In Which Symbolism Isn't the Whole Of It

12 March 2004

One of the things I learned on September 11, 2001, is that while I might obsessively crave news, news, more news on what was going on, they only had so much news. And at a certain point, further speculation was a bad idea -- it was either repetitive or misleading that early on. They didn't have time to sift through and get the facts just right yet. The same thing happened yesterday, with those deplorable train bombs in Spain: they immediately blamed the Basques, and for the rest of the day waffled on who might be responsible. They don't know for sure as of this morning's paper, but they're at least saying they don't know for sure, rather than stating categorically that it was the Basques.

There's a point at which more stories do not equal more information. Sometimes it's hard to see where that point is. But it's good to know it's somewhere.

As for the rest of yesterday, the book is humming along. I'm in a section where I've written several scenes, so I'm getting from chapter to chapter more quickly than I otherwise might, even with my back being yucky and forcing me to go away from the computer periodically.

I didn't get to see the wee Noah, but I heard him when I talked to Kari. He was cooing. Awwwwwwww. Marmar's wedding can't come fast enough for me to meet this kid.

Growing Wings was all right, but I wasn't really impressed. I think I understand how she intended to handle some of the relationships, but I wasn't really satisfied with it. Seemed like some big cop-outs. Also, I think that if you have a pubescent girl growing wings, it's going to take a pretty phenomenal writer to transcend the obvious metaphors. I didn't feel like Winter did, though she came pretty close.

I had a correspondence a few weeks ago with someone who was, in my opinion, excessively tied to canon, and this is what I feel he missed: that sometimes metaphor is boring and literalism is interesting. You have a young girl growing up, and she's growing wings to fly away, to swoop and soar; they won't quite hold her, but she longs to fly. Tra la. And as a metaphor: hork. I mean, spew. It would be hard to get more saccharine with a metaphor. It's a Hallmark card with glitter on the front of it, one of the $3.95 kind.

But as a literal truth, you have the question of how to hide budding wings, you have different people reacting differently to the literal fact of them, you have the wings themselves in some detail. Nobody can currently fly on their wings. That's a good plot detail, and it helps to derail the sugary metaphor train, or at least helps it to make some more interesting stops. Needing wing mittens for the wintertime: that's interesting. Or at least a heck of a lot more interesting than "Look, it's a young girl blossoming into womanhood! Let us celebrate her fledgling maturity!"

I'm not saying that metaphor is always boring. But "what does this symbolize?" is not always the most interesting question to ask about a story.

I intend to have a highly symbolic story in the same sequence as "MacArthur Station" and "Glass Wind." On the surface, it will be a story about Truth and Justice and Individualism and Society and Science and Religion, all those good things. But deep down it'll be a metaphor. I haven't decided whether it's a metaphor for rocketships or dragons or genetic engineering yet. I'll let you know when I get it figured out.

I'm now reading Stella's copy of Doris Egan's Two-Bit Heroes. It took me a few pages to remember who was whom and what they were doing from The Gate of Ivory, which I haven't read in years, but I think I'm officially up to speed now and having some fun with it. I doubt that I'll be done with it by the time we see them tonight, but stranger things have happened. To me, even.

And let's go see if more of them happen now. I'm waiting expectantly for the strange things. It's March. March is an underexploited strange thing month, I think. Maybe.

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