Thursday, January 9, 2014

Inkblots--Indians, Unitarians, cultural engineering, and POINT OF VIEW

Point of view in fiction
INKBLOTS--Six men, some nice red wine and Dutch chocolate (from our coach company in the Netherlands; thanks, Peter, coach driver extraordinaire), fire on the grate, drizzle, gray, misty Washington weather outside. We discussed my PNW yarn quite a bit, sorry to dominate tonight, gentlemen, but I appreciate so much the help and input. We talked a good deal about point of view. I read two versions of the opening episode of The Noble Savage, one in first person and one in third, same material, more or less. Patrick made his case for keeping the first person, more immediate, but as Alan commented, include some of the more detailed description of setting and some backstory. Patrick cited Duncan's War as an example of why I should write it in first person (which is actually written in third person, but I stick to one perspective throughout--Duncan's). I had to apologize for taking up far more than my share of time, sorry gentlemen, but thanks, heaps, for the helpful critique and suggestions.

Alan shares with us his passion to get back to the real text of O Holy Night, a French carol translated by Dwight, a Unitarian minister who seemed not to be very concerned about the real reason for the Advent, Redeeming love, coming passion and death and resurrection, glorification. Alan read an email I had the privelege of seeing already, one that reveals his passion for getting this carol right, fixing centuries of bad translation that has come to rankle big time in Alan's imagination and his love of gospel theology. I like how Alan gives his wife Barbara credit for listening and offering her wifely input and encouragements.

My wife is so patient with my latest writing manias, but she does have her limits; the other day she gently commented, after I had been expostulating on 1855 and the Indian Wars and pointing out from the car window yet another site where Chief Leschi may have led his mounted 300 to an engagement on the White River or the place where the two-story log house of Pastor DeVore was used to house American settler refuges during the Indian War, "Just so you know, I'm not quite as into all things 1855 as you are right now." Message received.

Alan proceeded to give us a thoughtful critique of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, penned by a 19th century Transcendentalist. Bottom line, it is not a Christian hymn, period. Alan describes his high school French teacher in Sunnyside, WA making learning French fun and interesting, a class he looked forward to. All this enthusiasm shines throw as Alan shares with us (this is no ordinary dentist, trust me!). I wish all could hear Alan read his corrected and faithful rendition of O Holy Night, Christ-centered, heart felt. Alan wisely penned his versification to fit the meter of the marvelous tune to the English melody.

John reads his Russian immigrant tale, a good deal of the material gathered from Russians he works with, fascinating way to get story ideas. This is a story that needs to be told. The mother's instruction about God's care and providence feels like it needs to have more authenticity, more context of smells and sounds, pauses with inner thoughts, maybe, gestures, mannerism woven into the instruction, or maybe the child's doubts and fears. How is she dressed, what else is going on contextually, wagon going by, sights, smells etc. Set in 1921, Russian peasant wars after WW I, shells exploding around them in the forest. Alan suggests that John incorporate Russian Orthodox angles on Christianity, ones that we believe though we may express them somewhat differently. Alan thought John's description sounded too Presbyterian, make it feel more Orthodox Christian. Maybe some mention of icons and the difference between nominal christianity and the real deal. Show a more round perspective on the setting as the governess explains gospel truth. Alan suggests making Nina something other than a peasant. They were slaves, slaves who would never become a governess. Life was so restrictive then and there. Russians often hired French governesses, but not likely from the lower class. John does an amazing job of letting us beat him up! An example to us all! This is what makes Inkblots work so well. I learned from my brother 'Blots tonight and I think we're watching John do so too.

Patrick, Polish heritage, working on a book of short stories, futuristic zombies as a symbol of original sin. Wants each tale to be unique, not reworking of others.  Adam was product of double 6 fertility, complete with reality TV on the same-sex couple Adam and (St)Eve. Patrick keeps his tongue firmly in cheek as he describes the mounting hype for this only-in-America reality show, yes, filmed in, you guessed it, Southern California. This is entirely too bazaar, and a total crack-up spoof on a culture gone mad, mad, insane, bonkers (did I mention madness?). Patrick manages to sustain this weird yarn, dumping the commercial priorities out there for all too see. He shows the behind the scene conivings of TV producers worried about the financial viability of the show, the political correctness, the demographics of potential viewers, women and some minorities, but not most men, but men are not the big buyers of the kinds of things advertised on the shows. It does resolve itself, but in a way that will elude the militant secularist elite attempting to recast culture in its image (my take).