Moonlight and sunlight

In the middle of the “Sweet Popcorn Gal” posts, a friend asked me whether the main character was based on a real person. Truthfully, I replied that the character is a pastiche of several people I have known.

Even as I was saying this, I felt some part of my mind assuming a defensive crouch. “Protect your sources at all costs!” this part of my mind seemed to be saying.

Fiction is a fragile beast. Through fantasy we try to spin a coherent and self-contained world of alternate reality out of the stuff of dreams (very much the topic of Sweet Popcorn Gal, in fact). In order to do this we inevitably draw upon people and events that we have experienced in our real lives.

But real life is not a narrative. It is a series of oftentimes jumbled and chaotic events and encounters between souls. To look for meaning in every gesture and sequence of occurrences is worse than unwise — it can lead to a kind of madness.

In fiction we have the privilege lay out all of these threads to see whether on some deep level they can be fit together into an ensemble. In order to function properly, this process needs to be protected.

I understand completely why Leonard Cohen was so disappointed when the back story behind “Chelsea Hotel #2” displaced the mystery of the song itself. The sheer insistent loudness of the real world ended up intruding upon the delicate feeling of place and time that he was working to hard to conjure.

Reality is harsh sunlight, whereas fantasy is mysterious moonlight. The last thing you want to do when weaving a midnight spell is for some damned fool to open up a window onto the noonday sun.

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