The Vanishing Point: Myth to modern writing and Back

Dear Team:

This probably the longest letter I have ever written to all of you. But after dealing with many idiot reviewers, publishers, and booksellers. I now realize I have to do their work for them as well.

The Vanishing Point: Myth to modern writing and Back

Who is telling the story to whom and under what circumstances? How a story is told is crucial and tells a lot about the story itself. Different writing techniques reflect different kinds of intent, effect, meaning, and theme and as the techniques change throughout a story so do these elements as well.

Harvest is a type of work that changes techniques constantly, like a movie, the work is an exploration as well as an experiment in different narrative techniques. The narrative techniques range from first to second to third person and the use of this narrative triple counter-point both in sequence and in unison throughout the work give Harvest an unusual flavor.

I shall explore in this letter the various forms of narrative technique used in modern western literature as well as in more ancient forms of mythological writing and will show where Harvest of gems fits in this larger context and how it also pioneers a novel fusion of old and new forms of narrative technique and style. This new style has both a conscious and unconscious agenda; and the agenda along with the writer’s intent cannot be separated from today’s emerging global environment which has been undergoing historical and stressful changes.

I want to start with modern first person techniques and work my way to the third person which was used almost exclusively in ancient times. Along the way I will show how Harvest of Gems picks and chooses different kinds of techniques from this narrative range to create a new artistic vision and way to see things in today’s complex world.

One of the most pronounced narrative techniques of modern fiction is the interior monologue. Not only is it first person this soliloquy-like technique gives the inner life of the character a voice so the audience can hear it. This is a poetic technique that arrived late in modern fiction. T.S. Eliot used it in the “ Love song of J. Alfred Prufock “ and John Keats used it in “ Ode to a Nightengale, “ but it was only later that such giant writers like James Joyce and William Faulkner used it in a heavy way and weaved it in and out of other techniques. Virginia Woolf even rotated multiple interior monologues in her work.

Harvest of Gems also uses this technique in many ways. In doing so it is a thoroughly modern work. The special structure and language used in the interior monologue often reflects subverbal and subconscious material. The speaker is speaking to himself in an effort to tune into the deeper layers of his mind and to raise critical information from his subconscious to the surface. This is a hallmark of Harvest and it spills into the next technique of narrative fiction. That of dramatic monologue.

Here there is a speaker talking to an unknown person. It’s a show with no host. But important information is revealed this way. This technique was pioneered by Geoffry Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales, by Colderidge in his “ Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “ and by Dostoyevsky in many of his works, by Mark Twain in “ Huck Finn, “ and Albert Camus in “ The Fall. “ Harvest of Gems fuses this technique with the technique of letter narration. A technique pioneered by J.J. Rosseau in the 18th century to make fiction prose at the time more platable to his audience. It is a confessional form of writing which is a variation of the dramatic monologue which is used often in the Dear guardian Angel letters in the Asian chapters of Harvest of Gems. In these letters first and second persons are invoked with even a faint echo of a third person and all this forces the reader to make sense of the unfolding confessional drama all on his own and to be drawn into the drama in an intimate way.

Another first person narrative technique, diary narration is a cousin of letter narration and Harvest of Gems also borrows heavily from this technique throughout the entire book. There is often no listener in particular, but the tone is often confessional and to a confident who seems close to the speaker, but also remote in distance. The diary technique was a favorite of Goethe, Gogol, De Maupassant and Dostoyevsky. Daniel Defoe used the technique in “ Robinson Crusoe and the famous American short-story writer Daniel Keyes used the diary technique n a stunning way in “ Flowers for Algernon. “ Through the use of diary entries a double story unfolds as Keyes eeirely depicts how a retarded person is transformed into a genius. The inner events that bring this about are recorded through the inner mind shifts that are documented. The writer of Harvest shamelessly admits that he read this story multiple times in high school during a difficult six years in Israel and that he was greatly transformed by this reading experience.

Which leads us now to subjective narration where a character starts talking about past events to a remote audience that starts to resemble the general public. Time and space are also vague and often modern writers using this technique deliberately want their words to stand alone uncorrected, seemingly incomplete, immature, prejudiced, or self-serving, even as their values appear superior to their society’s. This adolescent tone was seriously misunderstood by some of the more “ serious “ members of our translation team and also by some “ well-read and educated “ Harvest readers who didn’t understand the strategy and intent of this narrative technique. Vernacular language is freely used to reveal a personality that is still growing and not fixed. Often the character is highly distinguished from the author when this technique is used; as well as the amateur writer from the professional one. Harvest of Gems shamelessly borrows this adolescent narrative style from such writers as J.D. Salinger who wrote “ Catcher in the Rye “ and Mark Twain who immortalized Huck Finn to the whole world. Harvest has a big debt here indeed. Especially its earlier volumes.

The technique of detached autobiography covers a more traditional range of story-telling. Here a reliable narrator frames events and the reader usually accepts the narrator’s version. There is less interpretation. The speaker’s relation to the third party in the story is more critical than his relation with the audience. It’s an exercise in both gaining and understanding distance and hints of a more broader context. Dickens in “ David Coppefield “, Bronte in “ Jane Eyre “, and Mann in “ Buddenbrooks “ all use this technique to good effect. It is also interesting how J.D. Salinger’s protagonist in “ Catcher “ openly denounces this writing technique as well as Dickens and “ David Copperfield in general. The writer of Harvest does not echo this sentiment, but is still however sympathetic with Salinger.

We continue our narrative journey with the memoir/ observor technique. The speaker becomes more observor rather than participant. Dr. Watson talks about Sherlock Holmes. The first person is almost eclipsed by his observations of a third person. This technique is the hinge between autobiography and biography. Harvest of Gems only flirts with this technique.

We now begin our final phase of our narrative journey. First there is anonymous narration from a single character’s point of view. This moves to an anonymous narration from dual characters’ point of view. A single character gives a point of view about two third person characters. Sherwood Anderson and D.H. Lawrence often expanded their stories with this technique.

Finally there is anonymous narration from multiple characters’ point of view. The same single narrator gives the views of multiple characters. More scope is employed than short fiction can command in this territory. A classic example is Tolstoy’s “ War and Peace. “ The third person is now beginning to dominate exclusively until there is no point of view at all. The character is a pure eye-witness with complete detachment. He is almost a member of a chorus.

From 1,2,3 to 0 is the range of narrative techniques as our spectrum ends in legend, myth, and folktale. Deeds begin to speak for feelings and characters become archetypal. There is no going inside the characters’ minds. The reader must fill this role and rely on a communal or universal consciousness. This external technique is the most transpersonal. This is where fiction ends and depersonalized history begins. The character is no longer a confidant or eye-witness. But is just the member of a chorus. The powerful climax of Harvest of Gems in the Swyambhu chapter boldly fuses first and second persons with the third in a startling and unconventional way. This is the signature of a major transition in the artist’s personal transformation and this erupts full flower in Harvest vol.4 and Two Short Stories. This new fusion of modern and ancient writing styles generates not only a gripping story, but an all enveloping atmosphere. It is both trance and meditation.

The very idea of a central intelligence in fiction that filters the experience of the story takes on a new meaning. Narrative art and everyday expression begin to morph in a new way as the very psychic fabric of the universe is tackled head on. The experience of this narrative process stretches the mind of the reader in profound and subtle ways. The reader is now part of the story and his mind unites with the author’s mind. The experience becomes a multiplex kind of meditation. A meditation that can be constantly re-experienced in new ways.

By looking at and understanding the full range of narrative colors on the author’s palate, the reader will get more meaning out of the story. How a story is told often tells what it’s about. Every message has an intent. Different techniques have different meaning especially when they are combined in new ways. It’s always a good idea to look at the techniques of the author without trying to analyze the meaning of the story.

Thackery’s “ Vanity fair “ was told by an all-knowing author. Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby by someone who knew Gatsby on the periphery and Dickens’ “ Great Expectations “ by an anonymous narrator who stuck only to the protagonist’s thoughts and no one else. Harvest would have less power if it was written only in one style. The earlier volumes are less complex and the dramatic multiplex shifts in the later volumes beginning with the book all of you have edited and translated shows this abrupt transition in narrative complexity in a radical way. But the simpler and earlier volumes prepare the reader for this by creating a necessary biographical background. This is important because intent, meaning, and theme all change when narrative technique changes.

Interior monologue and dramatic monologue mimic actual discourse going on NOW in the present. You are there NOW with the speaker. This is precisely why the Harvest author chose this technique. It has an immediacy and urgency that it personal and intimate. It is anti-mythological yet the subjects discussed are ancient ones that are usually handled by mythological and religious tracts. By throwing subjective narration as well which highlights vernacular American speech the story becomes not only anti-mythological, but contemporary as well.

The next five narrative techniques have more distance in both space and time. They are almost documentary in the sense that there are documents written by somebody to an unknown someone. Either letters, diaries, or memoirs. Harvest indulges this range too. Almost like a movie with its longer shots zooming out from a sequence of intimate and intense close shots. The zoom outs become even greater n distance in their relation to space and time when they start to mimic third person documents, biographies, case histories, or chronicles.

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