Monday, 30 April 2012

Non-Fiction Sidebar: Stock-taking, Part II, Golden Corral

  When I began to write here in late February, I'd never blogged before; I hadn't spent much time looking at blogs either (under ten minutes, to be honest). My feelings about blogs weren't mixed. I'd never read them because, well, there was already plenty for me to read without adding another genre to my list.
   Lacking experience, I nonetheless maintained a vague faith that blogging would be somehow sociable (this faith was based on seeing Julie & Julia, so I'll blame Hollywood for misleading me!). I imagined that blogging would be more interactive than writing an essay or a review or a scene from my novel because I was joining a community. I overestimated the sociability. 
   Soon, after reading a few articles with titles like "10 Tips from Successful Bloggers," I did come to understand that there are all kinds of networking strategies that can lead to higher reader volume and greater 'net visibility and establishing valuable connections, and so on.
   With that realization came another thought: that sounds like work, not fun. I seem to have a constitutional aversion to attending meetings, joining committees, and showing up at group gatherings (from dinner parties to the English department's Xmas tea). It could be, then, that the successful blogger strategies I read about set off an internal alarm. Anyway, for the time being, my blogging will remain largely un-networked. If people write to me or respond to any of the postings here, however, that's cool. I'll happily dialogue with them.

   If blogging has not so far been an especially useful way of connecting with the world, it's been a terrific venue for revising. Each serialized chapter segment gives me a chance to re-read and reevaluate.
   Unexpectedly, too, breaking the chapters into serialized chunks made me realize that (a) I want chapters to have titles instead of being numeric, and (b) I prefer the chapters broken into numbered sections (making them all relatively bite-sized and thereby easily consumed). The prologue, now called "Sow's Ear Silk," is chopped into two sections; and Part II, which I'll begin serializing this week, begins with "Kerplunk" (which is how, back in 1907, John B. Watson described the sound a rat makes when it runs into the wall of a maze).

   As the title of the novel's second part makes clear, "II: Penticton to Oroville" covers the extremes of territory in the Okanagan Valley where the location shoot for The Prophet Djoun, supposed biopic of Hester Stanhope, takes place. That the TV movie has been retitled The Battle for Djoun (and, ultimately, will be Alien Advance: Desert Assault) is a surprise—and an unwelcome one—to Marta.
   The section's epigraph—"Help Yourself to Happiness™"—comes from the Golden Corral Corporation; according to the company's website, GC is "well known as America's #1 buffet and grill" and attracts customers with a "legendary, endless buffet."
   When you think about it, GC's corporate motto is quite strange. I rather like the claim of endless face-stuffing at an endless buffet as being equivalent to happiness. Freud and The Biggest Loser might argue otherwise.
   The concept of helping yourself to happiness, though, is terrifically North America. The U.S. especially is a land founded on the myth of self-made individuals who can help themselves to success. Or maybe, now, it's "if you can dream it, you can become it." That's siren's song heard by the thousands upon thousands of hopefuls who line up full of expectation for singing and talent competitions year after year. 
   Built into the motto as well is the idea of being careful what you wish for. You say, or even fervently believe, a bottomless bucket of "Country Breaded Wings" (featured on GC's hot buffet menu; 100 calories per wing) is what you want/need/desire. But there they are, a pile of wings on your plate. You eat them all and go back for more. Are you happy now? Are they really what you wanted, needed, or desired? (Or are they in fact a substitute for something else?

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