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Memo to Self - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Memo to Self [Oct. 4th, 2004|09:58 pm]
Young Geoffrey
(This is a journal, Gentle Readers - and, occasionally, I use it as such. What follows is likely to be of no interest to anyone but myself. However, you are welcome to journey with me, into the random thoughts of Young Geoffrey, following a one-man play, his first toke in weeks and a few minutes stolen with my sweetie.)

- The play (Laura can provide title and performer) was the coming-of-age story of a gay man. The actor was quite convincing as a number of characters, as well as as himself (one assumes it is autobiographical; it follows the form, but on that anon) at ages ranging from 9 to 27. The gradual realization that he is gay; guilt, slow acceptance, then celebration and eventual reconciliation with confused (but loving) parents.

What set it above most work in this plotless genre was the humour. Starting with the young boy's insistence on being Wonder Woman when playing superheroes with his friends, the character is charming in his naivity about himself and the story of his self-actualization has moments that had me laughing out loud.

- My (overly?) critical nature: Lately, a running joke (with more than a hint of truth to it, I fear) between Laura and I has to do with the "fact" that I "never like anything." Pulp Fiction and For Great Gatsby come immediately to mind. I've denied it (and provided examples), but I've started monitoring myself, to see whether there might not be some truth to the charge - I sure as hell to want to be one of those old cranks, finding nothing but fault wherever he goes, nor even come across as one.

So I was a bit nervous about seeing this play (the writer/performer) is one of Laura's teachers) and hoping I would, in fact, enjoy; fearing I wouldn't, and be unable to surpress the urge to carp and criticize. It was with more than a little relief that I quite enjoyed myself.

- It was a strange feeling to realize that Laura's teacher is quite a bit younger than I am.

- Nevertheless, I did find one significant fault with the play - or at least, with the form of the play.

As I mentioned above, it had no real plot, no conflict. The protagonist was unhappy with his sexuality - about that, and masturbation, his church and school told him little more than, "Don't DO IT!" and "Don't BE IT!"; he felt unable to talk to his parents; he was isolated from his peers. But there was no overt prejudice to deal with - no one beating him up, his family didn't throw him into the street.

This strict, autobiographical style (it's conceivable, of course, that it more a work of fiction than I believe it to be) lacks one thing that succesful fiction must (almost) always have: conflict. The traditional structure, where the protagonist must strive to solve - and fail, and fail, then finally succeed - is traditional precicely because that structure provides the audience with more than just identification to maintain its interest. If we know the protagonist is telling us a story, about himself, and that he has a sense of humour, we don't necessarily need to find out "what happens next".

The guy succeeded reasonably well, because he is quite witty, and a good caricaturist - but still, it is only a "tale", rather than a "story" and so of only limited interest - if we don't like, if we don't sympathize with the lead, he's not going to hold our interest.

- Discussing this with Laura (or rather, pontificating about it at Laura; the dope, as it sometimes will, led me to an expansive place, instead of my normal, quiet corner), I thought of John le Carre's Absolute Friends, a novel I am re-reading because it is so good I want to write something substantial about it for my website. Le Carree's book has three main threads - the first, a story of a strange and mostly long-distance, but very intense friendship between two men, youthful radicals coming of age in the late 1960 and early 1970s, whose paths lead them both into Le Carree's word of espionage; the second, is a powerful endictment of that world and of the imperial politics (once British, now American) that continues to treat real human beings as abstractions, pieces on a board that can be eliminated without the mearest shiver of conscience.

The backdrop of the second "story" is the 2nd Gulf War, just "past". Le Carree's anger and outrage is palpable, but kept under control, as the author never deviates from the needs of fiction.

The third, of course, is the plot- (and character) -driven narrative thread itself, the intrigues of two double-agents, stealing secrets from the Soviets, then retiring, then coming back together for one last, apparently noble, job - enemies appear and we are even treated to chase scenes and violent interrogations.

Point being: The narrative is far richer, the intellectual content far more complex, the reader's empathy far more engaged, because we not only want to find our who the characters are and how they got that way, but because we want to find out what they are really up to and whether or not one will betray the other.

- Real point being: two many of my own stories lack that structure; it is a flaw in my own work.

All right. It's late. My body hurts (despite not making it out to the rink this morning. I need to go to bed.

I wonder whether I'll be embarassed by this post in the morning.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: sooguy
2004-10-05 09:18 am (UTC)
I haven't read any LeCarre since high school when spy thrillers was a daily staple for me, but your description of Absolute Friends definitely tempts me to pick this one up.

I too read novels with a critical eye to what makes them tick and what can I learn from it as a writer. I recently had a friend say that sort of analytical eye must really ruin reading for me, not being able to sit back and enjoy the ride. I told them its quite the opposite actually, being able to look at how a writer crafted a novel gives you a better appreciation for the care and effort that goes into it (or the lack of in many cases).

BTW, I am the friend that saoilsinn referred to your friend list.

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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-05 09:03 pm (UTC)
I only discover le Carre within the past year and a half or so; I had previously dismissed him as "just" a thriller-writer.

How wrong I was.

I agree with you about reading critically, but I'm concerned that (maybe) I only voice my negative reactions. At this point, I'm monitoring myself.

And yes, I recognized your provenance; pleased to have you aboard - you'll understand when I start to bitch about the damp wimpiness of southern winters.
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[User Picture]From: sooguy
2004-10-05 10:01 pm (UTC)
I always thought myself too critical and resisted enjoying stuff other people found greatly entertaining, but I don't think I would consider myself anywhere as negative as you portray your own criticism.

I think its only been recently that I can accept some things that are not masterpieces and be all right with that.

See you around.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-07 05:09 pm (UTC)
I find it interesting that not everything I really like - that works for me - is necessarily something I think of as a masterpiece.
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[User Picture]From: pbprincess
2004-10-05 09:43 am (UTC)
I liked Great Gatsby for what it was (same with Pulp Fiction actually), but neither ranked in my "best EVER" lists for their genres.

I think this is a thing about getting old, where you realize that you have firmly established tastes in what you like and what you don't. It isn't a bad thing unless you cut off new experiences and allow yourself to be surprised by how GOOD something new is.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-05 09:06 pm (UTC)
Very much so - you make decisions about some questions (in my case, for example, the existence of God) and are no longer interested in discussing the matter (going over the same old same old again and again and again), unless someone can really show you a completely new twist.

But that can easily slip into complacency about everything - and then you might as well be dead.
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[User Picture]From: pbprincess
2004-10-06 08:37 am (UTC)
exactly: listening to christians telling you that you'll burn in hellfire eternal has limited charms, after the first few times.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-06 04:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, very much so.

For me, the trouble is fundamental. No matter how bright the Christian, any discussion beyond a simple exchange of views will boil down to his or her faith, of which I have none, in a supernatural sense. (Which doesn't mean I think I have the world all figured out - I don't - but does mean I'll be bloody surprised if natural laws are not, in fact, natural laws.

Some years ago it occurred to me that if Jesus Christ himself suddenly appeared before me and performed any number of miracles, I still wouldn't be convinced he was (the Son of) God. Easier to believe in an extremely advanced alien than that some supreme being brought the universe out of nothing - without ever being created itself.

As Arthur C. Clarke put it, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
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[User Picture]From: pbprincess
2004-10-07 10:31 am (UTC)
Neal Stephenson quotes that in the book I just read, oddly enough. Good to know where it's coming from.

yes, the problem with arguing with Christians, I find is that they can't understand that you don't trust their sources. It's always, "Well, the bible says..." and when I say, "I don't believe in the bible as anything but cultural propaganda," even the bright ones don't know how to regroup.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-07 05:11 pm (UTC)
To my mind, Clarke isn't that good a writer, but he's an interesting thinker - did you know he was the first to come up with the idea of communication satelites?

I need to pick up Stephenson's new series.
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[User Picture]From: pbprincess
2004-10-12 08:50 am (UTC)
It's a commitment of at least a couple of weeks to wade through Stephenson's stuff, and I'm only through the first two.

Have offshifted to Kit Pearson, Sheila Heti and Nadine Gordimer while I think about buying myself the next installment.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-12 04:22 pm (UTC)
I know, he doesn't seem to write thin books, does he?

A friend of mine (who's just finished Cryptonomicon and I are contemplating splitting the cost of the new series.

As for your last 3 writers, I've only heard of Nadine Gordimer and have read none of them. Myself, I'm re-reading Le Carre's Absolute Friends, because it's brilliant and I want to say something interesting about it.
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From: patriarch420
2004-10-05 01:59 pm (UTC)
were you ? (embarassed in the morning, that is. I hope you slept well - god knows you need as much as you can get.)

glad you had a good time honey, i'll talk/possibligh see you tomorrow
xoxo

*kiss lix smack* love-
laura
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-05 09:10 pm (UTC)
Happily not (embarassed). There were some weird mispellings and other errors, but for a "memo to self", it did a decent job of reminding myself of what I'd been thinking - and what we'd been talking - about.

I'm glad I had a good time too, sweetie. And I'll be delighted if you can squeeze me in to your schedule. (On my way home tonight, it occured to me, I think riffing off something we talked about on the weekend, that I have never once felt that I needed to get away from you, that I needed some space or something like that. The thought made me very happy.)
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From: patriarch420
2004-10-06 04:47 pm (UTC)
hi dear.. just haunting your journal to distract myself . . its fun to read when im high. :) Fuck man, i swear i can't walk more than 6 blocks without an offer to get high Okay my love, have a good night. love, laura(aka- not technically a liar)
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-06 04:51 pm (UTC)
i swear i can't walk more than 6 blocks without an offer to get high


Shit. Next time I see you, darling, remind me to give you a (probably) pointless lecture on this, will you? (Jesus Christ but you scare me sometimes!)

(I thought you have an essay to do, young lady!)
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From: patriarch420
2004-10-06 05:00 pm (UTC)
i got high with my sister and her high end king & bay high rise buddies. its so funnyt o see rich-as-fuck business men roll a jointin a sketchy stairway...

but iwas seriously tripped out on the subway . . lol . i read the same line at least 37 times.

sleep sweet *big grin* AND DO SOME WRITING!! *cRacks a whip*

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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-06 05:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you, my love - that gives me a good deal of comfort.

I'm thinking of starting off with, "A liar* never looked as good as when Laura sauntered into my office, elegant and trashy in pink fishnets and a tight short skirt, t-shirt and leather."

"You do some writing too, darlin'. You're doing great - don't fuck it up now."**



*"Not technically a liar." - Laura
**Young Geoffrey, channeling Jane
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From: patriarch420
2004-10-06 05:19 pm (UTC)
ID have to say that title meets my approval.

*puts an "approved" stamp on it*

:)


badgers badgers badgers badgers
MUSHROOM MUSHROOM! badgers badgers badgers badgers badgers SNAAAAKE SNAAAAAKE O0O ITS A SNAAAAKE.

love u ;)
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From: patriarch420
2004-10-06 05:21 pm (UTC)
didnt we agree on "Young Pretentious Geoffrey With a Naturally Pretentious Artsy-Fartsy Goatee" ? hehehe. i cant stop thinking that everytime i look at it now...
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-10-07 05:10 pm (UTC)
Er, no - I don't think we did. That I might write something about my freakish facial hair, maybe, but not the former.
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