MAGIC IN THE GARDEN
“All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them.”
“To think that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to think imitation is superior to invention.”
Ursula Le Guin
JUNE 24, 2011. During the years 1973-1988, I wrote journals. Some of that material made its way into later articles and books and poems.
1973-1988; I learned that boredom was an interesting challenge, because on many days, I couldn’t think of anything to write—until I realized boredom itself could be a prime subject.
How do you dress it up? In what garden can you plant it and watch it grow? Once you address boredom, you find you can’t keep it in one spot. You have to do something with it. You have to twist it and chop it up and burn it and praise it and defame it and stretch it out and tie it into unusual knots.
At that point, it ceases being boredom. When you return to it, it’s not there. There’s a hole where it used to be.
Of course, eventually, I didn’t need it as a starting point. I had worn it out. I’d become bored with boredom.
My journals were a proving ground.
When I opened them up for a look-see in the mid-1990s, I found fragments I wanted to keep. I had no idea what to do with them.
Around 2000, it became clear. Not knowing what to do with the fragments was based on an erroneous notion: that I should write in traditional arcs: beginning, middle, end. This was absurd. I didn’t have to do anything.
I could create, for example, a non-form form in which the fragments were the core and essence and material of the work. I could kick the addiction to arcs.
And so I did.
I did it because I wanted to and because something quite different was exciting to me.
Well, all that’s distant history now. I sketch it in because magic is the alternative time you invent which is composed of fragments.
Each piece implies a new space, which is yours and yours alone.
Many of the dadaists and the surrealists and the collage-makers and cubists realized that a critique of society and conventional reality was only the first step. After that, you just made worlds and universes.
Each fragment is a world.
You stay with a fragment/world as long as you want to. A minute, an hour, a year, ten years. Then you move on to the next one.
The pull away from magic is consensus. What other people think, whether other people will praise you, and how much you need that to go on. The gravitational pull of consensus. As you work, you develop new and better thoughts and insights about that subject.
“It is not necessary for the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious, just as it not necessary for me to know it myself.”
I did two fictional interviews with Orson Welles because his movies defy the traditional arcs. He doesn’t do beginning, middle, end. He stages progressive episodes (fragments), scenes that are whole and complete in themselves. It really doesn’t matter what happens at the end.
Stravinsky once wrote, “Much of the music is a Merzsbild [combination of all conceivable materials], put together from whatever came to hand. I mean, for example…the Alberti-bass horn solo accompanying the Messenger. I also mean the fusion of such widely divergent types of music as the FoliesBergeres tune at No.40 (‘The girls enter, kicking’) and the Wagnerian 7th chords at Nos.58 and 74.”
Here is one of the fragments from my old notebooks:
“People don’t realize that, if you paint a picture that is One Whole Beauty, and if others come and look at it wherever it’s hanging, the most you can hope for is that they’ll work a little and then they’ll see that One Whole Beauty, too. And then it’s done. There’s nowhere left to go. People say this is what they want, but when they get it, they leave with a sense of dissatisfaction. Which turns into boredom.”
Of course, people will energetically deny this. They’ll do everything in their power to deny it, because they have a vested interest in One Whole Beauty. They assert it’s “an enduring value.” Or something. They want to avoid the alternative, which is Something Left Over. Something unsettled, unresolved.
They’re programmed for satisfaction, and when they get it, they’re dissatisfied three minutes later. It’s like an itch, and they don’t know where it comes from.
Whereas, if you just give them Something Left Over to begin with, which could engage them for a long time, they reject it.
What they’re rejecting is magic.
It’s not what magic is supposed to be, but it is.
Something Left Over unhitches and neutralizes the ardent little molecules in the superficial mind that seek out perfection. It’s necessary for that to occur, because the superficial sectors of the mind are never going to approach magic or be able to make magic.