Sunday, October 26th, 2003
We’ve been talking a lot about place in English Literature and Contemporary Fiction and writing. Fiction deals with space in multiple ways: one being the places where stories are set and, another, the story itself as a “space,” the latter being of prime concern to writers. The empty page is a landscape waiting to be painted over. The page or screen is a paradox: flat but mythological.
In class I often use my relationship with CT to illustrate peoples’ intimacy with space and place. I have yet to write a story set in the North East with the exception of something that I’m writing now. But this story deals with New York and Cambridge minimally. The primary setting is New Mexico and Arizona. I have to admit to often teasing CT for its bad weather and crowded feel, and, I think, unfairly. In the language of human geography, CT is distant, New Mexico is close, even though physically the opposite is true.
This is a problem that Hugh of St Victor is trying to teach me to work through. He writes in the Didascalicon:
He is still weak for whom his native land is sweet, but he is strong for whom every country is a fatherland, and he is perfect for whom the whole world is a place of exile. The first confirms his love for the world, the second disperses it, and the last extinguishes it. From boyhood I (Hugh) have lived in exile, and I know with what grief the spirit sometimes deserts the narrow limits of the poor mans hut, and with what sense of freedom it afterwards despises marble halls and paneled ceilings.
This is what I would call an example of dead-on writing. Hugh is a great teacher of teachers (who should also be students). That quote is a prime example of a wow factor.