Language, the role of the writer, and the Transmedia Experience: PDB
The other day I ran across an example of story Hemingway used when he wanted to explain the concept “less is more.” The story, and I call it a story, is only six words, and these words are not fancy words, but the emotion this tiny story conveys is almost overwhelming. This is the story.
“Baby shoes for sale. Never used.”
Imagine if you could write an entire book where each sentence was as pregnant with meaning, as powerful on an emotional level, precise, balanced, pure. That is what I set out to do in The Conjure Man. I wanted to create as immediate an experience as possible. Without the editorial that accompanies most everything that is written. I wanted to put people right in the middle of the experience.
Most people I know think this kind of experience is something reserved for movies or music, or perhaps theatre, but not for books. But I think The Conjure Man might be an exception here. A number of people who have read the book have said it was less like reading a book and more like watching a movie. One woman said it was like being in a movie. Another said she was so immersed in the novel that all time stopped and that when she was finished she was drained of emotion and felt rather like she had just escaped drowning, in a good way she said, and then she smiled.
These are extraordinary comments to describe any experience, let alone a book. In fact, the drowning comment I have never heard applied to a book.
So what is going on here? One reader, Gregg Morris, a consultant in the art of story-telling, said the deeper he got into the book, the more he felt like he was involved in a transmedia experience. I had never heard of the term transmedia until a week ago, but as I now understand the term, it refers to using multiple media to create an immersion kind of experience.
All I know is that I wanted to put people right in the middle of it. I wanted people to feel everything around them. And I tried not to put any barriers between the reader and the experience. The language, my language, was the language of emotion, which is also the language of poetry, and so if you will indulge me, I would like to share with you a couple of poems (don’t all novelists believe themselves to be poets?).
for the love of Blue Pearl
The giant slab of stone is cut out of the hard,
Norwegian ground. It takes two days now to do
the high-tech cutting, not two weeks or two months,
like years ago when they used horses and wire,
but horses and wire would be enough, one look
at this grayish blue stone mottled with flecks
of bright blue and pearl that flash brightly like eyes
when the sun is just right and when you are looking from
just the right angle, one look at this stone in the
sunny, open air, shaped and polished and
brightly flashing, and wire and horses would
be more than enough, two months, two years, two
centuries I would wait for this stone called Blue Pearl.
Your love for me, if you can call it love,
is like the flashing brightness of this Blue
Pearl, flashing brightly when the sun is just right
and I am looking from just the right angle, but
only for a moment, and then the sunlight fades,
or you move and the angle shifts and the brightness is gone.
I hold on to those moments as long as I can,
as long as I dare, and wait for the next one.
There is nothing else I can do. For the love
of Blue Pearl I wait, will wait, two months, two
years, two centuries, and when the sun comes out
again and the angle is right, I will see you
flashing brightly your love, and time will vanish.
the beauty of cats
Sometimes they just sit on the couch, her couch
with its wrought iron frame and thick billowy
cushions, the kind of cushions that cats like,
and they sit there facing each other in the warm
sunlight of their emotions, her feet in his hands
and his feet in hers, gently rubbing away
the flecks of disinterest and pretense and
isolation that have soiled the day, fingers
working up through the arch of the foot now,
the ankle, up the calf, the two of them purring
in blindness, the tongues of desire lapping up
the milk of his imagination, and hers,
but she, more reserved, suddenly blinks twice and
catjumps away, still purring, but afraid
of purring, catonic, almost, her sunlight dimmed,
but still radiant, her lips pursed in a silent mew.
He once was a cat himself, frisky, independent,
flexible, moody, changeable, joyful, exuberant,
playful, unimpressed, scared, resilient,
and he recognizes in her catness the beauty of everything
she has been and is and will be and the fears and feelings
she will not express because she does not want them to be
and so they do not exist, they are void,
and then the fears are diminished
and she is curled up on the couch, next to him this time,
a joyful, playful, catnippy “why do boys
have to behave like boys” smile on her face,
a kittenish face now, newborn, mewing softly,
softer, softest, and then she is catnapping,
her beauty deepening, the one who once was a cat
looking on, becoming a cat again, two cats
curled up together, purring instinctively now,
becoming entangled, almost inside each other,
their catness disappearing within itself,
within the moment, till only the moment remains.