When I was still a boy wrapped in a mansized body I had an opportunity to spend the best part of a summer in Prague. Having grown up on the US/Mexico border, and then gone to school in Tucson, this was my first stay of length in a city of girth, and depth. Not to disparage the Old Pueblo, but Tucson is very much a town that just kept swelling without growing. Prague, well, Prague is something else.
What can I say about my summer in Prague? Too much, and not enough. I fell in love with architecture and food. I got introduced to cheap coffee and cheaper beer. I spent a morning at the Cathedral of Life marveling at the soaring arches and meticulous glass, and then spent the afternoon watching tourists take selfies laying on the blood stained blocks where the executions were held at Terezin.
The man I am today was born there on the side of the Charles River, beneath a twilight that stretched until midnight, as I asked someone I respected what ten books he would choose if stranded in isolation for eternity.
So this was my first shot at a critical review for the soon-to-be-defunct Authonomy community. Having read the author's manifesto, I have to say that I like the cut of his jib. I chose Step Up because the author is commited to improving his work. That being said, I also enjoyed the read, so the critique that follows the Read More jump should be very much taken as suggestions on how to strengthen what is already an impressive novel.
Step Up is a young adult fiction with easy crossover appeal for adults. As an action-oriented urban crime thriller, Step Up not only delivers an engaging reading experience, but establishes a great foundation for future stories.
I hate meeting new people. The very idea of it shrivels the vibrance hiding inside me, waiting to feel welcome, waiting to feel appropriate. I have heard someone describe Aspergers as constantly wondering if you are doing life right, and that never seems more apt than when I am put into a situation with people I don't know. Going back to school was both a blessing and a curse, in that regard.
It was a blessing in that my studies of psychology and developmental systems helped me understand the processes that were dominating my neurochemistry. The curse, of course, was that these inquiries happened in the presence of other people, new people, on high rotation with the shorter (reasonable) quarter system, which was kind of like studying the physics and chemistry of combustion from within a boiling furnace.
I was reading some blog the other day mocking New Year's resolutions, and listing a bunch of common resolutions people make and tend not to bear through to fruition. I think that some people might not grok 'resolution', as in to be resolved. It is isn't a wish, or an ambition. To be resolved is to reach a firm determination on a matter. The word can also apply to something that is already finished, because this level of commitment makes completion a foregone conclusion.
It took me a while to get the hang of 'resolving'. I used to treat it like some kind of health and prosperity, positive thinking, the Secret shenanigans, not really bothering to even keep track. That changed when my downward spiral found me alone in the desert with an empty bottle of scotch and a loaded hand gun, failing come up with a compelling reason not to pair the set. I needed something more than a wish, or an ambition, to keep me here. I needed resolve.
I don't know when I fell in love with stories, but it had to be early. Real early. Maybe in the womb as my incredible mother, one of the few people I have ever met who both read and processed faster than I could, devoured books while waiting for me to exit and make her life miserable in new and inventive ways.
In any event, it had to be early. I can remember preschool, sitting in the corner reading while the other kids played. I can remember curling into a couch, looking up from books to steal homework questions from my brilliant older sister before I was even old enough to go to preschool. My childhood memories involving books outnumber my memories involving friends about 8,302 to 7.
So like I said, I have no idea when it happened, but I fell in love with stories early. Having somewhat recently reached my third decade, and diving into the requisite self-examiniation that benchmark demands, thinking about my relationship with stories. I think that it would not be unfair to characterize my first fifteen years as being devoted to reading stories, while the second fifteen were dedicated to trying to live stories. I wouldn't be upset about spending the third fifteen writing stories, but I don't want to get ahead of myself.
The work that follows is an attempt to explore the psychological roots of addiction in a narcissistic personality disorder through a narrative lens. The primary influence on the style of that narrative lens is C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, his retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, as the title, Beneath Our Faces, alludes. This work is an attempt to accomplish something similar regarding Ovid's presentation of the story of Narcissus and Echo, albeit on a smaller scale.
Lewis also, in his Discarded Image, offers a defense for the classical style of literature with its multilayered allusions. Dante was a classic example of this style, and in this it can be said that he resembled more the poet of my own focus than Ovid's contemporary upon whom Dante relied as guide. This relationship between Dante and Virgil has been offered as an illustration of the role of the therapist, represented by Virgil, in shepherding one through the challenges of recovery and individuation, and this relationship between poet and hero is considered herein.
In Discarded Image Lewis compares wading through the heavy laden context of classic literature to exploring a new territory or city, in that frequently having to refer to your guidebook does distract one from appreciating the sights, but not nearly as much as not understanding the significance of the sights. He does acknowledge that there are those who do not want to mine their literature for obscure meanings, and claims to have no quarrel with such folk, but says that he writes for the other sort.
In a similar vein this work has been structured so that the reader, should they choose, may read through the story entire without reaching for the end notes. Alternatively, the end notes could be read first, in the way that looking at one's guide book before venturing into the unknown can afford the opportunity to both see and appreciate the sights. I guess it is also the case that upon running into a reference or two that does not obtain for the reader they may put the story aside altogether. As Lewis before me, I do understand that there are those for whom literature proper should not feel like a labor, of love or otherwise, but I am writing for that other sort.
In association with the Hitchhiker's Guide to Reality, this story could be read as a moral fable exploring the importance of developing the skills of empathy and trust. The acrostics are a kind of reward for the even more inquisitive readers.
(note: formatting issues are withholding the footnotes, for now. I wil
N. ~ Journal Entry
An itch, perhaps, at the small of your neck, or maybe that sensation at the nook of one's ear when a whinging drone finds the exact pitch as to induce a shiver that spills from the ear out. Maybe it pulls at you like one of those tricks of the illusionist, something hidden unless you stop looking right at it. I expect that the physical expression may well vary from one individual to the next, much the way the stringent aroma of grilled liver might move one man to salivation while at once moving another to expulsion. Whether the physical manifestation be as direct as a crippling bilious attack, or be it as subtle as the lightest of ephemeral fingernails trailed along the small hairs of an arm, those among us who have placed the sensation do not thereafter mistake the source: it is the feeling of being watched.
Rather distinct from the brief look, a glance, or even the casual appreciation when one happens to wander across another's field of vision, being watched is a different thing. How can it but add to the burden one bears when another casts the full weight of their attention upon you? How much more so when multiple persons should each cast the weight of their gaze upon the same individual, and at the same time?! It is to no surprise that I have heard that it is not uncommon for performers, or even the great rhetoricians, to collapse from exhaustion from bearing the undivided attention of an entire crowd. To be fair, though, it is also said that the great rhetoricians usually manage to exhaust their audience first.
Claims of collapsing performers are hardly difficult for me to credit, indeed, it is the very same exhaustion that seems to bind my leaden bones with twine and threatens to drag my head down to rest here, near or even upon the very words I pen. How did I ever make it through a day, or a walk across the square, under such scrutiny? Even now I can feel their eyes as hooks, dragging me into the depths. Their eyes pierce my skin as though they seek to drain, through their voracious gaze, my very life itself.
The reflexion of the sound-waves due to their incidence on something denser than the aerial medium in which they were propagated
She sits, back to the same aged tree which had supported her vision of beauty and grace not a full day hence. She, of course, avails herself of the opposite side of the trunk, a fact which the romantic among us might attribute to a reverence for the moss and mound against which that sweet flesh had pressed. They would be wrong, but there are worse crimes than to believe overmuch in the superstitions of youth caught in the throes of infatuation. There is a stillness to her rest, a stillness often seen in the Wild Ones. It is the stillness of the deer, head-up and eyes-wide, the stillness of the coiled snake. This stillness has so much motion wrapped up in it, motion imminent, eminent, immanent. It is the very actualization of potentiality.
She sits, her mind's eye tracing the path graced by that which she would not (could not) name. Just there, the rich soil did curve and cup the memory of his weight. Ah, but what weight? Can light, can love, can beauty itself be so confined as to be subject to the crude rules of matter and form, and so bound leave hard mark upon the very floor of her forest home? But there, the twist of a branch grasped a sudden, when she had too near the flame been drawn.There was, as well, just round the base of that trunk against which she did recline, precious twinned proof of the reality of his solidity. She could, even now, turn and with her hands trace the shape of his curve, perhaps even lay her cheek there upon the ghost of his own in hope he had left some of his warmth in his wake, for how could one so bright not sear the very ground in his repose?
She stirs, and makes as if to reach around the trunk, but no. The Wild Ones know. The Wild Ones remember. A pool in a grove in the old forests of the world is not a place to be entered at a whim, however heart-pure that whim may be. Night has just tucked the forest beneath her cloak, and the air still carries the warmth of day's life, but creeping from behind her is a chill where the soft light of the moon and her sisters falls upon a still pool, as petals scattered gentle on the skin of a sleeping lover. Where their light falls on leaf or loam it does glisten as though a premature frost had stolen into this grove alone, in all the world, but where the light falls on that cool surface of the water it falls indeed, as into an abyss, without reflection, a black hole in the hidden heart of the forest.
~ Journal Entry
After all this, it appears that staring at the empty page can be even as staring over long into an abyss. Ah, and there is proof, here on the sheet before me, that I am at the least not denied what solace there can be for one such as myself in this simple scratching of the pen and paper. Wherefore my surprise? Am I not reminded ever exactly how much light there can be in what we might call darkness? What might I here scribe that could hope in any way to recount the twistings of my course? In what manner might I hope to capture the heart of it and trap it in mere words in a string, to be carried off by whomsoever might happen across their tangle?
Now, it does occur to me that within these very pages is an account of a youth who chanced upon a pool and had abandoned his story to dare its return, and that any who chance upon this bound collection in the years to come might wonder how events unfolded in that youth's daring. It happens that I might be in a unique position to alleviate such anxiety.
Daring youth in question did return to the woods, where he was set upon by a wood fiend, even as before, but steadying himself he did strike the vile creature to the ground, proceeding as purposed. The grove he found just as the sun danced on one edge of the silvered surface of the pool and the moon herself graced the furthest edge there from. At the edge opposite the youth himself did spark the reflection of that most inconstant star, masquerading now as the angel of the evening (though in spring she does sprightly charm the dawn), and the four were as the points on a map. Constant Apollo was surrendering the field to the ever changing moon and her most deceptive of bedfellows. This youth might have recalled the gender ambivalence of the un-sooth unsighted one, and considered how nothing on earth could be trusted to be as it once was.