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Sins of Omission December 28, 2011

Posted by The Typist in A Fiction, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, Writing.
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“Everything is more complicated than you think. You only see a tenth of what is true. There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make. You can destroy your life every time you choose. But maybe you won’t know for twenty years! And you may never ever trace it to its source. And you only get one chance to play it out. Just try and figure out your own divorce.”
— From The Priest’s Monologue in the film Synecdoche, N.Y.

One word at a time. That is how it is done, how it is figured out, the million little strings. Words become sentences, sentences paragraphs. From the building blocks come a narrative, a character– call him The Typist–who is and is not the author, a composite of who I am, who I dream of becoming, who I might have been only if. If I come to understand him as every writer must to successfully create character, then I come closer to understanding myself.

Life is more complicated than you think. For example, what do I publish here, and what do I omit. I know what the divorce lawyer would say. I take into consideration whether my children read it (they say they do not), and who else might read it looking with a rigidly literal mind. Life is an adversarial competition. Everything is negotiation at best, furtive plotting at worst. If you think there is no one plotting against you then you must lead a very sheltered life. It is not what first comes to the readers mind when I say paranoia. It is something greater, a confluence of negative forces real and imagined you must understand and decode.

“…paranoia, it is nothing less than the onset, the leading edge, of the discovery that everything is connected, everything in the Creation, a secondary illumination — not yet blindingly One, but at least connected, perhaps a route In for those… who are held at the edge….”
— Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

The Typist understands this corollary to the priest’s speech, must navigate the treacherous relations that constitute his life. A job lost and potential employers Googling, divorce and all that entails. I have of late imposed limits on what I write here, but increasingly I realize how counterproductive that is. What I write here is not an unraveling like divorce but the assembly of a quilt from bits of the real, the imagined and the desired. These highly personal pieces are not a solid thing but a phase transition, the evaporation by fire of who I was, the condensation of distillation, the transformation of one thing into another.

It is a story I am compelled to tell and not just scribble into a journal. I am not alone. Consider Sarah Fran Wisby.

A word. A sentence. A paragraph. If only it were as simple as I laid it out in the thesis above. It is the arrangement, the omission or inclusion, which makes it an act of personal transformation and ideally a transformative art. There are artful omissions, and cowardly if not paranoid sins omissions. I sat down to write something about this morning, about my son, about the realignment of our lives, but wrote this instead. By the time I reached that last sentence I began to wonder if this was a conscious omission, or a simple avoidance of action and consequences. I understand there are consequences: the poem by Wallace Stevens post about this time last year that resulted in a ranting phone call and which morphed into a peculiar present. I am too far down this road to allow for either, have said too much already, made what I write here to central to becoming.

A friend stopped public writing all together during his divorce. My lawyer would no doubt advise the same if I asked. I cannot. These words, this assembly of pieces, is too much a part of myself: past, present and future. To hold back is to omit a critical part of the formula, to fail to produce the desired result in the alembic, another failed attempt at the Philosopher’s Stone with only myself to blame.

If I stop now, I have risked everything and will gain nothing.

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