Wednesday, September 28, 2011

i want you (to read me)

off the previous post, about both the solitary nature of writing and about the idea that when the connection between author and reader is truly made it's kinda like good sex, I have been thinking about how writing is, at it's purest, a seduction.

It stems from the fact that it is one of the few arts that is made by a solitary process for a solitary audience. Film, theatre, and other types of live performance are collaborative efforts that are better experienced when there are many folks in the house. Same, really, for music. Visual art is made by one person, but it's to be viewed in rooms that can house multiple people. But books are made to be read alone. And if you aren't alone, there is something about reading that creates a kind of isolation booth around you that is commonly thought to be impenetrable. And the thing was written to speak directly to you.

Just you, dear reader (singular).

That's where the seduction comes in. even if the writer isn't broaching any even remotely sexy topic, every word on the page is placed there to draw you in. to bring you closer and make a connection with your thoughts. To spark something within you and make you think/feel something. Hopefully, something remotely close to what they are aiming to make you think/feel (as per previous post, that is the trick, the shot in the dark, the risk the author is willing to make to try and get someone to understand).

And the thing is, it's not just about you, the reader. It's sort of a selfish thing. I mean, it's not like they are just writing for themselves, they really want someone to read it. Even if it is never in real time, a writer wants the same audience acceptance that a performer does. Like the writer of a letter does. Or, to take it back to the original idea, the same response you might give a lover. Opening yourself up to the caress of their concepts. Allowing their authorial voice to breathe in your inner ear. Letting their idea come to life within your head.

I mean, come on. It's a lonely art. Writers gotta want some companionship, some fertile mind for their characters and ideas to call home. To know that their blind pen stabs into a dark night are hitting some sort of target. Otherwise, it's all for naught. And that's more depressing than having your advances rejected. (which is also rough but comes with the territory). But to learn that there is no one out there to even hear, let alone respond to the call, that's the one thing that could kill a writer outright. Cuz letters can't exist without someone to send them to.

And not to scare you away or anything, but it's the fact that this blog exists and the even minute possibility that someone might read what I work hard to put up here, that their might be someone even marginally willing to be seduced into making a connection with me, that has helped my writer to actually exist. And for me to identify this part of myself as a valid entity. So, yeah. Thanks, reader, for existing. You make me possible.

All my love,


Sunday, September 25, 2011

what writing is for.

"Remember that what you are told is really three-fold: shaped by the teller, reshaped by the listener, concealed from both by the dead man in the tale." --The Real Life of Sebastian Knight by Vladimir Nabokov

"I cannot assume you will understand me. It is just as likely that as I invent what I want to say, you will invent what you want to hear. Some story we must have. Stray words on crumpled paper. A weak signal into the outer space of each other. The probability of seperate worlds meeting is very small. The lure is immense. We send starships. We fall in love."
--Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson

[let me first get off my chest that these two authors are my most intimate literary lovers. they do things to my thoughts and emotions that i have never experienced with any other author. (except maybe keith miller in the book of flying) i have long had a habit of reading so fast that i forget to take a breath (literally, and figuratively in the way of looking up from the page) but these two authors consistently compel me to gasp and set their book down for a moment, allowing to blossom the conceptual and stylistic fireworks i experience while submerged in their worlds of words. living in their books is an exercise in constant ecstasy. that said, i will start in on the meditation that the former quotation brought to light during a breather in the middle of devouring it's source.]

I come to it often, the idea of the inability of human beings to express 'the truth' to one another, the subjectivity of everything that passes between us, the impossibility of transmitting anything in a complete and unchanged form from one of us to the other.

What is it about writers that we are obsessed with that problem? Is solving it the purpose of our craft? The secret longing of each of us that makes us attempt the fool's errand in the first place? We all know it's impossible. Or is it from that impossibily that the story, and therefore the writer, is born? Because there can never be the story, the truth, pure understanding. Because there is this gap between the teller and the hearer, we can exist. And it is within that gap that we find employment. And it is, as an architect looks at a river and starts to imagine bridges, that we each attempt the jump in our own particular way, trying again and again to get closer to an expression of our own truth that will be more and more closely understood by the reader. Maybe this is why authors love to read, as if comparing blueprints, to see how their fellows tackled the problem of crossing the chasm, overarching the abyss. Of constructing a form of connection.

For for what is more worthwhile in the whole history of human society and culture than the creation of connections between our separate solitudes? I wonder if it's because writing is such a solitary art that it creates such a strong imperative in its practitioners to achieve this connection, however fleeting and far-off. Because when it is made, and the imaginative sparks fly, there is nothing more rewarding for either party.

[and really, what is hotter than the idea that your favorite authors are working their hardest to have intellectual sex with you?]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

muscle memory

things most people pay very little conscious attention to in a day:

the length of your fingernails.
how far apart your feet are when standing.
the way you put on lip balm.
how much you smile.
how long you hold eye contact.
the way you hold, light, and smoke a cigarette.
the way you ask for a light.
who you choose to sit next to on the train/bus.
how you take off a coat or sweater.
how you check your pockets.
where you keep your wallet.
the length of your stride.
how you rub your eyes or scratch your head.
how you jam out to music on your headphones.
how you hold and touch your phone.
where you keep your phone.
how you lick your lips.
how you touch your hair, neck, face, chest....
how you shake hands.
how you take a sip of a drink.
how you hitch up your pants.
how you hold your shoulders.
how you lean on something like a wall or a railing.

thing is, i actually do. at one time or another in the past month, i have consciously thought about and made choices about each one of these things. cuz whether you know it or not, each of these things contributes to how people assess your gender. i spend time wondering whether or not i do these things in a way that would be perceived as at all masculine. i think the reason i pay such close attention to actors is that i understand how they feel when they take on a role, trying to translate their ideas of how a character feels and thinks and functions into the ways in which they express themselves thru their bodies. cuz it's not so much about saying the line right as it is about moving your hand, or tilting your head, or leaning in as you say it to get the desired affect. it's body inflection. and we do it unconsciously, or semi-consciously all of the time. however for me, it's not unconscious cuz i haven't been inflecting the same way my whole life. and changing the perception of my gender isn't just about wearing men's clothes, growing facial hair and speaking in a lower register. it's about how i ride the bus: do i let the woman get in line ahead of me? do i sit next to a dude instead of boxing in a young lady? do i stand up and give my seat to an older lady? do i keep my knee or shoulder from brushing against the guy next to me? do i say 'excuse me' instead of 'sorry' when i bump into someone while exiting? if yes, then i'm most likely seen as a young man by virtually everyone on said bus. and at this point, in this place (sorry, midwest, but you are more dichotomy-based than the coasts) that identification is preferable to double-takes and confused (possibly hostile) looks. i play a part to balance feeling most like myself and keeping my day hassle-free. cuz not being socialized as a boy/man, i've had to learn this role--like a second language. or, to not mix metaphors, like a period piece. i study the culture and customs of men in order to be true to my character.
hence why, when i see johnny depp with long hair, wearing a silk scarf and eyeliner, i study every other aspect of his being to figure out how he is seen as a hot man as opposed to a fucked up freak. cuz it's all the other little things he does while wearing the eyeliner. the long practiced, and therefore automatic, ease of lighting a cigarette with a zippo. casually propping a hand on a bent knee. these things 'read' well. it plays.
but i am never sure this is actually true for me. that people don't see me as a fucked up freak. so i pay attention to every little thing i do. not that i always change how i function to fit other people's gender prejudices, but just to be conscious of these semi-conscious tells and decide if i feel comfortable with how i'm being perceived while doing them. which means that i live my life in public (and sometimes in private) as an actor working to embody a new role. to use a clearer image, this means that i feel always like a guitarist who has just learned a song and is playing it for an audience for the first time, still looking at the music and watching my fingers, instead of functioning like a traditionally socialized 32 year old. he would feel like a musician who is playing one of their old favorites for their listeners, with the lyrics memorized and their hands finding the chords on their own. my problem (if i want to call it a problem, maybe a conundrum, or simply a situation--just the place i am on this journey) is that i don't have the muscle memory of being a man. this really shouldn't be called a problem because i actually welcome the chance to practice my performance and improve upon it with more and more attention to detail. it's a craft i enjoy perfecting, if only for the practice it gives me as an actor. (and to be clear, this role i 'play' feels much more comfortable than the one i practiced my whole young adult life, one which i also felt the need to study because it sure as hell didn't come naturally.)and now, this weekend i will literally 'take the stage' (it's really only a script reading) as a man for the first time. i guess i 'read' well enough at the bar this weekend for the folks to cast me as a young man in real life (i assume) which led them to cast me as a young man in their play. now we will see how it feels to not just perform this role on the street, but actually make the practice work in an artistically performative venue. i must tell you i'm totally intrigued to see if my performance can hold together on 'stage' for an hour and a half as well as it does on a bus for 15 minutes. wish me luck, i guess.