Visiting the Precipice

Blog, meta

I just got back from a play in which a mother kills her child and then kills herself. I found the conclusion satisfying. It made sense for the character’s arc. But most of all I found the “perversion” of such acts deeply satisfying.

I enjoy the “fucked up shit”. There is a reason I surgically graphed myself to Hannibal, and why I love Hamlet and The Color Purple, amongst other fucked up works.

For me, it’s the pleasure of visiting the precipice: of peering over the edge, into the dark void of what it means to be human. It’s not about finding satisfaction in suffering or pain, but of seeing a glimpse of our humanity in extreme situations.

Some people don’t have the stomach for this material, and that’s fine. Others protest the “immorality” of these works, as if art is rigid and uncomplicated.

But art — good art — is fluid and dynamic. It makes you think, and see, and feel the world differently. And in these cases, it’s visiting that precipice and learning about who we are.

Fiction and (Not) Reality


Tonight at the monthly Colorado Springs Writers Reading Series, I had the privilege of reading “The Racehorse” in the company of some very fine and very generous writers who shared their work as well.

Before reading I asked the audience if anyone liked horses or horse-racing. About half a dozen hands went up and a few faces genuinely glowed. This was something which I noticed, but didn’t really think on until later.

The reading went well and people seemed to like it, but I was unprepared for the response after. During the intermission, one woman excitedly spoke to me about her granddaughter. Her granddaughter, now seventeen, has had a passion for horses since she was little, the woman said, and barrel-raced.

Another man, who had read a very touching story about being a school bus driver, told me he liked my story and that he had done dressage for many years. He nearly had tears in his eyes when he spoke about his experience with horses and his years of riding, training, and caring for them. We talked a little bit about horses and he said something in passing akin to:  “of course you know that about horses”.

I didn’t say anything, because of course I didn’t. I have ridden maybe twice in my life and never worked with, cared for, or trained horses. I know them to be lovely animals; graceful, powerful, creatures who play key roles in myths and legends. I know that humans and horses, through our long, joined history together, are intertwined in ways that are difficult to characterize or even explain, except that we are compelled to one another.

But no, I do not ride horses, nor have I even lived very near them, much less cared for a horse. My knowledge of them is secondhand at best, and distant from the passions of barrel racing seventeen year olds and middle aged bus drivers.

I could not tell the bus driver that I didn’t, in fact, know very much about real horses, because I was afraid of disappointing him and shattering that quiet, teary look of his. He needed that story, somehow; if he needed to believe that I rode horses as well I will accept that, even if it makes me a bit of a liar.