After yesterday‘s post I didn’t feel like writing today. Give it a day’s rest maybe. I wonder if the earth ever slows down? Or if the sun ever takes a rest? Maybe they do, they probably have their own rhythms too. Or humans are different than suns and planets, could as well be true.
Yesterday before bedtime I read a story by Raymond Carver, „What’s in Alaska?” 25 minutes of he said she said, a story that could have happened to people I know, a story that could have happened to me, too. Very particular and very universal at the same time. His writing keeps making big impressions on me.
„Carl got off work at three. He left the station and drove to a shoe store near his apartment. He put his foot up on the stool and let the clerk unlace his work boot.
»Something comfortable,« Carl said. »For casual wear.«
»I have something,« the clerk said.
The clerk brought out three pairs of shoes and Carl said he would take the soft beige-colored shoes that made his feet feel free and springy. He paid the clerk and put the box with his boots under his arm. He looked down at his new shoes as he walked. Driving home, he felt that his foot moved freely from pedal to pedal.” – excerpt from What’s in Alaska, by Raymond Carver
When reading ebooks at home I often put them onto my flatscreen TV in my living room. I walked up and down. Looked at the first sentence from different angles:
- At three Carl got off work.
Which would make the time, three o’clock, more important than Carl, the character. What will the story be about? The shoe store? About work in general? Or will the story be about Carl? Or will Carl guide me – the reader – into the story, and then pass me on like a baton in a relay race?
- After having gotten off from work Carl drove to a shoe store near his apartment. It was three o’clock when he left the station.
- It was three o’clock when Carl got off from work and left the station, he drove to a shoe store near his apartment.
- Off from work at three. Works at a station. The name is Carl. He has a car and drives himself. Next scene is at a shoe store near his apartment.
That’s how far I got. Then I read the story. Raymond Carver leaves it up to me if or how much I want to feel, and what. And what I want to make of it. I find it sad that he passed so young, at 50. I wonder how he would have developed his work later in life. „Carver, a heavy cigarette smoker, died at his home of lung cancer”, said the LA Times. „Genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger”, said Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD. His life ended as suddenly as some of his stories. But there we have it, maybe it was the whole story.
James Joyce said in a conversation with the art critic Arthur Power, „I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.” „When you tell things exactly as they happened, others can understand what you are getting at because they can relate to it with their own experiences”, somebody said somewhere.
Here’s two ideas I had in terms of writing exercises:
- Turn a David Sedaris story into a Raymond Carver story
- Make a Raymond Carver story funny
I can see how I will never try this. I wondered: can movement instructions, similar to stories, be written in various styles? Can they be particular and universal? Can written-out movement sequences be interesting not just for the movements et. al. but also for the way they are written? Guiding a real person through a movement sequence, alert, observant, reacting to difficulties or mastery, I find it exciting. It makes me feel alive. I gain from it greatly. But writing out movement sequences, stripped bare of the dialogic process? How can this be interesting? Would you please come to sit. Put one leg in front of you, one in the back. Lean on one hand. Which hand is it? What’s in Alaska?