Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wise Blood

John Huston’s movie ‘Wise Blood’ is said to be a faithful literal translation of Flannery O’Connor’s book. I guess it’s the closest experience that one could get to understand O’Connor’s work aside from reading her book. John Huston has a good record bringing great novels to screen and I guess he is the best director for film adaptations. I especially liked his films ‘Under the Volcano’, ‘Red Badge of Courage’, ‘Moby Dick’, ‘Maltese Falcon’ and ‘The Man Who Would be King.’  These are all famous books from well-known authors. The DVD ‘Wise Blood’ also contains an audio clip of Flannery O’Connor reading her short story classic ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find.’ Combining both the film and the audio clip and supplemented by information from the Internet was enough to know a lot about the writer.

Southern gothic is a term often used by critics for writers like O’Conner and others like William Faulkner. One gets a good idea what the term means watching the movie and listening to the short story. O’Conner said that ‘southern gothic’ is usually a term used by Northerners where otherwise it would be called ‘realistic.’ The movie reminds me of Robert Altman’s film ‘Nashville’ with its ensemble collection of interesting or rather unusual stories and people. Both are locales based in the South. Perhaps Southern Gothic refers to tragic stories brought forth with the defeat in the War against the States. Some may argue that a foretaste is seen in Pickett’s charge in the Battle of Gettysburg. - the suicidal charge in an open field again the well-entrenched Union army. Finally, the total war in Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas which sealed the fate of the Confederacy.

There is a vein of strange tragedy flowing along the South that bring out things like ‘True Blood’ (i.e. vampires and werewolves in Louisiana) and the ‘Walking Dead’ (i.e. zombies in Atlanta). Perhaps these are the present manifestation of Southern Gothic started by writers like O’Connor. Tonight I will be watching her autobiography and perhaps a movie called ‘Grey Gardens’ – about an eccentric mother and daughter living in poverty in a huge house in the Hampton. Very gothic but not Southern so I guess it’s a trait that exists in all the states. Southern folks are like the salt of the earth – people who are down to earth and God fearing. The disastrous civil war led them forcibly to achieve a sort of spiritual grace – a transformation away from bigotry and slavery. Although vestiges of the South still exists (ex. a southern congressman shouting ‘You Lie’ during a black President’s state of the union address), the transformation is legally complete ever since the passage of the 13th amendment.

Defeat and tragedy are the necessary ingredients of romanticism. The failure of the Philippine revolution, the execution of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna are similar examples in the Philippines. There is a strain of a lost but brilliant cause similarly in the fall of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Perhaps there is a sort of Philippine gothic that exists in the works of writer’s like Nick Joaquin. Combining both the Southern and Philippine gothic may be an interesting idea to pursue. I learned about these Southern writers in my last writing workshop. I had seen the DVD ‘Wise Blood’ in the library for sometime but needed a context to borrow it. The recent Lincoln lectures also brought out my interest on Southern history and culture so I have been borrowing works on Lincoln and the Civil War. I intend to watch ‘God and Generals’ and ‘Gone with The Wind’ during the Thanks giving holidays.

Writing workshops is a good way to expand one’s interest and I intend to spend time in more workshops next year. This helps me increase my meta cognition on writing. I have read a lot on meta cognition since reading that article in Poets & Writers. In fact, mind mapping is an act of meta cognition because it’s a meta model of one’s thinking. To be able to act or change or improve one’s thinking due to the exercise of meta cognition is the goal. Similarly one should develop meta models on writing and that’s the purpose of attending workshops. One’s learning experience and thinking skills are improved though I am still working out my writing meta models. I hope to replicate my success in public speaking brought about by attending Toastmasters. Hence, attending writing workshops, literary readings and learning more about writing via books or magazines like Poet & Writers is my strategy (or is it tragedy)?

But the only way is to write and I now have a plan. One has achieved a level of confidence and experience and age plus diminishing years that there is really no other choice. It’s really a simple game and one will try a combination of dictation, ‘natural writing techniques’, software tools like Novel Writer and yWriter to get started. Last night I seemed to have an epiphany thinking that there is no journey in life. Life is not really a series of steps following a plan to achieve a goal. It’s only the here and now that is important. Perhaps I was influenced by a line by the main character in ‘Wise Blood’ Hazel Motes. He said something about one’s past, present and future. It had a charming truth that escapes me at this moment when I write these words. It sounded funny especially since he is a so-called preacher from the Church of Christ without Christ.

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