Literally...

literally
Andre Derain - Three Trees, 1906
"I'm mostly focused upon the quality of your story …"

I suppose I should affix a little warning "Do not interpret any of the following Literally" on everything I write. I'm no journalist and never really aspired to become one. I do not trade in objective facts but subjective description. I appreciate that this convention relies upon my readers to perform some cursory interpretation, especially if they're expecting just the facts, but so be it. Fix those expectations first. I do not have access to the facts, and even if I did, I'm experienced enough to understand that I can't usually combine facts to produce a decent punchline. I'm not dealing in fake news. I'm not dealing in news at all. My purpose lies closer to attempting to induce insight more than knowledge, enjoyment more than education, and perspective more than acuity. Some truths lie more deeply than any fact. Some facts materially misrepresent experience.

Writing seems most often about inducing a felt sense.
Like Derain and his Fauve fellows, writing employs fantastic colors to amplify an experience. In the fact-based world, it's never once rained like cats and dogs. In the real world, no landscape ever "really" appeared in garish electric colors. Both the writer and the painter employ hyperbole, not to sugar coat, but to better induce. Figurative shapes and phrases can both amplify subtleties and highlight meaning. Meaning becomes paramount, as if the purpose of these exercises, and meaning lies firmly in the viewer's, the reader's, hands. A critic once complained to Picasso that his abstract painting didn't resemble reality, so Picasso asked the critic to show him an example of some artifact that better represented reality. The critic showed him a small photograph of his wife, whereupon Picasso remarked that his wife seemed awfully tiny and flat.

We grow accustomed to certain representations and imprint on them as if they more accurately portrayed a reality. They become a reality of their own, sometimes subsuming that which they might have originally only proposed to represent; a reality that never was in both cases. Literature and fine art are almost entirely unlike courts of law, and their objectivity remains eternally suspect, but also essentially beside the point. Why do people continue to attend baseball games in person when they could "see" the game on TV without the transit hassle for free? The televised game poorly represents the multi-sensory experience of attending live, though each of the thirty-six thousand fans attending will most certainly leave with a different story about what happened on that field. Baseball should never be taken too literally, either.

It might be that nothing should be taken too literally. We have access to testimony which we might reasonably always receive with a generous skepticism, as if we were witnessing someone's perspective rather than the absolute facts. Do with these stories what you will. Our primary purpose here might be to interpret, never to simply swallow whole, however satisfying the swallowing might feel. I speak from I. I try to avoid using the pronoun 'we' because I never really have access to what any collective might perceive, let alone believe. I believe that some seem to swallow altogether too enthusiastically for their own good and that others starve for want of swallowing anything. I'm all for chewing a bit before swallowing, and even for spitting out if a bite doesn't feel quite right in my mouth. I do not need to be spoon-fed or dread being lied to. I understand that you, like me, should never be taken too Literally. I'm mostly focused upon the
quality of your story—what did you induce in me?—and not upon whether the Fauves ever once accurately represented the actual color of trees.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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