Friday, April 5, 2013

Some Vagueness

A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.
     - Edgar Degas, 1834 - 1917

Is it possible? Was Edgar Degas writing for the Novel Matters crowd at the turn of the century? Have we been having this conversation that long? Or longer?

Oh, okay - he was talking about paintings. But he was talking about art, and a novel is a work of art painted with words, and the principle holds, doesn't it?

It has always struck me odd that Christians of all people should struggle with this one. The working title of my first novel, To Dance In the Desert, was Ten Easy Steps, because of Finis' presumption that The Ten Commandments were God's ten steps to getting what you want.

A little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. It's what separates a grand story from a self-help manual, and a growing faith in a magnificent inscrutable God from a trick of mind to cheer the way.

Here's an exercise for your Friday.

Study this picture. What do you suppose this woman is feeling? What is her name, and what has happened to her? And what is happening with all that light? Does she see it?

Tell me her story. I'd love to read your mysterious thoughts.


Henrietta Frankensee said...

Sorry to be so prosaic but looks like menstrual cramps to me. Everyone
has gone out to play and left Emiline to bear the pain in silence.
OR: She has been poisoned by her lover, not enough to kill her but just so she can't participate in....either his suspicious activity or something he suspects her of...

Marian said...

Yes, Elaine is suffering with menstrual cramps. Her husband, King Henry, will not be pleased.

megan Sayer said...

It's kind of telling, isn't it, that while our God is one of mystery and wonder, that our whole faith is one based on...well...FAITH, while there's so much we'll not understand this side of Heaven, that our Christian bookshops (well, mine at least) are chic-full of self-help books and how-tos. Even the fiction is very clear: the girl WILL get the boy, and things WILL work out exactly the right way. Because That's What Fits Here.

I love Degas. Have you noticed that what this lady appears to be straining under is the shape of a book, a book with light on the pages? While all the while that heavy chair is whispering in her ear. Wish she's turn around.

Jennifer Major said...

"But you said..."
"I know what I said. And I don't care to discuss it."
"Why? Why must we?"
"We must because if we don't, they will find us and I will be tossed in prison."
"Oh, why can't you listen? I cannot let you take the blame!"
"My dear, I will take the blame if it means your freedom that I exchange. But we needn't worry. The ship leaves on the first tide. Once we are free of this place, we are free forever."
"We cannot say goodbye to anyone, can we?"

Kathleen Popa said...

Henrietta & Marian, yes, it does look like menstrual cramps, exactly. Probably Henry's fault.

Kathleen Popa said...

Megan, yes,really strange how we try to nail things down. And now you point it out, I do see the book.

Kathleen Popa said...

Jennifer, wonderful! Thank you for filling in the dialog.

V. Gingerich said...
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