Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reflections on textscaping : runaway horses and Zuccotti Park


Since the clearance by New York City of the occupiers of Zuccotti Park earlier this week, the media has juxtaposed the commentariat with the protesters in both predictable and troubling ways (just one example from WNYC). At times like this, it is striking how "real" life, media frames, and literary/philosophical narratives echo each other. I just finished reading Yukio Mishima's Runaway Horses (1969), the second novel in his The Sea of Fertility tetraology. Mishima's young patriot/idealist, Isao Iinuma, seems to have been reincarnated (again) in the OWS zealous. Mishima's global investors and merchants are their generation's hedge fund managers. And the lawyer, Shigekuni Honda, and teacher, Shigeyuki Iinuma, are the classic survivors/compromisers -- just like those NPR commentators who feel the occupiers' pain but who also despair about the impracticality of it all, especially in light of their list of historical analogies.

I certainly hope that over the next few days (OWS announced it is moving on from occupying Zuccotti Park to occupying the subways and the City) things don't play out in real life New York City they way they played out in 1930s Tokyo for Mishima's characters. Like Isao and his co-conspirators, the OWS protesters do have more than a little of that runaway horses muscularity and dubious purposefulness.

Textscapes (like Runaway Horses for OWS protesters) give ephemeral and contingent experiences the resonance of significance, permanence, and meaning. Not literally, but suggestively, the reincarnation Mishima's characters discover. That's the work of writers (novelists, PR people): when we're doing our job well, we're writing meaning and transcendence to other times and places in to today's experience.