April 11th, 2007

Time's Curse


I decided to watch the Life on Mars finale yesterday, despite not having much of the series, and without spoiling things, its ending was very grey rather than black and white. This is the second time this happened recently, after watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on Monday. I saw an advert for Lost in Translation being shown on Friday, and whilst that ending wasn't amibigous, it wasn't a black and white affair. My mother hates that sort of thing, but I'm appreciating how these things are much more multilayered than the standard. I like the ambiguity, I like the vague sidestep of narrative tradition. Incidentally, all three examples above have become associated with specific songs when I play them: 'Just like Honey' for LIT, 'Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime' for ESOTSM, and in both cases, it's 'Life on Mars'). All are vaguely melancholy. I wish I knew why that appeals to me, why the stories I want to write so often have some kind of sadness infiltrating them.

One topic I keep revolving around is death, or more specifically, tearing down glamourisations of death. In my experience, death is only rarely expected. It comes out of the blue, it doesn't wait for the perfect opportunity, the narrative climax. You can be all ready to go on a day trip to the beach under a crystal blue sky, and hear that your father has just had a major heart attack. Wake up in the middle of the night, your best friend has just fallen into the river and drowned. Death has a cruel sting. Suddenly, everything changes as the dreaful reality slips like a shroud onto you. They're gone, and they won't be coming back: they are consigned to the past, to memory. That's not beautiful. It just seems bitterly unfair. Very recently, I've learnt of two sudden deaths of friends of friends. Allie wrote about how Terry Winters recently died, and at the same time, some of my college friends were coming to terms with the car crash death of 19-year old Robyn. I didn't know either Terry or Robyn, but I witnessed the grief. So why then do I write about it? Not in fantasy settings, but in reality...why do I, with my love of beauty, write about something so patently cruel?

I've had several novel ideas over the years. Most of them have faded into the ether. The one idea I had in Year 9 has, for some reason, survived, and I still plan to write Paradise Realm someday, whilst Sentiniel is also on the 'finish someday' list. They're both sci-fi fantasies. However, the ideas I have to write up when I feel I can are now much less fantastical. I'm thinking of picking up on the tale of Alice McKenna, and putting her through turmoil in her first year at college. She'll then start hiding in her imagination, and it'll be up to the few she considers friends to bring her back again. I hope I can write it well. At the German Essay-Complete Dinner, I was talking with socialite Nick about myself, and how I like to do things differently (I'm stubbornly unique), and he asked what I would like to do someday. I explained that I'd initially like to dabble with translation whilst I inquire into travel journalism (I reckon I did well in my tenure as Orbital travel editor). However, if I can, I'd ultimately like to be a writer (complete with lovely cottage). "Oh", he replied, "I can see that. What type of writer?". I claimed that I had once wanted to be a fantasty writer, but now was less genred, and Tracy immediately exclaimed that I could not be a fantasy writer. Nick backed her up on this, and she seemed certain that I could not be a fantasy/sci-fi writer.

I had my conviction somewhat shaken. How could she say this? I was reminded of what a particular sharp member of ljsecret told me once, about my writing, and how I could easily not be writing because my writing isn't as good as I think it is. I've been told my writing is good before, but by English teachers, friends and family. I've had an excerpt from Sentiniel selected for the Uni creative writing magazine. I've never really been tested, however, and I believe my creative writing was given a lower mark than my analyses for both my English SAT and my English GCSE. This could be problematic. After all, if I'm not to be a writer, than what course do I chart? After I finished my German Film essay, I realised that my 2nd year was now over, excepting the exams. That would normally mark one year until the end of Uni, although in my case, I've got Germany interrupting. It's no secret I'm aiming for a Masters, possibly in Modern History, although I don't know where yet, and so I curiously looked at some of the Uni MA courses. Ouch. Sadism pushed me to look at the PhDs, and part of me wondered how anyone can reach that level of study (The 10,000 word dissertation in my final year already seems a huge amount). Obviously, I'm not meant to be tackling this yet, but it still made me think that a MA is as far as I'd get. After all, writers don't need PhDs (although getting to write 'Doctor' would be pleasant). This resulted in a brief mid-morning crisis while I tried to figure out what my future held, but hey, it's not worth stressing over yet. Now is not (quite) the time.

This Heather Dale CD my Dad lent me has reminded me of Romanticism*. I'm still curiously pondering how much of a Romantic I am, given how I suscribe to many of the themes, but not necessarily for the same reasons. I wonder if it is best to avoid the definitions and analyses when it comes to one's own art. I hold that approach with my photographs. I don't read guides to taking good photographs, or photographic theory. I don't know what makes a good photograph. I just take photographs when it feels right, and sometimes, that pays off (you can judge soon enough). Perhaps I should cast all doubts into the wind, and just let loose, placing faith in the eventual outcome over the method to reach there. I'm someone who feels very deeply, and my dreams are made up of images and emotions over any narrative. That clashes with analytical method, but I'm long since tired of making essays which are strings of quotes tied togther by meandering debate. Maybe that does make me a Romantic? A rebellion against reason?

Maybe it is that that explains it. Logic prefers black and white, while emotions excel in fields of grey. It may be the lack of perfect clarity that endears me towards the final episode of Life on Mars, towards Eternal Sunshine. Then again, it's also the pandering towards emotional reality that I love, and can that really be Romantic? Who knows. I'm not a critic, deep down. I'm far more a storyteller.

* = I even considered further study of Romanticism in a latter 20th-century context until I realised that it fell well without the remit of my degree.