At my request for a book that would make me forget about losing touch with the family that I have recently followed through three books and several generations (the trilogy, alas, is over), my father suggested that I read Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.  Fine. (The Dubliners, I promise, is on the list too.)

I almost always skip introductions because, in my experience, they are not very interesting.  To be fair, of course, I’m not really one to judge, since my experience with them pretty much ended in middle school when I decided to skip them.  In any event, for whatever reason, I read the introduction of Dandelion Wine.  It probably caught my eye because it was short and began with a refreshingly unpretentious and unlofty sentence.  “This book, like most of my books and stories, was a surprise.” 

What I found in Bradbury’s introduction made me reject my middle school resolution that I should just skip to the “good stuff.”   I actually related to him.  I to BradburyWriter to Writer.  Now, that’s not to be interpreted as an equation, but still…  I understood what he was talking about, and it reminded me of J-Term, so I’ve decided to share:

I began to learn the nature of such surprises, thank God, when I was fairly young as a writer.  Before that, like every beginner, I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash an idea into existence.  Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes it’s eyes on eternity, and dies.

That was the first paragraph.  Beautifully written, and a sentiment that I whole-heartedly understand.  Write when you have to.  Keep reading…

It was with great relief, then, that in my early twenties I floundered into a word-association process in which I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head.

I would then take arms against the word, or for it, and bring on an assortment of characters to weigh the word and show me its meaning in my own life… I would have to work this way for the rest of my life.

This reminded me of some of the exercises that we did.  It even qualifies as creative nonfiction.  Some more sentences:

Somehow I had to send myself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they had to offer.

Along the way I came upon and collided, through word-association, with old and true friendships.

I came on the old and best ways of writing through ignorance and experiment and was startled when truths lept out of bushes like quail before gunshot.  I blundered into creativity as blindly as any child learning to walk and see. 

This reminded me of the quotes BG put up on the board about what it means to be a writer…

And, after all, isn’t that what life is all about, the ability to go around back and come up inside other people’s heads to look out at the damned fool miracle and say: oh, so that’s how you see it!? Well, now, I must remember that.

Is it?  I think I disagree with this one.  Certainly, that is an aspect of life.  “What life is all about,” though, must include how you truly see through YOUR eyes as well, no?

And the introduction ends:

Why and how?

Because I say it is so.

Ray Bradbury wrote this in the summer of 1974.  I encourage you to find the whole text.  I can’t vouche for the whole book yet, as I have not finished it, but, judging from just this, it’s worth a read.

What have I missed over the years?

I’ve been learning quite a lot about writers in general, and not just about myself as a writer.

To tell the truth, though I love to read, I’ve hated English class since the beginning of high school. Why? Well, to a large extent, because I equate English teachers in my head to failed psychologists (and give me a break, I’m trying to be honest here, not tactful). “What do you suppose the character is feeling during this time?” “If this were to happen, how would the characters respond?” My feeling has always been that whatever event we’re talking about DIDN’T happen. We should be paying attention to the book instead of psychoanalyzing the characters. I still feel that way, actually. My distaste for English classes, however, went further: I’ve always felt that we are reading things into the writing that are not actually there. In some cases, I’m sure that we do (“She’s wearing a green dress! The hidden meaning MUST be that she’s jealous!!”). I’m starting to be convinced, however, that much more is intentional in a piece than I originally assumed. BG keeps telling us that we need to be purposeful. She says that our finished pieces should have exactly the number of words that are necessary — not one more or one less. Especially for the multimedia writing, everything that we choose to include we must choose for a reason. Maybe it’s worth it to examine every letter in a story, after all. Maybe each word was put there intentionally and for a specific reason. I just always assumed that because I did not write that way, no one did. Silly me.

~

Transitioning to the piece at hand now (multimedia): I’m thinking that the topic will be dance, and I’d like to give myself a challenge. Can I write something that makes the reader/viewer feel movement without any video feed? I’m not sure — guess I’ll try for a while and find out.

“Writing should serve as the axe for the frozen sea within us” F. Kafka

I certainly agree with the overarching sentiment here, but I find myself a bit repulsed by the components.  Perhaps I’m just reading a bit too literally.  “Frozen sea,” for me, implies not only a paralysis without writing, but also a frigidness.  Perhaps I am partially paralyzed, but I do not this that my insides are ever frigid, writing or no.  As for “the axe,” I prefer to think of the acts of expression and self-discovery through writing as teasing out the knot of insides and laying them out in a way that makes sense, and in a way that is, for me, almost sublime.

But what does “Writing should serve to tease out our warm and squishy insides” sound like?  Somehow, it completely loses the urgency, and it devalues the torrent locked away within us.  I am quite drawn to the raw feeling of Kafka’s quotation and I agree that writing can unlock something within me… but I must be cautious in how that sentiment is expressed.