Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bedtime Stories

While spending the morning in bed duly reading, to be followed by an afternoon duly avoiding duty, followed by an evening spent again in the avoidance of the aforementioned duties, I am filled with guilt, but then I remember Ned Rorem's maxim "Nothing is waste that makes a memory" and I think, from what of this will memories come? And this question leads me to a reverie, where I remember how, in part of this morning's reading, I came across Madhu Kaza's Here Is Where We Meet.  I wonder, how is Kaza's service different from my own, that Bedtime Story Reading Service which I have offered for so many years to all who would stop to listen, pressing my sweaty calling card into their palm as they giggled, nervous but excited at the possibilities of such an intimate event? Or the services, offered by upscale hotels, for those who would not wish to be labeled literary callboys?

In fact, the differences are subtle, yet simple, and separate what one might think of as an interesting diversion from those same actions labeled as Art. 

The first is that her version comes with a far more detailed set of rules than mine, in six categories, spelling out times and locked doors and who is OK and not OK. My service  has had no such rules. I have always been willing to show up whenever and wherever the client wanted me, regardless of their schedule or lack thereof, regardless of geographical location, allowing them to define bedtime in their own way, acceding to all their demands, no matter how far outside my normal experience, my comfort zone. If they wanted me to choose, I was willing to pick the story or the book, and, if I did, I would work to find a literary portrait appropriate for them, or at least as close as I could come given my experiences of them, or if they wished, they could choose the text, and I had no problem with 'bedmates' or children or adults or personal safety or demands violating my chastity.

Let's take an example: just yesterday, Lynne mentioned my services to a friend of hers, Ms. C__, a friend who is worried about the troubles that might arise - and this is speculation on her part - as her sixteen year old daughter comes of age and meets headlong that world we know is full of dangers, some which threaten to take that which can never be regained, an innocence, and, this friend, who, although purportedly a wild child during her own coming of age, wishes her daughter would wait to discover the world of romance and the aforementioned loss of innocence until the arrival of a more settled adulthood, say approximately thirty years of age, matching the lengthened adolescence of Cicero's Pro Caelio, from which we remember he said, and taking the trouble to swap some boy words for more neutral language:
By general consent we concede a youth a few wild oats. Nature showers adolescence with a veritable spate of desires. If the dam bursts without endangering anyone's life or breaking up anyone's home, we put up with it easily and cheerfully. 
Although this quote seems to have punctured my argument, as it advocates a boys/girls will be boys/girls attitude, the exact question at debate to which Lynne's friend was unwilling to accede, my point is that the youth that Cicero was defending was 29 at the time of the incident, and Cicero seemed quite happy to stretch his forgiveness of youthful vigor to whatever age necessary to make the legal argument forgiving the defendant for whatever. C__'s desire to bring me into this mêlée was in the role of a highbrow truant officer, a teenage curfew enforcer, there to make sure the lass was actually in bed, going to sleep, not slipping out the window after plumping up the bed with pillows stuffed under the coverlet, shaped into the shape of a young woman's body.  Although it was clear to me that there could be no other person more right, meet and suitable for such a job, that of reading the blossoming young girl to a most restful sleep, night after night, and guaranteeing her virtue against all dangers, Lynne demurred, fearing nothing save that which has felled so many Georgian literary heroines, handkerchiefs unable to catch the tears, clutching poisoned letters to their Empire waists: the appearance of impropriety.

The second difference is the presence of the Artistic Statement.  Here I have to say: if I were a religious man, I would pray every day that this scourge, that of the Artistic Statement, would one day be banished from this Earth. I've discussed before the hives that break out spontaneously, covering my skin, the shortness of breath, the coughing up, all of the above at the presence of the word 'explore' in the description of a piece of art. And here we find it again, along with the other terror, that of the 'series', as no artwork can stand on its own in the current world, but must exist only in context, a context of the artist's own making, part of his or her own path through the world, giving all utmost importance:
This project is part of the artist’s ongoing Hospitality series, which includes projects that explore social conventions, rituals of domestic and daily life, relations between strangers, hosts and guests, and boundaries of public and intimate space. Here is Where We Meet is particularly concerned with the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep (including the drift from the world of stories to the world of dreams), a re-engagement of voice in our experience of texts, and the possibility of trust.
I wonder sometimes if any of us actually ever live our lives, or have lived; or if it is necessary that a life, an event, a happening, truly exists only if there is such a communiqué presented alongside it.

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