Où est mon corps?

After watching the Netflix French gem J’ai perdu mon corps, I’m starting to think more about the body of my character, and specifically where the narrator’s head is in relation to it. As a reader are we looking down at it? Or are we floating slightly above? Are we wondering about its movements, unsure of its every motivation, or did we the perspective help make that choice, the arm reach here, the legs drive there? Better yet, what level of bodily control do I have as the writer, creating both the character and its representation?

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In the movie, the hand is chasing the body, meeting it in the narrative at the pivotal moment where they part. Much like a Joy Williams story “The Excursion”, the storyline starts at both the beginning and the end to converge upon the climax moment. I am trying to write a story out of time, and when I say that, I just mean that I want to manipulate time to my own ends, that I want to earn something from time, that I want to craft time in a meaningful way, the way I cannot in my own life. Perhaps rather than removing time, I need to similarly arrange it in a way that fits the nature of the storyline.

But that would require knowing the full extent of the storyline, wouldn’t it? And that would require knowing where in relation to my character’s body the story is being told. The movement of Elsie’s body and her perception of it are key to the story. She is a reawakened photographer, so her representation of herself could change throughout the story as she changes her own perception of what photography is to her, how it helps her see. Maybe I walk them together, the body and the mind, so that the climax of the novel is her noticing herself as both subject and object of her own art.

Could we stay that long, in the novel, the mind at some parts, the body at others? I don’t see that as too different from the way I walk about the world, sometimes in this body, sometimes elsewhere entirely. That time might allow the two to meet for a moment, one around which I could centre a whole story, seems perfectly roman-tic.

 

Who’s Beating Its Heart

I’ve been reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography in a sleepy way, as though Susan is spoon-feeding me and I can’t even keep my mouth open. I get this way with non-fiction, fiction, reading, become complicit in some takeover I orchestrated by picking up the book. I want to read this book. I need to read about photography. But do I? I think I just want to think about it.

Photography is key to the novel I’m writing. I know that much. Elsie is an artist photographer who has taken years away from her craft because she’s been busy raising three children. She walks around seeing things, looking after them, rearranging and replacing them that she can’t also frame and shoot them at the same time for artistic purposes. That’s frivolous. That’s Mallory. But she wants frivolity. She wants it back.

So for Elsie, taking photographs is a way of escaping. Unfortunately, I can’t help but understand from Sontag that photography is also about representing. So while Elsie will try to escape her life through photography, she will also be forced to see it, by representing it to us through this novel. It is interesting to now state that the problem I’m having with the novel is the perspective of the narrator. How close is she to Elsie? Is she Mallory? Is she an all-seeing narrator, and if so, what if she was the camera?

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One of Sontag’s essays is about the dichotomy between photography and painting. This is useful to me because Mallory is a painter, Elsie a photographer, and they are the dichotomy of the book. I want to roll this piece out until I have a nuanced understanding of it all, but I don’t need history, don’t need all these references I don’t know about. Yes, I am trying to avoid reading a book (and in turning writing a book), but I think I’m also realizing that as I read the book, I’m not thinking. Thinking is writing, and that’s what I need to do right now. I need to think through a few key things.

One is who is seeing and representing this novel?

Two is how does this affect its structure?

Three is, as a way of displaying this, and playing with it in a dissociative way, I want to bring photography in as a tool. I need to understand a lot more about it in order to do this.

So: I must read Sontag again, but closer, with thinking. I must also read and write more about photography. Through all this, I think I could get a little closer to the heart of the novel, or at least who’s beating it, and how.