Taking the Landscape for Granted
—–When I was writing my first novel I got all tangled up trying to indirectly inform the reader, trying to offhand slip the reader, information as to where my story was taking place. I had the story all figured out, I had the characters ready to begin; but I was confused as to where I should assert it was all taking place. Or rather, I was embarrassed to reveal that it was all taking place where it was: in my home town. For my home town was of no repute; not on any literary map. Even though a large part of this novel was description, though it had fond landscapes and familiar weather, somehow the author of these details was shamefaced. It was an amateur’s attempt to be universal, though what it only revealed was my shyness. Eventually, though, I abandoned this doomed struggle and, like a confident artist, just labelled the place right off the bat. This, miraculously, gained the reader’s attention. And also, I happily realised, put in my bid for my hometown terrain– as some classic location, or rather a real location–fit for a struggle of survival and mystery. The fact is, if you simply name a place and even falter in describing it, what happens is the reader helps it along.
—-This might have refined my writing style, but it was instructive in another way. It showed me how little I had reflected on the question itself of how it is the world is a Place. One habit I haven’t refined is, when starting a philosophical discussion, this must be done, how shall I say?– with some delay, indirectly. Indirectly, but with a sword ready. Careful in your preparations, when you are planning controversy. You have to slide that plate in front of the dinner guest while talking in his ear, on some common subject–so when he looks down he says: How did that get here! To introduce a theme, you have to literally go so far away from it that no one suspects what you are up to–and then sweep in with the topic like you just had a revelation. Walking right past that sign that says: “No Trespassing.”
—–Turns out that little lesson in writing novels resonates. For the profound, and also comical problem with Evolution–to get to the theme–is simply that for evolution to function it requires a place. A locale. A start-up town where one can take biology in high school, how’s that? The theory of evolution is not, shall we say, natural itself. But a ramrod of an idea. Not that it can’t function, once it has a place. It’s a soporific to the budding scientific mind, once you get that humdrum world, I agree. I mean I offer this only as a theme for discussion. (If we were to talk about it–this is what I would venture to say.) I was talking originally about how I got those descriptions in my novels.
—–Not that fun-time evolution can’t plunder and dissect all living forms of nature, once it has them it’s carnival glasses. Not that this panacea for an explanation of how anything got here requires a creator or an Aristotilian first mover, to get it going. But what is funny is that it requires a setting for its operational occurrence. This place where evolution happens, and, if you say so, has happened in a stretch-to-fit past, is not accounted for. Hackneyed old nineteenth century evolution, pardon my redundancy, is the process and the description of that process that is supposed to occur in the place where . . . evolution is already the expert process! Yep. It simply begins somewhere, and works forwards and backwards, filling in areas, demolishing all nature in its fury to organise. What makes evolution simplistic, sort of laughingly needful, is that it assumes its own terrain. And in my novels all the localised, dramaticly detailed descriptions defeat evolution right within the language; in my novels I am helping create a world that evolution knows nothing of–for it can only produce uniformity, like bland texts one after the other. It would level the differences of past epochs, smooth out the ambiguous, ringing language I inherit. There can be no historical, local world, and no home town in the universe of indifferent landscapes that evolution has put its reductive seal upon. I am opposed to it in every sentence. I wish only that my vocabulary does not desert me–or my grammar break down. which, frankly, it does at a rapid pace once I get onto these topics abstractly . . .
—–This is the face of an unsold clock in a department store. Waiting to be placed in somebody’s house. It’s six thirty. Time to make dinner. From which we all infer in unstoppable musing the creation of time and space. Helplessly, we are the child and the philosopher. The world comes out of the past, already manufactured. Location unknown. But not made here; we are in a mystery. Evolution must be a theory for the weak minded. It fails to even think of its location. And if we look at the place it sells as popular science, it is really the same old, fervently lived-in world. Gussied up with an even lower discount assumption that it was always this way. Evolution! It occurs in an unchanging world that is just like the one we live in. Only stripped of sense. Just fine as a playground for idiots. But it can’t make those landscapes and detailed settings in my books.
—–All you have to do to expose your average placid unthinking evolutionist is let him talk for a while, let him describe what happens in his scheme, historically if he likes, and then politely ask him, once he is flushed and flabbergasted: “and so where is all this taking place? Outside, right now? In the cosmos, friend? In a great petri dish, in the deep past?” He will stammer, for it is unlocated, this process. Very much a theory.
—–And the answer to the question: where?– is that evolution is happening only in his mind. “Only in your mind,” I beg to inform, “and nowhere else.”