Friday, April 09, 2004

Vision, Savoring Texts, and King

Reading is a function of both eyes, right? And each eye sends optical information to the opposite side of the brain, I think: The right eye sends data to the left brain and vice versa. Now, the left-brain deals with individual words--vocab; the right-brain deals with comprehension. They must work in tandem, I believe, for optimal comprehension. But since I have only one functional eye--the left, as I mentioned earlier--it means that information enters and is routed to the right brain where it is visually comprehended, then it is sent to the left brain through the corpus callosum for analytical identification, then back to the right for total comprehension. Whew! No wonder it takes me so long to read... Hahaha, but don't take me to seriously... I have to believe my vision has to affect reading, but the above scenario was "made up" from a hodgepodge of information accessed randomly from memory banks that have been storing data for decades. Unfortunately, most of it has been deteriorating as soon as it was stored--booze and drugs, remember? Back when I was doing nothing (© nefarious)...

The last time I found myself doing nothing was the summer of 1979. For those of you who have read NLUTE, you may remember this as the time when I had just quite my job as a manager of the sweet shop factory and before I won the singing contest and a trip to Japan. It was a summer when the Dave Kingman and Mike Schmidt were homerun kings, when Willie Stargell still played for the Pirates. And it was the summer when I decided to put some of the uglier chapters of my life behind me. The previous four years were spent drinking, drugging and womanizing. Basically being full of my self... But having realized that I was too young to take on the responsibilities of the "adult" job of managing other people, I decided to go back to school at 23 and start fresh. But I had missed the deadline to go to summer school and so I had to wait for Fall Semester.

Without a job and without school, I was a bum. When my friends weren't working I'd hang with them and may be go to the beach or shoot some pool. But more often than not, I found myself sitting in the backyard of my parents house sunning myself beneath the cloudless LA skies and reading a book. I read a number of books; good enough to finsh then, but not good enough to remember the story with any detail: Sidney Sheldon's Bloodline, Irwin Shaw's Beggerman Thief, and Ken Follett's Eye of the Needle. But the book I found myself mesmerized by was The Stand by Stephen King. Gawd I loved that book. I'm not a speed reader now, and I certainly wasn't one back then--but at least I didn't move my lips... usually. Anyway, I don't read like you probably do; I bathe in the text, I let it wash over me. I probably read faster when I read aloud. But reading is a pleasure, something to enjoy and savor. And King was something for me to savor.

Previously, I had read The Shining, and found how fun "horror" could be. Not visually graphic, blood-gory horror, but mentally gripping, blood-soaked horror. The Shining compelled me to read other King novels, such as Carrie and Salem's Lot. But The Stand convinced me that King's talent was not a vivid imagination but rather a technical skill: writing, or as he would put it, story telling. His ability to write in a way that flows "verbally" is something I have envied. He is the antithesis of Crighton whose choppy prose is custom made for speed readers wanting an interesting story but not a whole lot of detail. In King, I can here a voice telling me a story in its lush detail. I was convinced of his ability when I read his "non-horror" stories, the best being the novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. This is an exquisite story of hope. The story revolves around Andy Dufresne, who is falsely accused of murder and sent to prison, as told by his best friend in prison, Red, and around prison life and how Andy made a difference in the lives of his prison inmates. Until his ultimate escape. Red describes his feelings as follows.

We're glad he's gone, but a little sad, too. Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.

Red himself is finally paroled and and when he ventures on the outside after decade in the pen, he is shocked at the state of thing in the mid 1970s.

After hardly knowing that [women] were half of the human race for forty years, I was suddenly working in a store filled with them. Old women, pregnant women wearing T-shirts with arrows pointing downward and the printed motto reading BABY HERE, skinny women with their nipples poking out of their shirts--a woman wearing something like that when I went in would have gotten arrested and then had a sanity hearing--women of every shape and size. I found myself going with a semi-hard almost all the time and cursing myself for being a dirty old man...

Music on the radio. When I went in, the big bands were just getting up a good head of steam. Now every song sounds like it's about fucking. So many cars. At first I felt like I was taking my life into my hands every time I crossed the street.

Now, there may be some of you who will say, "Stephen King? Bleh!" And you would be entitled to your opinion, for it is a matter of taste, but I often feel that I write in a similar fashion. Not that I am consciously trying to emulate him, but after absorbing so many of his books, and reading and re-reading passages that I thought were exceptionally expressive, I suppose it would be hard not to manfest some similarities. Of course, this is an incredulously megalomaniacal statement for me to make. But don't get me wrong. I don't see similarities in style, just technique: I write like I talk--well, minus a few expletives and a bunch of Oh, mans and y'knows. But I need to continue practicing--right here on the pages of Xanga, if you don't mind. If only I could write, and write well...

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