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Thursday, June 2, 2011

More Thoughts on What HAS to Happen vs What WOULD Happen

I was pleased to read my friend David Gardner's comment on my earlier post on the same topic, understanding the distinction between What WOULD Happen and verisimilitude (true-seeming). In ENDLESS CORVETTE (still only $14.95 and a dandy gift for all occaisions) I bend the truth a number of times, starting with the Corvette of the title. But being a tall-tale, what WOULD happen is not at all congruous with normal laws of logic. It does not seem unconvincing that birds, mistaking Paul Bunyan's popcorn crumbs for snow, should all fly south for the winter, nor that when a river is frozen solid, chopped into sections, and each section reversed in the river bed, the river would flow in the opposite direction when thawed. These things are perfectly consistent with the bent logic of the tall-tale world.
Similarly, it doesn't distress us to see the Pirates of Penzance marry the daughters of the Major General - a "bevy" of young women all aged between eighteen and twenty. That the Major General should have ten or more daughters all less than three years apart is exactly what we would expect in a world where Pirates serve apprenticeships and cannot be released from their indentures if they happened to be born on the 29th of February. This is the world of the farce, and like the tall-tale, it operates under a different logical dispensation than our own world. PARADISE DOGS (on sale June 7, and a $24.95, a dandy gift for all occaisions) is also a farce, and has a series of conveniently happy endings as silly in their way as Gilbert and Sullivan.
There are also times when a real master pulls what I can only describe as daylight robbery.  So flagrantly abuses the logic of his own story, we may scarcely be aware what has been pulled off, like a magician yanking the tablecloth out from under the tablesettings of crystal and china.  Homer does this a couple of times, as does Wild Bill Shakespeare (if you don't believe me, go back and read Hamlet. That play has more howlers in it than you can shake a stick at.)  When Nabokov needs Lolita's mother out of the picture, he has her killed by a car as she runs across the street, and he doesn't even blush.  In Hitchcock's North by Northwest - admittedly both these examples operate under a twisted logic of their own - it just so happens the arch villain played by James Mason (who also played Humbert Humbert in the movie) has his gorgeous home atop Mount Rushmore, so that Carey Grant and Kim Novak can have a deliciously improbable chase scene across the face of Abraham Lincoln.  Hitch was never one to let mere logic stand in the way of a good story - one of his movies ends with a chase scene into torch of the Statue of Liberty.
Flannery O'Connor observed that a writer can do anything he can get away with, but that "nobody ever got away with much."  If the need arises to get away with something, my advice is, don't be shy about it.  Do it in a big way.  It takes infinite finesse to pick someone's pocket, but if you pull up with a tractor trailer and haul away their house, they're likely to just stand there dumbfounded.  Don't settle for the small coincidence, send 'em on a chase scene across Mount Rushmore.
check this space June 7 for THE RETURN OF THE STOOPID CONTEST!

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