actually told you anything, I just keep pulling words out of the air and feeding them to you, much in the way that a magician might pull a coin out from behind your ear. But you're still laughing, much like the nice young man I was dragging around on my logorrheic trip through the men's department today. In the course of this visit, I decimated a pair of shoes, had three cash registers commandeered for my personal needs, and at least half the department store staff working on various and sundry things (like a zillion points coupons I'd collected over the last three years, each of which needed to be separately authorized because they were so old, because I never shop) all for me. And this poor man who made the mistake of saying "May I help you?" couldn't stop laughing and telling us that we were his favorite people and we'd made his day. And the spouse said, with grand irony, "yeah, people don't forget us."

I can also be forbiddingly silent, and that silence speaks volumes. The son and daughter would much rather I yell at them because when I use the "low, quiet voice," it's bad. Very, very bad. Even the person I formerly worked for acknowledged that he wished I would yell at him because my soft, grind-every-word-out fury was really frightening.

So I will talk to you. I am happy to have conversations with perfect strangers, who will forever remain perfect strangers. People interest me no end, and I'm ever curious to know what makes them tick, and it's a friendly and benign curiosity. I tend to choose my words with some care when speaking, and so control the flow of information. But writing allows you to see what's in *my* head and I really don't like that. It's not that the inside of my head is a nasty place. On the contrary, it's loud but generally cheerful unless I'm consigning you to the special hell for being a bad driver or an otherwise rude and rotten person.

Back in college, I took a particularly interesting literature course wherein the professor got me really thinking about the relationship between reader and writer. It hearkened back to something I'd read in high school by Jorge Luis Borges about the the way in which two people interact in a conversation. When two people speak to each other, there are really six people involved in the conversation: the person that A *is*, the person B believes A to be, the person A believes herself to be, and then the corollaries for B. I saw then, and still do today, that the relationship between reader and writer is quite similar. And in the act of reading a book, the reader brings all of his/her baggage along: experience, prejudice, intelligence, what have you. The writer has also brought all of this to table as well. As much as I disliked Proust, that passage about cookie crumbs in tea has stuck with me for 20 years, in part because madeleines provoke a profound sense of nostalgia in me for a significantly different reason.

Do I want you to know that? Do I want you to know that the smell of certain peppers makes my mouth water? Do I want you to know that the sounds of some musical instruments induce euphoria on the order of religious ecstasy? Is it worth sharing that I used to have a small bit of ground glass in my right thumb and that when nervous, I would worry at it with my index finger nail until one day, 15 years after it got in there, it suddenly came out? Is it important whether any of these things are true or are really allegorical?

We decide which is right...and which is an illusion.

Writing is a craft. Words have power and beauty. Reader and writer are bonded in a contract. There is fiction in truth and truth in fiction. What I am seeking is balance, and perhaps, what is right.

You may decide if it's an illusion.

Go listen to some good music: "Pieces of Our Heart" from the album Scarlet and Other Stories by All About Eve.