Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ambivalent reading expirience: concluded

It seems I can’t get my act together until midnight these days and for that I apologize. I suspect that comes from the hope that more will be accomplished if I just wait, as if I’m not the one I’m waiting for.

I finished the Alexander Plays. I think that on the whole I liked them, or at least there were very few things that stuck out as problems and they made me think, which isn’t quite the same thing as liking something but it’s certainly not nothing. All four plays center around Suzanne Alexander who is fictional, at first I was determined not to look this up, to just view the plays as plays without getting bogged down in the historical stuff that usually makes me not like things. However, in one of the plays the main character referred to She Talks to Beethoven as her best known play, written about when her husband disappeared. I got incredibly, embarrassingly disoriented by this, I found myself talking (in my head) like every character at the climax a farce with identical twins, because, of course, that’s the name and subject of the fist play in this collection. So, the character was claiming to have written another play in the book, of which she was the lead, one in which she was not writing a play about herself and didn’t seem to be aware of the audience. I found it disorienting and started to wonder if she was a real person, or the author's name was a pseudonym, or what was going on, then I felt like I was being fucked with and then I felt stupid. So, I guess I’m not sure how I feel about that particular dramatic device, after all it did have an effect.

The other thing I want to talk about is how she used found text, or source material, or the public domain, or the classics or whatever you want to call it. This is one of those things you see sometimes, I guess it’s natural. Writers are intelligent, over-educated, romantically self involved people, of course they feel the need to draw literary and historical parallels that elevate and explain their characters. Kennedy does it well, in The Ohio State Murders she weaves Tess of the d'Urbervilles into the story of Suzanne Alexander as a young black student at the newly desecrated Ohio State who’s daughters are are murdered by the white professor who fathered them. In The Film Club, a monologue about her waiting for her husband after a second disappearance, during which it turns out that he was imprisoned and tortured, she incorporates Bram Stroker’s Dracula and Diop’s poetry. The Dramatic Circle covers the same time and adds the letters of Napoleon and Josephine to the mix. It’s a technique I’ve never been tempted to use, not because I don’t think it can be effective but because it’s not really in keeping with how I work or think. I’m not sure why I just made that personal but let’s move on. The effect is not heavy (it could easily have been heavy) but weighty, it gave this woman’s life a context, and a feeling of importance and belonging among the great tragic love stories. I think it worked mostly because we saw her looking to these texts consciously for comfort and guidance and the feeling that she wasn’t alone. I think it worked because it came from the character rather than being slapped on top by the writer.

All that said, I’m glad I read these plays but I just didn’t enjoy them. I guess enjoyment isn’t everything.

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