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onions
December 20th, 2005, 08:55 AM
I guess you could call it a Max Frisch-fan fic.

Um.

Any comments welcome. I'd really like to know what you think of it, especially the end.

www.geocities.com/littleonions33/story3.html

Dawnstorm
December 23rd, 2005, 10:41 AM
Hi, took me a while, been a bit busy. Intended to read it when I got the time for proper appreciation. Which is now. Kind of.

1. Not too familiar with Max Frish beyond "Biedermann und die Brandstifter", so most "echoes" will probably be lost on me. I'm not sure if he's got a character named Maurer anywhere, but I do recognise the type. Not really a point of it's own, but I thought I'd get Frisch out of the way, so I can focus on the more personal reactions.

2. I love what you've done with the narrative situation in your story. A blueprint of the creative process in a dramatic situation. Narrator and character overlap; so do 1st person and 3rd person narration. I think the ending works well; I'm left with the sense that an author's got rid of a boring character, but I'm unsure what's really going down - especially the weather. (For those who are used to thinking that ambiguity is a bad thing in fiction: I actually enjoy being unsure. There's an appealing tension between reality and imagination and narrative control in there that's not easily resolved.)

I'm tempted to link to here from the "rules" thread. Should be interesting what they'll make of this story PoV wise. :D


As I watch calmly, the fissures deepen and crack, her features crumble and dissolve to dust in the early light of morning. The darkbrown grin of death meets mine.

This is a very interesting passage (selectively quoted; needs context to work its full magic). Actual death? Fictional death? An aborted project? I think David Lynch should film this; some of his more obscure stuff has a similar effect on me. Not to mention the make-up-crack shot...

3. I also like your language. Read quite effortlessly, once I got the hang of the narrator's voice. The images are well done. Sometimes, the language could be tighter, though.

Example:

"Blackness gushes down from the skies, covering cars and streets and signs of life, leaving only flashes of red and white light."

a) the "down" isn't really needed (as it's implied in the context; they're in a car - where is the sky?) --> "Blackness gushes from the skies,"

b) "signs of life" - just a tad too abstract for the series: cars - streets...; I feel "life" would do just fine (unless you include things that hint at the presence of life, like dog excrement and stuff, too.) --> "covering cars, and streets and lives, leaving..." (if you use the plural, here, there's a nice flow via the "l" & "v" parallelism in the sounds...)

Generally sounds nice, though. Could just use tightening in some places.

4. Setting:

"Suddenly Maurer spasms in his seat, his groan drowned by the roar of the engines. Then he slumps against the wall." --> "against the wall": Maurer had a window seat? There's generally not much wall to slump against in airplanes (though there is a bit). Did he have a neighbour (probably not). I don't get all that clear an image, here.

"Attention all passengers: Flight 809 to Vienna will be delayed due to the weather." --> Not sure about that one, but I think they wouldn't just say "the weather"; they'd either be me more specific, or they'd be more verbose in their vagueness. At least that's my impression from limited flight experience. Never flew from Amsterdam, though.

" in a red netted bag, 20 for 15 Schillings." --> I recognise those. Also, the use of "schillings" pretty much dates the story.

Got some nice descriptions in there. The car-ride is very well done. Few words, and I still got the impression of riding in a car.

***

Good story. Doesn't deserve to be ignored. :)

onions
December 26th, 2005, 10:10 AM
Why, thank you Dawnstorm!
I'd given up on getting a response. Of course, I didn't advertise this too well, either.

I'm glad you liked it and I'm tickled by your interpretation, never having thought of the author/character-angle myself. Just goes to show that a story never realises it's full potential until it is actually read by readers.

My own interpretation would be the following, and now I am not sure if the story is too ambiguous to support it:

This is a story about a man who despises himself so much that thinks of himself in third person. The analytical side of him (the I-persona) is well aware of the emptiness and disassociation within him, but also too passive to do anything about it - and he knows it. Instead, he plays "what if", preconceiving possible scenarios for himself.**
But even in these scenarios he is unable to find a positive end. Having lived in an emotional limbo, he is unsurprised to find himself in a limbo again after death - on board of a modern version of the Flying Dutchman. (Please forgive the very duh-ness of the idea, I was feeling playful). At least it has finally stopped raining.
Does that make sense to you?
There were also echoes of Charon/River Styx in there, with the gold coins and things... :)

On a structural level, I suppose the message is that we all construct our lives by reinterpreting the past and preconceiving the future. Our lives are stories that we tell ourselves, without noticing how many versions we test and discard every day in the process, just like the man in the story does.

Thanks for the language criticism too. I can use it. Mostly, people just tell me I'm too verbose.

I've actively avoided the rules thread until now, because writing rules stress me out. I tend to want to follow all of them at once. :) I agree with what you've said about how too many rules block the creative process for beginners, though.

** A typical Max-Frisch-character in other words. In "Gantenbein" a semi-catatonic bore named Enderlin spends most of the book imagining what would happen if he pretended to be a blind man named Gantenbein. He comes to the conclusion that it would improve his life enormously in all ways imaginable. It's so depressing that it's very funny again, too.

Dawnstorm
December 26th, 2005, 12:48 PM
This is a story about a man who despises himself so much that thinks of himself in third person. The analytical side of him (the I-persona) is well aware of the emptiness and disassociation within him, but also too passive to do anything about it - and he knows it. Instead, he plays "what if", preconceiving possible scenarios for himself.**
But even in these scenarios he is unable to find a positive end. Having lived in an emotional limbo, he is unsurprised to find himself in a limbo again after death - on board of a modern version of the Flying Dutchman. (Please forgive the very duh-ness of the idea, I was feeling playful). At least it has finally stopped raining.
Does that make sense to you?

Makes sense to me; actually it's a secondary reading I had, but gave up on because the scenes the character imagines himself in are more cramped than the language he uses to describe it. (Although an inside-outside dichotomy would take care of that.)

(Didn't catch the Styx-reference at all, but the image of paying the ferryman with chocolate coins has a certain charm. :D )

JWREmmett
December 26th, 2005, 06:52 PM
I'll keep it simple. You're telling instead of showing.

Also I look for the author being inside their work. EDIT: Not good. Only you can say if it's so. It nonetheless seems you indirectly are. Again, it's subtle but you should look for it. (I'm aware of your intentions.)

You do evoke feelings of being there, as if it's really raining. And the ambiguity is especially good, if still too out of focus. The story is a good seed.

onions
December 27th, 2005, 03:49 AM
Thank you.
Also, I'm sorry, but now I'm having trouble understanding what both of you mean *g*:

Dawnstorm: "it's a secondary reading I had, but gave up on because the scenes the character imagines himself in are more cramped than the language he uses to describe it"

You mean that the situations are so tortured that you didn't think he was only imagining them? Cramped in a good or bad way? (BTW the scenarios always have a real basis. He does have a wife and sons and he did have a fling in Amsterdam.)

JWREmmett: "Also I look for the author being inside their work. EDIT: Not good. Only you can say if it's so."

Do you mean, you thought an author had slipped inside his own narrative? I suppose you could say we are all authors of the narrative that is our life. We all live it and watch from outside simultaneously. I'm confused by the "Not good" - what are you referring to?

Telling, not showing: On the one hand of course, most of this is taking place inside the head of a person who prefers analysing to living. On the other hand: Any specific examples that you find particularly "told"? I'm not sure what to change. ETA: Show me, don't tell me. :D

Dawnstorm
December 27th, 2005, 05:06 AM
Dawnstorm: "it's a secondary reading I had, but gave up on because the scenes the character imagines himself in are more cramped than the language he uses to describe it"

You mean that the situations are so tortured that you didn't think he was only imagining them? Cramped in a good or bad way? (BTW the scenarios always have a real basis. He does have a wife and sons and he did have a fling in Amsterdam.)

Psychologically cramped. Characters in such situations - which have a hopeless, cage-like feel to them - tend to use their imagination more to escape their predicament. Or they look at the situation they're in, but then they'd use simpler words and sentence structures, less metaphors. In a way, I sense an incongruity between the attitude towards his situation, and the attitude towards words. What I'm wondering is where the energy for the formulations comes from. His mind seems too vivid for his situation.

I realise that all those imagined scenarios have a basis in reality. I saw them as plausible what-ifs; which can't help making come true via self-fulfilling prophesies in one way or another; through his behaviour (unconscious body language etc.).

I'm not saying I'm right about this. I've just been describing why I gave up on that reading. There are plenty of ways, I suppose, your intention can make sense. I just didn't find any of them on my own. One, for example, I could construe via an introvert-absurdist characterisation of Hauser (he imagines them until the gloom becomes too absurd to feel true; kind of like catharsis).

***

Btw, JWR Emmet's post confuses me, too. :o

JWREmmett
December 27th, 2005, 05:40 PM
I think it was just me being a lazy observer. Nevermind.

onions
December 28th, 2005, 09:49 AM
Lol.
Thanks anyway.

And thanks again, Dawnstorm.