Friday, October 30, 2009

The Story

Oh how we love the story. The characters are interchangable, one article written about Margherita and Raphael compare them to George Clooney secretly marrying his house keeper. Characters change, but it's the story that matters.
I was listening to a thesis on C.D. about Margaret Atwood's short story, Happy Endings. In it, she takes two people- John and Mary- and hypothesizes six story lines in what is called Meta-literature; a post modern writing style of fiction that brings the reader into the conversation by actually asking you to listen, or telling you what you are thinking.
Atwood takes this couple, John and Mary, and rewrites their storyline six times. Each time she is explaining both the creation of story and the creation of life. Her writing is like thinking in that she is contemplating plot, and how it is written, and how many plotlines there can be to any one story, as if she is wondering about it herself.
In story line A- the one she calls The Happy Ending- the couple falls in love, gets married, have challenging and fulfilling careers, fun vacations, challenging and fulfilling hobbies, lovely children, they grow old and eventually die.
The thesis writer points out that even her language- challenging and fulfilling- are words that parody the things they mean. She follows this story line with five others, the one where John uses Mary for sex, Mary cheats on John for a younger man with a motorcycle, John and Mary have economically different backgrounds and face a Marxist break down...etc. Atwood concludes that all stories are easy to begin, that the true story connoisure is the one who makes the middle the most interesting, and that they all end the same. she writes:
John and Mary Die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.
Raphael and Margherita have the story line we love the best. The one that preserves them forever. He was in the height of his career and she went off to a convent to die of a broken heart. They don't grow old together, they don't have children, and we still don't know if they ever had that rumored clandestine marriage ceremony. He was supposed to be wed to the niece of a Cardinal to increase his stature, but he never did. In the end they die, but in life they loved. Part of that love was what kept them apart- Raphael loved a simple peasant and Margherite loved a star artist, neither would ever have the life of the other even if they took each other for lovers.
We have the story. And everyone knows the best story illustrates itself in language, words make pictures we can see, pictures that breathe. Raphael, possibly more than any other artist the world has ever seen, was able to do that in painting. La Velata breathes, she tells us a story without whispering a single word. And she is here, now, for a little while.

1 comment:

Gary G. said...

She does breathe. I watched her.