Sunday, January 30, 2011

Streams of consciousness. Not quite moments of clarity.

I have been accused of having a stream of consciousness style of writing, and I admit to it. Indeed, whether I am writing fiction or nonfiction or blithely back and forth, I am seldom fully conscious. I don't know how to write any other way than to just shake my brain up and dump my thoughts out on paper (or the html equivalent of paper) in whatever sequence those thoughts might make an appearance. Many famous and even rich writers have written in this style, though I am proof it is not the style itself, apparently, which makes writers rich and famous. There is probably more to it.

Agamemnon to Odysseus: "As I lay dying, the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyelids for me as I descended into Hades."

William Faulkner wrote often in the manner of stream of consciousness (spewing the rantings of his characters' often-disjointed interior monologues) and he didn't do too badly. Nor did Thomas Wolfe and others. Only Relax Max seems to be doing badly at it.

To begin with, they had promised Addie they would carry out her wish to be buried in Jefferson.

Anse is the father of all of Addie's children, save Jewel, who, of course, was the product of Addie's extramarital relationship with her preacher, Rev. Whitfield.

Rachel (Sampson's wife) can hardly hide her disgust; she is all indignant at the way they seem to be disrespecting Addie by dragging her coffin all over the place. But, in order to get to Jefferson from here, one must... travel... there with the coffin. You see.

The late professor Robert Fagles' translation of that passage of the Odyssey: "But she, that whore, she turned her back on me, well on my way to Death - she even lacked the heart to seal my eyes with her hand or close my jaws."

Relax Max can't help but humbly disagree. To him, Homer's Odyssean waters are never THAT shallow: why can't the woman be exactly what Agamemnon says her to be? Why can she not simply have large sad, loving, eyes? - a woman who just can't bear to see her lover die, can't stand to see his life slip away; willing, even, to try to stand between her love and Charon? As if not closing his eyes or binding his jaw will somehow deny Hades? Why does her lack of action have to be callous? Why does EVERYTHING have to be an allegory?


  1. How does one comment on rambling crap like this, my son?

  2. Not a huge fan of stream of consciousness writing, except, if these are examples, apparently I use it all the time, only I didn't know it.

  3. Stream of consciousness rarely means "first draft"--even if written to sound as if the natural confluence of the mind's thoughts, it is still honed and stylized to suit the pattern, to give the impression, while still wasting nothing to show us meaning.

    Walking Man's poetry is a good example, I think.

  4. @Vicar - Rambling crap? Have you ever listened to one of your sermons old man? I haven't heard any since last July. Have you been on vacation?

    @Stephanie Barr - No, this isn't really an example of stream of consciousness writing. Except that I don't pay much attention time sequence or syntax here. Stream of consciousness comes from the characters' internal monologues, what they are thinking, not speaking, rather than the author's. But that isn't possible. Is it? Hmmm. 15 characters' points of view, in this example (#35 of the top 100 best novels of the 20th century - "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner. That's whatstream of consciousness writing is, not me here.

  5. @Adullamite - Very seldomly and then only briefly. The liberals of this world put me in a daze. ;)

    @Shakespeare - I agree with you. "Writing is Rewriting", as I once blogged. But, believe it or not, William Faulkner claimed to have written As I Lay Dying in a single draft with absolutely no rewrites or even corrections. I don't believe him. But he's dead now and I can't write him a nasty letter.

    Try Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward, Angel."

    @Jeff King - Interesting? I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. :)

  6. Well, hell, I DO do that (see, notably chapter 7 blurb). Though that's probably some bastardized version that would get me thrown out of the English department.

    As for "As I Lay Dying," I can believe it. My best short story EVER, Windrider, I wrote in one draft. I tweaked one or two words, but it's essentially as I first wrote it (only took me an hour, too). When I'm in the zone, what comes out is pristine. Tarot Queen hasn't varied by 50 words since I first wrote it.

    Truth is, everyone has different levels of finishing. Some people need to SEE it to make it work. Some people need to lay the bones than hone and polish and fill. Some people, all that work is largely done internally so they don't even write until it's ready to go. The longer I write, the more I go the second way.



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