Thursday, March 14, 2013
would suit one another
This transience in the Heike, the characters pass but the story remains, the reader's transience proves the permanence of the story, we are unbearably destroyed, it unbearably retains itself, meanwhile warning itself that it will pass too. That is its lesson, which it is avoiding.
In Shirley Jackson's Sundial the people are refusing to change and not even refusing, they don't know that change would be possible, they have never thought about it, the proud and crimson notion of self-critique has never occurred to them, and even the end of the world and the death of every other human being is not changing them; the apocalypse won't complete their selfishness, the awesome dynamite of the air leaves them placid.
If they were made immortal somehow by the disaster then they would not change either (because the author has made them changeless), and if you transferred Murasaki Shikibu's characters from the Genji to the modern age they would still refer to people by their titles and by their descriptions (because she has made them that way), the names on their own feel too bare to these Heian souls even though the moderner tells them it is fine, it is a habit now, nobody minds, look you can call me Hiroko, I don't care, I'm wearing a Pokémon hat, but it would be the nature of a name to be ashamed of having been said, when they did it, the word "Hiroko" sounding filthy; they are like polite children who have been required to shout "fuck" and the Shining Prince shines red for he is blushing, he is bringing the old age back in a sluice of blood.
So, stasis in the Shirley Jackson, stasis implied, and in the Heike it is transience implied; the emphasis is on the characters' fortunes, not their behaviour, and those fortunes change. But in The Sundial Shirley Jackson is staring at her people's behaviour and introducing their changed fortune (the end of the world, the destruction of all human life, the firestorm) only as a sort of sarcastic counterpoint.
The reader scans the two books, the reader searches for new lessons since lessons seem to be hinted at or stated in the styles of each, the reader notices that the matriarch of The Sundial and Kiyomori in the Heike are very close to one another personality-wise, they are both stubborn, and the old woman on her deathbed would be calling for Yoritomo's head too, and Kiyomori, if he had been facing the end of the world, would be putting measures in place to assure his ongoing dominance in the new world, as the matriarch does, sorting out her crown and a golden dress, and if the author Shirley Jackson does not respond to her actions by calling her "profoundly sinful" (like the anonymous authors of the Heike regarding Kiyomori) then it is only because she, the writer, has moved into a phase of authorial repose that you could refer to as a cynical shrug. And what small touch or nudge would need to have occurred before she could have written those words, "profoundly sinful," instead of the ones she chose (native to her blood, the words she chose), what rotation on the axis of events, what refounding of cities or nations, the reconstitution of her childhood, the distribution of her feelings in a new direction, pushed there by some event that never in this plane occurred?
The reader looks at Kiyomori, looks at Mrs Halloran, and realises, "Those two would suit one another." This is the moment of inspiration and they announce, I will write a fanfic.
Conjunction! Kiyomori and Mrs Halloran! The fanfic writer pursues that conjunction, the conjunction is the point, the permutations of that conjunction, kinks, romance, murder, or whatever else, the conjunction being an intensifying agent or otherwise species of excitement-food, quick stab to the braincells that then suffer the ancestral memory of their freedom as single-celled organisms millennia ago traversing the nourishing slimes, this conjunction is the vehicle of change, therefore of transience -- the situation, as it has existed up to this point, ends -- the situation before in which Mrs Halloran and Kiyomori were not united and no connection between the Sundial and the Heike seemed possible ends, as, suddenly (genuinely suddenly, I say from experience, since it occurred to me as I was writing that last part of the sentence, "would suit one another" -- okay -- idea!) the connection is possible and likely and even demanded by the thought and why not, in this world where a thought can make anything seem mandatory, pretty much anything; and call that inspiration, call this Georg Trakl's "sweet corpse" at a different register, call it a ruthless magnetism.