Thursday, 08 November 2007

The Death of L. and Other Shadows

It is frightening how close one can come to the fictional realities encountered in stories…how keenly one can feel the loss of characters that were never ‘alive’ in the first place. Of course, given another blogging day I would be glad to take that idea up. It is my contention that probably most of the protagonists I’ve read about in fiction are more alive than most real people ever will be…in the sense that they embody so much of the spectrum of human life and meaning whereas most of the everyday people one meets are more mundane, more flat and one-dimensional than the heroes of the cheesiest cartoon.

It is of course a mark of good story-telling that we ‘feel’ the loss of the characters created especially for that purpose. Their deaths signify something because their ‘lives’ signified something that has crept intimately close into the inner realities of the emotional and spiritual components of our being. In the case of a significant number of recent stories, that emotional force seems to derive its primary vitality from its life as ‘half-self’ to the protagonist we are supposed to be identifying with. We feel the loss of the character more keenly in narratives where that character has been set up as our own underground, shadow self.

This idea seems prevalent in all the anime I’ve yet encountered, which admittedly is not by any count a representative number. And obviously it is a common reading of fantasy stories that everything in the story is an element in the protagonist’s psyche, so that the villain is always some version of a dark self. Yet still there is something peculiar about the shadow, to use Jungian terminology, in anime that I haven’t noticed any where else. And this is the sense of an essential bond between the two selves represented as protagonist and antagonist; the sense that the shadow is not only vital but profoundly beloved.
In the Harry Potter stories, Harry may see himself in Voldemort on numerous occasions, but he never develops an emotional relationship with him. In A Wizard Of Earthsea, the gibbeth may be an essential part of the protagonist but it still evokes nothing but thorough revulsion in Ged. Frodo takes pity on Gollum, his shadow self, but he never learns to love him.

In contrast to this, there is always some kind of intrinsic desire for the dark-self in anime. And the dark self tends to be more than a representation of what the protagonist despises in himself. In Naruto Orochimaru may be the story’s primary villain, later succeeded by Akatsuki, but neither of these threats represents the catastrophe to Naruto that Sasuke's fall does. The best thing about this series was that we never knew where the self ended between these two, where the hate stopped and the love began. In Blood+ the inner conflict had expression in a less subtle metaphor, between actual twins. Yet the most searing moment in the story is not where Saya recognizes her dark self in Diva, but at the end when she learns that to sacrifice her sister is indeed a terrible price to pay. She is horrified when, running each other through simultaneously with the blood-soaked swords that bring death to them, the sisters fall to the ground but only Diva dies. Implicit in the violence their existences mean to each other is a profound consolation, that in killing each other at least they can be together.

In my most recent anime excursion, Death Note, an interesting spin on the old duality is that we follow the story through the eyes of the ‘villain’, but the m.o. is the same. Light and L. are geniuses with opposing convictions, and at the heart of their perfect opposition is the old truth of a perfect equality. As such a friendship on a level outside the realm of belief develops between what are essentially cold and isolated positions. This ultimately culminates in L.'s downfall. There is something inconsistent with L’s genius in that he doesn’t figure out Light’s crowning manoeuvre before it’s too late. Just before his last appearance there is the uncharacteristic scene of him standing in the rain mumbling vaguely about things remotely connected to sentimental images of his childhood. His last conversation with Light has the sense of sloppiness, of him buckling under a growing intimacy with his nemesis.

Of course we never doubt in these stories that the protagonists will never allow their shadows to take flight and grow. Naruto would never allow Sasuke to destroy Konoha. There is never a question that Saya would let Diva be Diva and live. Given the smallest scrap of evidence, L. would have grasped at the opportunity to have Light arrested as Kira. But the sense of sacrifice accompanying the defeat of these shadows almost neutralizes any sense of triumph, always resulting in an irreparable void, an inconsolable sense of loss.

Saturday, 06 October 2007

Redeeming the Cliché

And so it is that I’ve experienced my second foray into the world of anime, as, much to the contemptuous impatience of my sister the anime expert, I have passed through the Painted Glass and enjoyed Blood+, a series which enjoys said sister’s arched derision and contempt. Much of this has to do with the unabashed angst of the series. Among her gripes is one which amused me; apparently the beautiful delicate heroine who eats a lot but never gains weight is a cliché abundant in anime…who knew?

The angst doesn’t really bother me. Blood+ is styled much in the tradition of the science fiction gothic, and I always find that once I can identify a grand aesthetic tradition to which a story is paying homage to I don’t mind clichés, as long as the style is done well. I find that this is generally true for the postmodern audience well-versed in the lore of aesthetic traditions. Take Kill Bill, for instance. Much of the movie’s cleverness inhered in the demand for a certain ironic stance towards the over-the-top violence and deliberately bad dialogue. To appreciate it, we had to be aware that one, the lameness was on purpose, and two, that the purpose had to do with a salute to a style of 1970s kung-fu revenge narrative that either once had been great, or which had anyway cultivated a genre-specific audience with a rich stylistic structure. Kill Bill would never have commanded the critical respect it did if we hadn’t been aware of the contract it made with an outdated aesthetic. That awareness demands sophistication and so we read the lameness not for what it exhibits but for what knowledge (of a tradition) it demands. Same is true for Mary-Jane’s line in the recent Spiderman movies, “Go get ‘em, Tiger.” Consider the cheese of that for a second, and then consider that it was comic-book canon that Mary-Jane used that line. Kirsten Dunst therefore had to say it at least once in the movie, and that idea of a salute made to the rich tradition of the Spiderman comics elicited delight in audiences because it signified a certain subtlety specific to pop-culture know-how. In other words we enjoyed it not because we liked it but because we recognized it.

I think, really, that a lot of these ‘homage’ trends signify in a way, a certain longing for the cliché. If something is old (read by us as outdated) or too well recognized (cliché), there is a certain pressure to let it go, despite what value we still find in it. The contract of recognition, or homage, redeems what we have lost, restoring to it if not its old meaning then a kind of artificial glamour on which we skate delicately careful to avoid losing our ironic retrospection or academic distance.

Blood+, for me I think, skated on the latter. Once I had identified the genre, and knew to expect haunted pasts, tall-dark-and-handsomes, and narrative manipulations designed to simultaneously characterize the heroine as violently strong and hopelessly vulnerable, I could allow them to slide. I knew they had been done before.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The Problem of Knowing

Information has always been, in some form or other, a currency of prestige. It is the material from which we spin our reality, but more importantly it codifies the focal point around which that reality radiates, a sense of self, the I in the face of the universe. We use it to tell us who we are and it both sustains and illuminates the cultural geographies that frame our hierarchies of social status.

More importantly, though, are the politics of visibility that validate those geographies. In a real sense, it isn’t what we know as who knows we know it, not what we know reveals about ourselves, but how it portrays us for others, and what they choose to do with that which counts, and now becomes knowledge in confrontation with their own focal points of knowing.

I can wrap information around myself like camouflage or I can filter everything I know through the sift of who I want to be. I can’t know everything I know and be myself, the Self I choose to sell to others, to counter the self they will make subordinate to their own selves.

I have also learned now where ignorance cannot be disdained. Of course we punish this for reasons that can be entirely arbitrary; people who do not know have chosen not to know, not to live in some way which we see as vital to our own selves, and so they must have chosen not to be wise, not because they have validated other aspects of being, but because this in some way then signifies their spiritual laziness. But those reasons, in the main, have especial tendencies to self-serving agendas, so intrinsic and insidious, that we’ve forgotten the reasons we punish for not knowing, and for not being as we see being.

It is neither wrong nor especially reprehensible to be ignorant of certain things, even things that are supposedly ‘commonly known’. It is however wrong to express disparaging opinions, opinions which have not drunk from knowledge, which have not partaken of the selves of others and stewed in that rare wisdom, compassion.
That is not autonomous being, as I have attempted to qualify it; it is crudeness. Not because it is spiritually lazy or even self-involved, but because it is violence without purpose and without being. It is not human, and it is not animal; it is base.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Answers We Should Be Giving

To understand fantasy, one must firstly understand its enemy, and its enemy is not ‘reality’ whatever that may be, neither is fantasy someone’s laughably literal-minded idea of what constitutes 'magic'. In short, fantasy’s enemy is the kind of thinking that says ‘what I can see, what I can touch, that’s real’. One only has to think of the Dursleys in the Harry Potter books; there is no spiritual dimension for such people, there is no wonder in God’s creation because they will never accept or see what is not of their making, in their control, or in their direct understanding. And they can never understand the touch and the peace of the divine, or the heroic potential of the inner self. To represent such worlds, the world of the spirit and the psychology, fantasy uses magical worlds, the worlds of magic, of wonder. These are of course, in every way, ‘other’ worlds. We need faith to pass through, as we need faith to understand that there is more to reality than the seductive realm of the Possession; where the absence of the newest model of whatever coveted artifact (cars, food, phones) signifies absence of self in some way, (reducing of identity, of status). This is of course, exactly the world the Dursleys live in: the world of the mundane and material, of expensive cars and neat suburban homes.

Magic in these books, is of course a double edged sword; on the one hand it clearly signifies power and a certain kind of wisdom. Wizards are born, not made, that is clear. But to be a great wizard definitely signifies a mastery of the inner self, not of physical prowess. To produce a patronus, we need a happy memory, so we need to understand what happiness is to us, therefore we need to understand ourselves. Good readers of fantasy will be drawn into wondering what constitutes happiness for them, and about the power of positive thinking; they’ll start thinking about hope in a very sophisticated sense, and that will inevitably bring them to faith. Fantasy maps that journey with a metaphorical pen on a sort of paper called Destiny.
Poor readers of fantasy, on the other hand, will start wondering how cool they would look if they pointed a wooden stick at someone and shot out a silver animal at them.

Both Good and Evil can evil can master the inner self, which is why the Other world is always in peril, in some way a battlefield. Having faith is not the end of the journey; we need to know evil as it whispers in ourselves. I once read that in a fantasy novel, there is no character or place that does not symbolize something within a single human being. Elves and hobbits are two different faces of humankind…so are orcs. We are both Harry and Voldemorte. Stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia is only the first step, but if you can’t; if you get to that point and think “how stupid…how can a country exist inside a wardrobe?”, and toss the book over your shoulder in disgust…well, you haven’t even begun.

Thursday, 09 August 2007

The Painted Glass

My father recently took up reading the last two Harry Potter novels, rather defensively justifying himself by saying he ‘needed to know what happened’ and that the stories sustain their appeal through the drive of plot, which is to say that he adamantly denies that the stories are any kind of ‘good’ literature. I would agree that Rowling’s fantasy series doesn’t have the aesthetic literary quality of the canon; you cannot, as is at any point possible of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Charlotte Bronte, take out a single line and go ‘wow’. But not many who have read Rowling could deny that while reading the stories they were not utterly immersed in the world she created, or hopelessly compelled by the events she described and that, whatever else you may say about her, is story-telling at its most skilful. In fact if anyone really sits down to systematically consider what enthralled them so about the books, they might be amazed at the way Rowling’s story worked at them on a hundred different levels, and I am not just talking about plot. I am talking about her ability to make a story work and work well. Again this gets frustratingly confusable with canonical judgments, so let me rather put it this way: I am talking about the ability to make a story story good, not about good literature. But where then is the line over which one crosses into bad story? Where do the forces of subjective judging hold sway and when is something just irredeemably cheesy?

Anime here offers the most fascinating example of all. In particular I am referring to Naruto, but I think the series serves to demonstrate ideas that are peculiar to anime, not least because it is richly thematic and, like the Harry Potters, seemingly simple in its aesthetic.

Naruto makes use of the crude mechanisms of cartoons to convey some of its humour, but also has the full flush of epic in its emotional scope and thematic complexity. Being a fan of either can bring one to ‘the other side’, and this is where the mode’s genius and greatest disadvantage lies. It is difficult to ‘pass into’ a story, to go from being a mere spectator to an emotional participator in it, when the mode through which that story is conveyed is something like animation. It is difficult to take animation seriously on the level on which Naruto makes its emotional demands, which is sophisticated in both its depth and its complexity. This means that it is difficult to see the story for what it is, to pass through the painted glass that is the mode of story-ing, the animation, and breathe the living emotion that is so vibrant and astonishing behind.

The Painted Glass does not always take the form of crude artifice. I believe it is the obstacle of our prejudices, that keep us from ‘passing through’ into a story, an essential transformation if we are to access it at its most yielding, and only then, attain the authority to judge it fairly.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Beyond Peril

Note: The following contains explicit spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I finished the latest and final Harry Potter book at precisely 8:10 this morning. What I call self-sanctity (although a more honest term would be identity pride) compels me to clear up at the onset that although I received the book at one of the many hype-ridden Release Parties (a topic for another post, where my apologies are in order) this was due mainly to the fact that I’m currently sharing my copy with my sister, and this has restricted my reading time to late nights and early mornings. But that is not the subject of this post. Right now I want to talk about the effects of the book on me.

For quite a while I couldn’t think what I found so distasteful; after all there was much in the book I heartily applauded and found immensely satisfying: Snape’s innocence, Draco, Ron and Hermione’s kiss…I even approved of the losses, intimate to heighten the cost of the struggle but not enough to mutilate its worth. And then…after worrying it and worrying it I realized that my problem was on an academic level and rather generic: I disapproved of Harry’s isolation.

This may confuse someone who would want to know what I’m referring to – after all Harry ends up the furthest thing from alone at the end of the story. But I’m not talking about the absence of friends or personal fulfilment…I'm talking about a crude articulation of the paradox of fantasy, a line that has been crossed where Harry's story inhabits a realm between adventure and myth, upsettingly, towards the latter. I am not saying that fantasy must not play it's inherited mythic role, but not to the extent where the protagonist is elevated above the reach of psychological identification, which is what adventure enables in its qualties of earthiness and the immediate extraordinary.

Now nothing I should have enjoyed is free of a certain mythic glow; Harry’s children and even Ron’s jokes are bathed in it. Where before Harry's story was a journey to be taken, for the pleasure of his life and the purpose of navigating our own labyrinthine psyches, now it is a relic on a wall. Something to be treasured, dusted, worshiped, but not touched. Not experienced, because in isolating Harry, his character has been elevated, depressingly I found, from hero-as-me to hero-as-sign.

Monday, 02 July 2007

The Shadowy Marches of the Country of Idleness

Far greater peril runs rampant in a land of not so far kin to the realm of faerie, one where the sun neither dims nor shines, or admits of night announcing its incestuous presence. There is a stream of consciousness alive in the place it is true, without rhyme of reason, signposts or destination. It feeds and births dreams, neither of the waking consciousness nor the sleeping subconscious. We are creative therein, it is so. But no craft takes shape in our hands for we have none therein, but are only disembodied ecstasies and streaming yearnings. We are alive and well, but the blood does not run in our veins as it ought, and we bleed grey syrap when wakefullness pricks us.

This is the land of the grey mist, the faint light not of the sun. It is the land immortal, unchanging, whose time is like a vacuum for our own. Youth is to be gotten there, it is so, but not without sacrifice. Not without life. Not without peril.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Is She Wyrd?

Wyrd Sisters as a play was pulled off with astonishing flair by superiors and contemporaries on Saturday afternoon. And it's little to do with the fact that Terry Pratchett is difficult to screw up in the entertainment zone, because the book was simply not as good. Actors (who by the way have no professional training whatsoever) found two or three jokes in lines in which I hadn't even detected one. Even minor roles were sparkling and sometines momentarily stole the show, in particular one of the guards and a certain chambermaid. The witches were more than characters; they were people, brought (to use a cliche) in all their earthy jaggedness and charming eccentricity properly to life.

Something about taking on the roles in a story, however, which does seem to tap into some spiritual essence even more than a book. This is exactly one of the central themes of the play itself, and it is worthwhile to consider the perils of a realm not so easily designated.

And while you're doing that it'll also be worth your while to get hold of the song 'Is She Weird?' by The Pixies, which played with characteristic spunk as the actors took their last bows. As it did I sat on the edge of my seat, a rapt smile on my face, thinking that in some untried but not unimagined physical way, I'd been to the Perilous Realm and felt story with my skin and blood. Now that's weird.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

A Comedy of Contacts

The most recent post on my sister's blog, appropriately (rather cleverly I thought) entitled 'Networking', is what provided the impetus for this train of thought. I won't spend time, however, clearing up the story, although that was my original idea, because as I considered with immense amusement the prospect of taking different sources and putting them together I realized something. Essentially, this was that the story didn't so much as show up the value of itself on face alone, as both my sister and I presumed, because not everyone saw the value in it as we did. And that taking the extra effort to piece together the story would either baffle most of the people involved or strike them as a ludicrously trivial waste of time.

That said some offering of the occurence from my point of view will serve as useful. I was sitting with a friend in a restaurant when she got a call from another friend of mine, one who she knows only artificially. The event essentially circles around my sister losing her phone, and although most of it seemed to have been managed by my other friend, who phoned the friend I was sitting with, the 'network' of people who were roped in to facilitate its return to its owner was amazing to us. Most of these people had only the barest connection to each other, and yet for a single afternoon they were drawn into the accomplishment of a single goal. They ranged from the secretary in the University department where I work as a tutor, to a boy in Jo'burg whose connection to my sister through my other friend was itself obscure. It involved another tutor in the English department who had studied with my other friend and who used to work as a tutor in the department where I was now working. It criss-crossed from my school best-friend's little sister to Jo'burg, to another girl who had studied with my other friend, who was also a friend of the friend sitting across from me, and who also worked as a tutor in the same department.

It is striking to me that so many people in the department where I work on campus got drawn into the task of helping my sister's phone get back to her, since she has nothing whatsoever to do with any of them, and not very much to do even with me. It is striking that it drew into contact a boy my sister was studying with (who found the phone) with a boy she was friends with in Jo'burg, striking that my friend sitting with me in a restaurant in Menlyn had cause to say my best friend's little sister's name, via a childhood nickname given to my best friend, who she will probably never meet in this lifetime.

It is striking not because of how far we have come with technology, or because the world can be so amazingly small. It is striking because my sister and I have a peculiar way of being moved by every single person that touches us in our lives, whether it reaches her only through her connection to me or vice versa. We are amazed every day that there are so many, that those people are so different, and that we all cherish them on some level in a truly personal way because, even the most random mundane incidents show how they are in some way part of us.

Friday, 25 May 2007

The Beautiful Realm

Of course our stories must be beautiful, and what follows necessarily is that our heroes must be too. The very act of this, poetry-writing, story-telling/writing, is the production of 'aesthetic'. This, I find, applies even to those explosively vulgar creations so common of our age. In fact such creations, it may be argued, deal more dishonestly than Romance with life's ugliness, taking the ugliness itself and lying with it. These creations are fond of disguising their Romance with raw, honest, meaning-making. What is more Romantic than presenting excessive filth as 'art', insisting that there is value in confronting those most bestial aspects of the human condition without shame?

My question, then, does not attend to whether or not stories are about the beautiful, for there is no question about that. The Realm of Art is perilous for precisely that reason. All is faerie within. Even the raw, gritty, supposedly honest stuff. My question is about the role of meaning in all this, now the revelation has descended. For when we extract the moral of the tale, once we have caught the abhorrent message within what we inexorably must denounce as propaganda afterward; what is the value of such art except to feel beauty, what is the function of those creations which deliberately set out to not do so, except to make us feel beauty. Feel, not see, because to be true such things can only be true to something in us, something which after all, is not spirit, but still within.

Tuesday, 08 May 2007

Of Capes and Cartoons

I recently read a book which referred to the narrative craft of comic books as 'urban fantasies'. Although no doubt a term which thinly disguises its apologetic stance (not unlike 'graphic novels'), I like it. I can attach it to a genre I have come to know and love through years of afternoon cartoon adaptations and have come to respect through a recent boom in Hollywood exploitation and hours of window shopping on the pavements of the information residential areas of Wikipedia. I can locate it in the vast multiverse of the Perilous Realm, not as it turns out, all elves and nymph-spun moors.

I loved watching Spiderman and X-men as a kid. I remember they gave me my first liberating inkling that fantasy and growing up need not be mutually exclusive. I remember the thrill of seeing magic at work not in a Romantic pseudo-medieval past or high tech imagined future, but right here, right now. I remember feeling exhilarated at the thought of those tremors collapsing the real with the wonderful.

I love the breakdown in our time between the so-called poles of High culture and Low culture. I love that they are melting and pouring into each other, so that more of fiction can be enjoyed on a more intellectual level if we choose. I love that we are truly free in the Perilous Realm.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Concerning Others, Selves and Stories

I recently had cause, although certainly not for the first time, to wonder again about the role of the familiar in the Perilous Realm. Granted, what constitutes the 'familiar' is different to every individual, and in a postmodern world, the 'familiar' is also fraught with ambiguities and politics when it comes to those still forced to negotiate the post-colonial identity. Such as us, or to use Queen Lestat's terms, Blaaaahnians. We, it seems, are in a continual state of conflict with our 'Selves', our projected selves, our given selves, our spontaneous selves. And in that, when it comes to fantasy, there is curiously something both soothing and defeating in the pages of the classics, to cite a notable example, The Lord of the Rings.

Of course we may argue, we know that the values embodied by the narrative are not alien to us, not alien to the values which we grew up with, in the stories we were told by our teachers or our parents or our books. Even if they might have come to contraries when it comes to the actual practice of some of our illustrious elders. For the themes are the same, war against tyranny, the unexpected heroics of the meek, the lights of faith and kindness in the darkest of hours. The ringing of elvish laughter, which is to say laughter which was sad and thus most true in its joy, wise laughter, silver with moonlit nights of yearning for a better world. But then I have to remind myself that the very act of arguing brings into conflict those stories, whether they in nature, are in fact the same. Why do we need to argue, I need ask, why is the familiar always strange, always in conflict with the beautiful?

Perhaps we lack the metaphors which would have brought our own beauty to the familiar, to the strange. Perhaps we lost the sense of the beautiful in our Selves, oh, far too long ago now for the reaches of the memory or the heart.

Friday, 06 April 2007

In Which the Formidable Lobelia, Herself, figures

Identity is a magical, arcane business, fraught with illusion and prone to treachery. I know this when I write here, know that a projection of myself gets flung to the mystic highways of knowledge dissemination, so that that part of me will never be in my control again, will morph and mutate into a monster that might devour a Selfness I might fail to rescue should it be not so carefully alienated from itself. Forgive me while my head spins and I channel Derrida.

I think this in particular in connection with one Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, whose code-name many will know is derived from an exceptionally unpleasant character in the otherwise idyllic Shire in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and whose icy tyranny wields its poisonous tentacles in my identity with rather callous explicitness. I think this when I meet my esteemed Teacher, the formidably unpleasant Lobelia herself. I think this when I confront the theatrical elegance and pungent dislike which inspires the terror I feel whenever in her presence, and ironically, but perhaps with poetic justice, informs my rather conscious sense of Self-construction.

For we all construct our Selves, and to an extent, we all leave parts of ourselves lying around for others to pick up and twist and display. With particular reference to those who write blogs, I have to think our time allows for a dissemination of Self that is not even hardly within our control. Too many of the inventions used for social projection - cell phones, T.Vs, blogs - allow for a projection of evident self that exists, separate and concrete, indefinately, outside ourselves.

Recently my chosen name has risen behind me with some of the wily motives described above. Lobelia's Student, while projecting some of the predominant tensions in my life into the Perilous Realm, could hardly have done better than getting shortened, rather well-meaningly, into Lobelia. Now I found my tensions merging, so that Lobelia's student, a self-perceived victim of Lobelia's tyranny, becomes Lobelia, and the Student being both victim and student, must be the tyrant in some form or other.

I wonder if Lobelia herself, should she read this, would mind much the notion of existing in me. But I can't guess, looking at this mergence the wrong way up. From the bottom, I have to say I am only Lobelia's unfortunate student, NEVER Lobelia herself.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

On Elves and Bloggers

I have to begin by apologizing for my first post, since so many people honoured me by reading it thus utterly nullifying the intention behind such verbose unforgivably bad writing. I began within the vortex of mental rambling, and somehow, though intriguingly this manifested as an actual blog in the virtual world (something I have till now avoided for fear of embarrassing myself), I never made it out of the spiral. I was both moved and dismayed, therefore, to find evidence of the attention of no less than four people on my newly birthed comments page. No doubt this is all due to my associations with a certain Queen of Noteworthy Lestatness, but I was humbled all the same. Thanks to everyone and their glaringly unearned notes of welcome.

'The Perilous Realm', as many probably will know, is a phrase from J.R.R. Tolkien, a term used by him to designate the 'shadowy marches' of the 'faerie story'. Anyone who knows anything of high fantasy will not attempt to affect an alienation from that country; they know its winds and the strange sun that reveals the treacherous potential for witchcraft beneath the thoughts of the most mediocre personalities. They know its wonder and its striking capacity for the ordinary, for the factual and for truth, something else entirely. It is, simply put, the mental landscape of our best and worst, floating within the gossamer veils that keep humankind, whether in conflict or harmony, in intimacy. The only place where culture, our most revealing inner demon, walks naked and unshamed. It is where I spend most of my worthy unwaking moments.

Recently, I have had a dangerous merging of the two worlds, which led I suppose inevitably to the uneasy creation of this blog. I registered for a preparatory Masters degree in children's fantasy literature, presuming both that I could wield the funny sword in the strangely invincible realm of postmodern academia and that I was ready for it. Let this be a warning to those who get into closets, pass through looking-glasses or simply sail into the western seas on undying ships and take with them the wily weapons of Literary Theory 701: this world is not is not for the faint of imagination. Your grasp of the Romantic and capacity for the wonderful must be truly strong.

A couple of days ago blogs seemed to answer my present need for the unwinding of spiralling thoughts of fancy. On the contrary, it would seem that I have to make sense.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

A Reason to Begin

Talking about it, myth I mean, the intrusive and eloquent inexplicability occurs, the thought of vague eternity, like the shadow of the angel when his wings spanned the sky and the young man whose vision endured the sight composed the steps down the arid hillock that gave birth to a destiny of man.

Myth I mean. When you are twenty-two, your consciousness shaped, suffused and still grappling with the nature of stories, and yet nothing of those incandescent dreams secretes into the white emptiness of your legacy, it speaks like the angel's trial: Do it! What it is, what you must. That is, what you must do in order to fit yourself into this vast lyrical soul you have prepared for yourself. Or have I got it wrong? And it is the soul that must be fitted into the self that has been created?

Last year I suggested to my English lecturer the idea that myth is only a story of status, narrative matter for the arbitrary casting in capital letters. The Story of Hercules and his Twelve Labours. A Long Expected Party. The Day We Went To See Titanic. Now I perceive what I ought to have then, the difference between legend and myth. One is without need of a vital living self, while the other is self waiting eternally for lifelessness in order to live forever.

When I think of this it all seems extravagantly bound up with Profound Things, but I digress precisely for that reason. I do not stray out of the Perilous Realm when my life is in danger, only when the realm is. The realm is my webbed eye, gossamer iris veiling the window to 'reality', with which great fantasy writers have pursued truth, and found in my oppinion, only the vitality of self. The coherency of a culturally based construction of self. And from where I sit, this does not seem good enough for me. It makes of youth, my only grace at the moment, old age. It makes of creation, in my case, dreams. And dreams are Salem's ghosts outside the realm of faerie.