Is wrong to search for hope in words? What can a word bring or evoke within you? Clarity, exposure, truth, sensual pleasure, an intellectual jolt? Sure. If words do all that, then certainly they can bear the immense gaiety of hope?
Is hope merely a gussied up expectation? What is the difference between the two save the amount of attention tendered to one versus the other? We tend to call the propitious trivialities of our lives expectations, unless we are melodramatic, in which state then all things become thrumming beacons of a hope that borders on malicious. A breast warmly swells into a palm. Does the person sensing through that palm expect the heart underneath the breast to throb with hope? Or do they expect that heart to clench with expectation the way ordinary muscles are wont to do? Perhaps they are faking? My God, they could be thinking of someone else! Please have that heart beat red for me, they say or pray, perhaps, if they fear the humanist within. Do not let the hopeful thud be for him any longer. Leech all that bad blood from your system my love, my heart! All shades of hope colored by the intensity of our gaze. Is the world only beautiful when it is not savagely glared at?
Hope is an expectation that has been marinated in historical loss. We arrive again at a variation of pain being the source of our elevating sensations, those aspects of our being that allow growth. Is this me being pessimistic, the suffering writer?
I don't know. My tendency now is to call bullshit. To say I'm a suffering writer is to glorify an inability to have command of my own attentions. It's putting lipstick on a pig, to employ that famous phrase. It is melodrama, and one of the many falsehoods by which a text dooms itself. Lately, I see less hope and more knuckled rootedness in characters, themes, messages, more ruts from which people never break loose, a certain deterministic slant to the people, places, and things my words hammer and shake feathers at. How do we know when it is clarity of vision or the occlusion of the heart when we write of people that refuse change?
Not only in fiction but also in real life, how do we prevent realizing another person as a device instead of a full-bodied being even if they are so intent on their swollen concern as to be exclusionary to all else? Let's sidestep: it pains me that I'm so often quick to judgment. I see someone reading Nora Roberts or James Patterson and I immediately think myself superior to them in a way, though in fact I may be scratching the stiff hair of my pubis like a pizza-sloughed college student or digging a white remnant of chicken from my crooked teeth or smelling in a way that offends because of a moment of hygienic absentmindedness. Perhaps the person suffering bodice-ripper or rocket-launcher prose please their mate in ways that I couldn't even conceive. Perhaps they are rich, full of charity, or a genius needing a break. If it's a guy reading Nora Roberts, perhaps he has a big cock and can do whatever he wants. Wittgenstein read cheap mysteries, I remind myself. In all this, what I'm really playing around with is expectation and hope. I hope my tastes in books and words elevates me above the generic consumer. I expect that. Oh, God, please let it be so! Let Literature be more than arrangement of words on pages! Don't let Literature be fake! OMG, OMG...so forth and so on. I'm melodramatic. Let us posture as flamboyant creators over our turds.
What kind of world do we end up with if I take the opposite stance? That any book is a worthy accomplishment. That people are all the same. Equal. That our differences and abilities are all mitigated by our common, human heritage. We all hope for the same things, though our expectations differ according to creed, culture, and sex. Is that it? Is hope more basically human than expectation? Does my daughter, new to the world, hope in the same ways as a hard-eyed jungle torturer in tired boots? If two people expect basically the same things, is their hope mirrored?
No. Two people with the same expectations, a lover of Nora Roberts prose, for instance, compared to someone who appreciates the stylistic renderings of William Gass on the other hand, may both expect their chicken nuggets to be warm and crisp, but the hopes of one do not reflect the hopes of the other because history has provided a different forge for the hope of each, a forge that in one fashions a hope for a bawdy marriage and world peace for the other, a large family for one, a year of solitude for the other, one real true moment for one, the exposure of falsehood for the other. On and on.
If we remove history, we remove the possibility of hope. We equalize our expectations. As our American culture slowly hitches up its roots, we lose the recommendations and flavor of our past. As our literature moves swiftly to a rapid, changing surface of texts, of words that can be decoupled from meaning, we lose the capacity to deeply reflect. Hope flees our pages. Writers become carnival acts, high leapers into shallow, plastic pools. Watch that neck. We have bleak characters, bleak language, no hope. Without hope, we have been determined. Our lives have already been lead without hope. When we can not recall, our expectations never can simmer in the stew of the past and grow beyond their own skin. Our hope dies in the eternal shimmer of the bright present.