More matter with less art

As my eighth grade graduation approached, my parents decided, for reasons that are a whole 'nother story, to let me choose where I wanted to go to high school. (A decision they later regretted, but that's yet another whole 'nother story.)

I chose a school at which I did not know anyone and no one knew me. I don't think that's why I chose it -- as I recall it had a lot to do with hearing that you could do anything you wanted at the school, like, even walk out of the classroom to go to the bathroom without raising your hand for permission! which appealed to me as a lifelong student at Catholic schools, and most recently an all-girls Catholic school, at which, just to give an example, it was the norm for every single student to say "thank you Mrs./Mr./Sr. So-and-so" to the teacher as we filed out of a classroom (in single file. of our own accord.) to go to our next class.

For whatever reason, at any rate, I ended up a stranger in a strange land, with nothing but my severely under-developed social skills to make my way. But a few weeks before classes started, I started going to swim practices. This was a good way to make friends, right?

Unfortunately, the high school I had chosen was in fact a K-12, meaning that many of the people I was going to school with had known each other since kindergarten. They'd had ten years in which to develop a complex caste system, about which I knew nothing. Indeed, having never been in a school with more than 30 kids per grade, I knew little about such systems in general, much less the specifics of who I must never, ever be seen talking to, and who I must not attempt to talk to absent express invitation or until I had sufficiently established my own equal or superior place on the ladder that I could so presume without invitation.

Unfortunately for me, many of the other freshman girls on the swim team, whom I attempted, clumsily, to befriend, happened to be at or near the very pinnacle of this caste system. Imagine their surprise and disdain at my advances! Imagine my confusion and terror! Oh, the hilarity and shame that ensued.

Among my many faults that made this endeavor so spectacularly unsuccessful was that I had a propensity to tell stories that did not proceed logically to a punch line, moral, or climax, or otherwise have any apparent point. These sorts of pointless stories became known as "Anne stories." At least, that's my impression, since it was behind my back.

I still tell Anne stories, although people are too polite to tell me so, and, one hopes, too grown up to say so behind my back. It's particularly amusing/painful/ironic because I would like nothing more to make my living as a storyteller. Sometimes that worries me a little. Other times I think, well, doesn't much of literature feel pretty pointless? I have twice now attempted to read Ulysses and abandoned the endeavor because of its (somehow frantically energetic, but still) narrative inertia.

Which is where the irony really gets going. Literature doesn't always have much of a plot, but personally, I think it should. I don't read books without plots. I used to force myself to do it, because I was pretentious, but I've decided life is too short and I have too little time to read and there are way too many books in the world for me to waste time reading books I'm not enjoying.

So is it possible to write books you don't want to read? Or at least, is writing a book without a plot more interesting than reading a book without a plot? I hope so.

1 comment:

Blessing of Life said...

I'm smiling thinking of Anne stories and glad that they are still being created.