Stream of Consciousness

Chapter 6 Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press

I arrived just as PJ was on his way out, locking his apartment door.

“I just called you at home to find you weren’t there,” PJ said. “It’s a case of intuition prompting us into action.” He pocketed his keys in his bright orange shorts.

We stopped at the drugstore and walked to Washington Square Park. He talked about the changes in sexual mores and the history of marriage, including his own, concluding, “It’s necessary to be emotionally uninvolved with people.”

“Isn’t it possible to control the involvement so that only what is good in the relationship remains?”

“That’s what I mean,” he said. “But then there would be no emotional involvement.”

Wow. What’s that?

After a moment’s reflection, he said, “Except perhaps affection. Amiable affection.”

I smiled, thinking, where did PJ fit into my life? PJ was over the hill, but he was still a handsome man. Walking down the street, we might have seemed a May-September couple. And that was all right with me. Let people think what they will.

PJ chose a bench in Washington Square Park. We were sitting beside one of the long winding paths between hedges, watching children playing on the grass, people sitting beneath trees, talking, holding hands, reading books.

“What was your favorite book?” I asked him.

Ulysses. I read it five times in all and each time it was a different book that I was reading. That was when I learned about inferential writing. It’s possible for the reader to pick up and use what he wishes and make it a different experience each time.”

“That’s not like your style.”

“No, it’s not exactly like my style.”

I could tell he was hurt.

“My style is a more suggestive one. In recent works, I’ve been working on the idea of asking the reader questions. Once in a while, instead of making declarations. In other words, I build up to a statement that has to be proven, and I ask the reader, is this not so?”

“You said it was inferential writing?”

“They said it was stream of consciousness. But it isn’t the same stream of consciousness I write out of. You see Joyce, presumably, according to his critics, was quite conscious of his style and what he selected.” PJ continued, “Now he had a predecessor named Robert Burton. Burton was an 18th Century, or late 17th Century, writer, who simply got all the classics and extracted from them anything that would apply to the idea of melancholy, for his book, The Anatomy of Melancholy. I read that long before I ever read Joyce.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. It was a beautiful day in the park. “It’s about melancholy.” Time to tell him I suffered from time to time from severe depression? No.

“It’s really a very uplifting book. Because it had so many classic quotations and citations and so on. And Burton kept it running with a style of his own. He would leave off longer discussion about one subject and go into another one. But Joyce, I haven’t any idea how he really worked and I don’t compare myself with him because of the fact that for a long time, maybe three years, I was reading what I wrote more than I was writing what I read. And that’s a very thrilling experience, to detach yourself from the writing side of it, and begin reading the words as they come out.”

“What do you mean, your stream of consciousness is not the same as Joyce was writing from?”

“I don’t know Joyce’s well enough. All I know, after Ulysses was written there were a lot of hack critics around New York and London. They started picking it apart and telling where Joyce got his material from and claiming such and such a passage was influenced by a prior writer.”

“Have you read Finnegan’s Wake?”

“I couldn’t quite read Finnegan’s Wake. It was decidedly a different book. I enjoyed Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but when it came to Finnegan’s Wake, he lost me.”

It seemed to me it was stream of consciousness, overflowing with archetypes and images. In a performance by an Irish piper at the Poetry Celebration, Finnegan’s Wake came tumbling out like notes, pure sound, the way thoughts and images meld in dreams or streams of consciousness, an amber world of old and new lit by a passion for words.

“I’m conscious of my style now as I’m writing more than ever before,” PJ said, “but it’s still a very free style that I play with as I go and I love it.”

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