Monday, March 21, 2011

Moron, the Form (on Bucak's "Eight Questions... and her formal constraints)

Excuse the punny title; I’m more of the moron because I overlooked the form for far too long. So, to make up for this, this post is purely about form.

I’ve been going back and forth trying to place the formality of this piece, and the more I read it, the less formal it gets. In fact, the further I get into the reading itself, the more I feel included in what Bucak is attempting to say (although, of course, her speaker doesn’t want to completely divulge her purpose, keeping with the façade that she still just figuring shit out). And although Bucak initially seems insensitive (distancing the reader), at the end she becomes more amiable. Looking at the form on the page, the beginning of the piece has more of the switching of dialogues, more of the play-like qualities; the end, the more amiable bit, has less of the constraint. So, wondering how the form affects the piece, I have to assume that the formal constraint causes the tone and language to be terser, even obtuse. As Bucak puts it: “Me has been in this play before, and is not trying to be a jerk about it, but she kind of is.” Bucak knows she’s created a jerk of a character (though her definition of a jerk must be much different than mine; I kind of like her jerk), but that Me doesn’t feel like the same type of Me as the beginning. It feels like she’s slightly altered, changed, or, dare I say it, grown! But grown over the course of 3 pages? Yeah right…

What my winding introduction is trying to say is that while yes, we all want to see some growth or change in a character in a story, it’s not logical to see it happen that quickly, and it’s the form that’s making us think this.

Briefly, I’d like to ramble about the play as a form. Initially, I credited, even yearned the piece to be less formal than it is because I thought that a play was less formal, that there was room for interpretation, thought, even room for the actors to improvise. Bucak even writes variations for those actors, noting a tendency towards improvisation. She even has variations of the variations (Question 2 variation C). While this is all well and good, (nice, even, for Bucak’s ‘jerk’) by inserting multiple improvisations, she is taking away the You’s (or reader’s) ability to improvise. It’s as if she’s assumed (or lived) what the reader will do or say, but is leaving the guise that you (as the reader) can actually choose what to do/say. And this is where I began wondering more of the formality of her play.

Plays are meant to be performed, leaving room for actor improvisation, but the audience will typically never know when a line has been altered. However, Bucak’s piece is not a play; it is an essay (of sorts) and hardly begs to be performed. And because an actor, the You, is actually YOU, you have no problem filling the role. What Bucak takes from You (the reader, the actor) is space for you to think about what she is speaking of. Okay, I’m not saying you’re not thinking while you’re reading the piece, I’m just positing that you’re experiencing a different kind of thinking while reading. You’re filling a role, which is sort of liberating, to be part of a piece; however, in filling that role you are also limited by how much you can change what is being done/said/thought about you (or by you). You are both implicated and not, though, in either sense, because Bucak has already prescribed variations of certain events, you can never be certain if she really is implicating you or someone else. Either way, though, your space to think (and thus talk) is limited by the construct of the play. Furthermore, Bucak’s blurring of the lines (as the other posts have mentioned, so I really won’t go into this aspect) between You and Me complicates the equation. Both You and Me are present and acting, but the construct of the play truncates their abilities (their, meaning the reader’s) to think beyond the faux improvisation.

However, as I noted earlier, if you take a look at the last page versus the second/third, the last has far less of the variations and structured dialogue, feeling more relaxed and agreeable. I chalk that up to the form again. Our sense of Bucak’s friendliness towards the end doesn’t come with a shift in language (diction/syntax affecting tone), but a shift in form. On the third page, the page made up mostly of oscillating variations and a confusion with the You and Me, Bucak limits the reader’s ability to speak (think), truncating any stray thoughts (improvisations) with variations. What she is also limiting, by using the play-form more readily (more dialogue switching between the cast), is room for her speaker (more the Me [to the audience] than the Me [to You]) to speak.

It is in those moments where the ‘Me’ speaks to the audience that the most is learned about the Me’s situation, thoughts, etc. It is also in that moment that the reader is free from his/her ‘You’ role responsibilities to contemplate Bucak’s divulgences. The more room Bucak gives her ‘Me’ to speak, the more room the reader has to think, and, oddly enough, talk. In short, the space teaches the reader how to read Bucak’s affect. It is easier to note her flourishes, as in the Me [to the audience]’s answer to Question 7 (the whimsical bit about Pops), along with the abrupt stoppage of the flourish with the injection of the structured dialogue again (Can I call you Patty?). Even on the less-structured last page, the play-form attempts its truncation. One can, of course, posit the Chorus as being a more truncating force than the You (or vice versa), but it is just the inclusion of the play-form that does this. It’s as if Bucak has such a hyper-awareness of how she is supposed to act in certain situations (with You, with the audience, with the Turkish Chorus) that she is constantly cutting herself off with tangents or variations. Though those mostly come earlier, as noted, the last page attempts to do so as well. It’s that post-modern self-awareness of “I know what you’re going to say before you say it so I’ll just put it in here so you don’t have to say it. Yeah, I’m that aware of what you think of me and I think of me and the world thinks of me. Here.” What’s interesting, though, is that she chooses to have her final flourish at the end, never coming back to the play-form constraint. Although the last line is a bit cheesy and over-dramatic, the end is a nod to a more romantic realm of the individual (juxtaposed against many definitions of person/place/culture/individualism). Is it an abandonment of the formal constraint by which she and her situation (and us and our situations) has put her (and us) in? Probably not. But it is a freeing of her voice, and thus, our thought, which is welcome enough.

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