PICKING UP SPARKS, THEN SPARKING NEW SPARKS
A story by Hillary Mantel, “The Present Tense,” London Review of Books, Jan. 7, 2016
In what is otherwise a realistic story, about teaching in a third-world country, the teacher injects a bit of fantasy in making up a tale to tell her students. About a man whose head got turned around backwards. The fantasy infects the reader, grows inside him, so that we end up with something like this, part Hillary and part Hillary+reader:
“A man went off to work one day and came home to his wife with his head turned backwards on his shoulders. His bare feet were as long as his calves, his toes were fat, arthritically so, and he wriggled his fat arthritic toes as he walked, grinning from ear to ear out of his bassackwards-fitting head, exposing blockish teeth like gravestones.”
This is writing with verve. Don’t you think so? Doesn’t it beat the run-of-the-mill thing about middle class Americans and their tribulations, told in a style that is dull and pedestrian? You can find the original Mantel story online if you wish, and you can compare what she wrote to the embellished paragraph above.
But the point I make here concerns, precisely, the embellishments. You read something that has a certain creative frisson. Then that spark ignites something inside you, and you become creative, creating new flame out of someone else’s creative spark. So goes the creative process down through the ages: art inspiring new art that inspires new art, ad infinitum. Thanks, Hillary.