Thursday, September 26, 2013

Of Time and the Facebook Feed

--Early yesterday evening, we walked to the beach.  It was oddly deserted, in the ways of that old Don Henley song, "The Boys of Summer."  Nobody on the beach, very few people in the bars and restaurants.  Was it because of the rainy days we've been having?  Just a simple fact of late September?

--We're in an interseason, done with summer tourists, not yet seeing the refugees from cold climates.  It's wonderful to feel like we have the beach to ourselves.

--I've also noticed the light shifting.  I drove home on Monday after boot camp class and thought about how dark it was.  At first I thought it was about to storm again.  But it was the night, closing in earlier.

--In terms of temperature, it doesn't feel very different:  it's still summer down here in terms of heat and humidity.

--I've had time on the brain because of what I've been reading.  Three weeks ago, I read Elliott Holt's You Are One of Them, a novel that feels very current, although it's set in 1996 Moscow and the Cold War years of the late 70's and early 80's.  Holtt does a great job of capturing those time periods.  I decided to read it because of this review in The Washington Post.

--From that book, I moved on to Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being.  What an amazing book!  I picked it up because I was after Lionel Shriver's latest book, and Ozeki's was on the shelf too.  I knew that my father-in-law was coming for a visit, which meant limited access to computers in the wee, small hours of the morning, so I wanted to make sure I had enough books.

--Ozeki does an amazing job in all sorts of ways.  I'll write a longer review tomorrow (update:  that review is in this post).  But this novel has something for everyone, and it's especially intriguing for fiction writers.  It addresses the question of what is fiction, how we construct characters, how we construct ourselves, how we construct the idea of audience.

--As I was reading that book, I was finishing a short story.  That short story is part of my linked story project.  It includes characters I first created 15 years ago.  Those characters are going in a different narrative direction today than they would have in 1997.  Yet they still feel true to me. 

--If I somehow managed to continue writing about them for another hundred years, how many changes would they endure?  Or would I stop evolving, and thus, they, too, would stagnate?

--A week ago, I got a hot-off-the-presses book, Beth Kephart's Handling the Truth:  On the Writing of Memoir.  It's one of those books that looks so essential that I'm considering buying it.

--I must get back to my memoir writing/creating/revising/shaping.

--I've also been thinking about time and Facebook.  I love staying in touch with people by reading bits and snippets about their lives.  When I have busy weeks, the way the last 2 weeks have been, I worry about what I'm missing.

--My friend, who is also my most constant writing partner in South Florida, told me about an acceptance of her short story, which I didn't know about.  She said, "I posted it on Facebook."  I apologized for not tuning in that day.

--She told me that I could control my Facebook feed so that I was sure to not miss anything.  I've often wondered how Facebook decides what to send me.  I know it's not completely random, yet I know I'm not seeing the posts of everyone who is a Facebook friend.

--But to control it in the way that she suggests?  Do I want to lose the element of serendipity?

--And more important, do I want to take control of the technology this way?  Will I continue needing to control it, to go back and add and delete and tinker?  The thought of it exhausts me.

--I'll let Ruth Ozeki have the last word here.  Her narrator is contemplating time, ocean currents, and tsunamis:  "Does the half-life of information correlate with the decay of our attention?  Is the Internet a kind of temporal gyre, sucking up stories like geodrift, into its orbit? . . . Like plastic confetti, they're drawn into the gyre's becalmed center, the garbage patch of history and time.  The gyre's memory is all the stuff that we've forgotten." (A Tale for the Time Being, p. 114)

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