Sunday, April 28, 2013

Avert Your Eyes or Don't

My best friend sent me a link to the movie where Werner Herzog eats his boot. After I had finished with that I clicked on one of the videos YouTube suggests and above was the video that came at me. In it, Herzog says that 'the poet must not avert his eyes'. I don't consider myself a poet so I just imagined he said 'writer'. But, what does that matter? So what he means is the poet should live a raw and real life, not sequestered in the library, viewing life from outside. This idea struck me because I couldn't help but think of my book, The Wolves. (Which, by the way, still needs a publisher, so if you publish books and are reading this, feel free to contact me) In my book I tried really hard to not 'avert my eyes'. Originally, the narrator of the first part, which almost everyone has read by now I'm sure, was named Jason. I wanted to intentionally confuse the narrator and myself, the author. Or rather the reader would put us together and think we were the same. Originally, this had much more to do with the book. I guess when I was first conceptualizing the story I wanted to comment on how people DO avert their eyes by splitting their identity into multiple identities. I know I did it. I lived out a different life through my writing. Things which I couldn't say in my real life, things I couldn't do in my real life, I could do as a character. Eventually, I saw this as a problem. We invest, or I invest, so much time in a fantasy world that we/I neglect the real world. Is it common or not that people who live with writers/songwriters/etc fear they will be plugged into their artist friend's/lover's stories/work? Are real life friends/events/transactions/emotions only fodder for the story? This is what I wanted to comment on.

Of course, the story changed and it had less and less to do with me. I took my name out of The Wolves and left it blank. Readers could choose to confuse us if they liked but it wouldn't be overt. Naturally, my own experience is built into the story but I don't see it as having happened to me. Indeed, I borrowed the names of my family, real life events, but I see them as entirely separate. This isn't to say it's not still complicated and problematic to do so. At some point, I will have to explain to those included in my book why they are there. Or not. Maybe they will just be happy they appeared. Or indifferent.

I try also to force the reader to not avert their eyes by not providing any release in the first part. Bodily fluids are pervasive. As Janey Smith once said, I went "comma-tose." He was referring to the unending commas, or unending sentences. The sentences were meant to propel the reader ever forward, and there wouldn't be any stopping. You have to look/feel what the narrator is. Violence, sex, vomit, their redundancies. There's a lot of reasons I wanted to do this but I will save that for some other post, far far in the future. So imagine my surprise then that people would eventually avert their eyes. They raced so quickly over the language, pausing only to pick up the few plot points. Well, that wasn't something I had accounted for. What would it mean if people literally skimmed the top? I reflected on that for a while then realized it wasn't a terrible outcome. It reinforced the disassociation felt by the narrator. Suddenly, the reader was closer to the narrator than before. It made sense to have him unnamed.

Now, I don't think this was everyone's reaction, nor will it be later. But, it feels important. When Herzog makes his claim, I feel really sure that this is true. It probably takes courage to do it. And no one could ever do it all the time. Some things we cannot see/hear/feel. We block those things out out of self-preservation. But, everything else, I think, we should welcome with open arms. Even the sad/scary/hard things, like death, fear, loss.

Finally, a week or so ago, I was on my way home from work and while looking out over the city from the train, I realized, quite surprisingly, that I was unafraid of the future. Did that include my death? I don't know. I can barely conceive of my life ending. I would say that I am unafraid of death, though I am angered and disappointed that I will eventually not breathe. But, it's only disappointing because I won't be able to live more. Death would be the final aversion of the eyes.