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February 24, 2015: Figuring Things Out

"A thing is a thing.
Not what is said of that thing."
Raymond Carver

I live for the, ahh haa moments or those instances in which the lightbulb goes on. Early on yesterday, I was bothered by my inability to make the connection between what was going on in the Birdman movie as this related to literary schools of thought. I mean, I was really bothered. I tried to sound in my dispatch like I’d figured this out, but I hadn’t.

Last night, while in the process of doing research, I made what I saw as the all-important connection. The inconsequential connection was related to the above quote. “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.” This is an

idea that was put forth by deconstructionists such as Jacque Derrida and Roland Barthes. Words and language are representative of thought, but that’s as far as it goes. Carver was familiar with this claim, and as well, that as a writer he would have to deal with this postmodernist-based claim. This was why he strove to write in as minimal a fashion as possible. It was an instance in which less was more.

More importantly, I finally figured out the relationship between Carver’s work and what this film’s writer was getting at. No, Carver did not incorporate magical realism into his work. Rather, he incorporated what’s known as dirty realism into his work. Dirty realism deals with peoples’ low-life existences, both in form and content. My friend Vickie’s son apartment would have been an ideal setting for a Raymond Carver story. It had just a few things in it – a coffee table with a handful of videos on it.

Okay. So I got it. The connected scenes in Birdman were representative of Carver’s work. The characters were all dysfunctional, particularly Riggens and Mike. And they all had relationship issues. As for the magical realism – it was liberally sprinkled throughout the entire production, beginning when Riggens appeared to be levitating, and in the end when he exited his hospital room, and (we think) flew skyward. The Birdman was Riggin’s alter-ego and took the form of the voice in his head. His literal flight of fancy was an instance in which magical realism played a key role. Conversely, his walking back to the theatre entrance in his underwear (this was after being locked out of the building) was an instance of dirty realism. It was a well-done literary juxtaposition. And at the same time that Carver was writing dirty fiction, magical realist fiction was in vogue.

When I figured this all out, it was an honest to dog ahh haa moment. I now have no desire to see this movie again. This is because I’m not a fan of dirty realism. I can think of a lot of movies that fit into this category. Ironweed was one, and Leaving Las Vegas was another. I just can’t handle the downward spiral.

I see Magical Realism as being a celebration of the power of imagination. It is what’s both real and magical at the same time. I very much enjoy movies that fit into this genre; one of the best ever was the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Field of Dreams was yet another. The movie The Natural had a magical realist ending – you had to be attentive in the end, but there was some doubt as to whether or not the baseball player made it back to home base. The Wizard of Oz also fits into this category, though it pre-dates the term Magical Realism.

I was intrigued by the fact that I became obsessed with figuring the above out. Immediately after I did this, I moved on mentally. I came up with a logical answer to a vexing question, which was what does any of this have to do with Raymond Carver’s work? I just could not let go until I came up with an answer. I had stopped doing horse research and took on the above puzzler. I resumed the horse research afterwards – I immediately set to figuring out the relationship between flight and fight and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It seems to me that this is key to understanding why horses behave the way they do. I took my musings a step further, and today explained this to Dick. Then I better understood it. When I learned this stuff in school, I did not have a context. I don’t know if Dick saw the importance of this. But I did, so from this point on my interactions with horses will be that much better.

Next: 54. 2/25/15: A Conversation with Mr. T

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