If one considers fire the quick expression of a twig's anger, one can understand why, at the termination of the outrage, nothing remains but grey dust. There is an energy in trauma, perhaps furious and raging as molten metal, but often it's like the brush pile fires set in our backyard, cooled after a day of burning. Those mounded conglomerations of branches, twigs, and leaves compress and crust over after having been consumed, cold to the touch a day or so later, but, as we warn our son not to, if one pokes the gray carapace of that mound, a fiery animal within emerges. It is my belief that modern human hulls, those structures that barge about our consciousness from moment to moment are essentially plastic and thin, especially within fiction. Like the twig that gives up its gasp so that fire can erupt, the structures that hold together our lives and thoughts are not often strong enough to contain our dismay, our rage, our love and loss. Inevitably then, since those energies do not dissipate, they must leak or settle, often as infection. I believe, at least in the realm of fiction, that all the things we ourselves are too small to experience should be displaced into those normally dead and dull things around us, those objects that observe with mute passivity and judge with a cold keenness.
Why do I think this? Because objects can not be victimized. Therefore they are often a more legitimate container for the emotional expression of consciousness than the vehicles which create it. Our love and loss are often larger than ourselves, since both of those things are less a creation and more a harnessing, and it would be a disservice to the animate world around us to continue to inflate our humanity to the point where it becomes solipsistic. Our skewed sense of scale, in which the importance of our endeavors demeans the strong thick presence of a rock, or the measured breathing of leaves, creates in us the feelings of being victims. A coffee cup is never victimized. It may be smashed, melted, scrawled upon and pissed in, but the cup never becomes a victim from those actions. Smash a person, melt them, scrawl their crime across their forehead or piss in their hair and that person becomes a victim. It is this mentality which strips the life from fiction and makes every sentence feel expected.
What started all this? I submitted a story to an online workshop for critique. The following section caused a lot of consternation. A wife is talking to her injured husband. Both his hands are wrapped in gauze from burns he sustained during a work accident:
A sigh loosened her body. She licked her thumb and scrubbed the underside of his chin.
"Do you need to go to the bathroom?" she asked.
"Do your hands itch?" she asked.
"Will you talk about it?" she asked.
"Will you please forget about it please?" she asked.
Each single spring in the couch leapt with hot glee at his back.
And so it goes on...many people complained that couch springs can not leap. And they can not especially leap with glee. To claim such a thing is jarring, they said. It disrupts the reader from the text. That couch is not a character, they type wildly. I do not understand the consternation. The couch is as viable a character as the husband or wife and often more interesting than the husband, as he is a droll dolt the way many husbands are. The husband has retreated from his trauma. Evidence of this is in nearly every paragraph of the story. Those energies must escape or settle somewhere. In this case, they leap from the couch, and mirror his own violent reaction later in the paragraph. Later, the water in the bath becomes his brittle nature. Pipes are cold and they stiffen. These things must be conveyed, I believe, not merely stated or stuffed back into the frail human container. Fiction can not contain characters that experience everything; those characters can not be recognized as human.