Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pen Pecked Dreamers

Alice C. Linsley

Novelist Fannie Hurst said, “Writing is a chore. It cracks your bones and eats you, and yet it dominates you. You hate it while you love it.”

Every writer can identify with Fannie’s sentiment. Exercising the gray matter, pounding the keys, sketching ideas and re-writing can exhaust inner resources. Yet the very work that exhausts also restores cracked bones, enflames the heart and inspires the mind. From the tidal unconscious comes a soothing flow. The intuition of the soul thrusts forth a bud full of promise. The deep reservoir of the imagination turns a chore into play.

The imagination resembles a waking dream and streams from the same source: the unconscious. When we stand waist high in the streaming source, the work of Reason is left on the shore and we, and our readers, are carried to new worlds. That dreamer, Alice falls down, down deeper into the unconscious where she dreams of White Rabbits, Mad Hatters and the Queen of Hearts who shouts “Off with her head!”

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

What indeed? There must at least be conversation, a metaphysical presence of sorts that says something! And that something will not come from the analytical but from the substance of symbols, as in dreams. Such symbols mark the course of our inner waterways so that we may steer without colliding.

In Old Times on the Mississippi the river in nightmare fog and darkness, the river with its energy and shifting banks and channels, becomes a metaphor… the banks cave, the river at night looks different from the river in daylight, and the mind plays tricks and turns a ripple on the surface of the water into a dangerous reef. Knowledge is based on empirical experience, on hard work of memorizing soundings and landmarks, on courage and an artist’s intuition…that you can always steer by the shape that’s in your head, and never mind the one that’s before your eyes. (Robert Shulman “Realism”, The Columbia History of the American Novel)

So Alice “was considering in her mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her…”

Yes, Alice, I see him too! Fluffy white with sharp ears, and preoccupied by the urgency of time so that he doesn’t notice me when I follow him down the hole.

The rabbit hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well. Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next.

Falling into dream stands us at the threshold of symbols where we enjoy double vision: we see that we are both present and oblivious, conscious that something is happening next.

I was immersed in darkness. But the darkness was not complete. Luminous creatures, loosed from the pool of dreams, patrolled the deep, black trenches of my oblivion. Had these thin, lurid illusions, these inconsequential lights, been all that was left of me, the guards manning the last outposts of my consciousness might have abandoned their duty, tossed away their shakos and walked home, dragging their rifles through the snow. Fortunately, I was aware of another light, a deep, rich, pink refulgence, dawning far away, beyond the sealed sticky rim of the eyelid. (Steve Szilagyi, Photographing Fairies)

The story line advances. We think that what happens is external, yet we too are being acted upon, for the real story is always our own transformation, our own yearnings.

Rip now resumed his old walks and habits; he soon found many of his former cronies, though all rather the worse for the wear and tear of time; and preferred making friends among the rising generation, with whom he soon grew into great favor…he took his place once more on the bench at the inn-door and was reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the village, and a chronicle of the old times ‘before the war’.

Irving’s Rip Van Winkle is a pen-pecked [sic] man who escapes to the woods and falls into a dream. Returning to the village after his long sleep, he is baffled by the strangeness. Yet the changes prove pleasant. His nagging wife is dead and the villagers now grant him status as the storyteller. The fictional Rip is freed to be what the author most desired for himself.

Related reading: Ed Pacht, Poetry is a Calling


Robert Easter said...

Alice, thank you!

This is an amazing essay, which I will enjoy reading once I get this writing done! Real encouragement, and really good direction!

Thanks again!

Robert Easter

Alice C. Linsley said...

Write! Write! Write! Glad you are blogging also, Robert. Keep up the good work.

Ellie said...

The transformation of the reader can be delightful and/or difficult. There are many stories that changed me and I cannot see how the author could have written the book without enduring a change as well.
I love you essay. Very Lyrical.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thanks for reading it, my darling darling!

Darrell said...

Ms. Linsley,
Thanks for leaving your comments about my Scoliosis Surgery. I really Apprieciate your support. I am sorry I am just now reading your comment though. I came on your site to see if my story was still here and it was. Then I saw your comment! Thank you for allowing me to be published. I hope everything is going well with you. Thanks for all the prays! I am doing Fine now and about 2 in. taller as well. Thanks again for all you've done!
Your Friend,
Daniel Lyons
P.S. I used my Dads Google Account because I don't have one

Alice C. Linsley said...

Dear Daniel, I am delighted to hear from you and praise the Lord that you came through the surgery so well! I might come over and substitute teach and if I do, I'll look for the smiling 2 inch taller sophomore in the halls!