Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Charles Baxter's Rhyming Action

The biggest events of my life: my wedding day, the births of my children, my first latte, my first publication, and the season seven premiere of Gilmore Girls.

I'm kidding only a little. I mean, I really do love lattes, and I think they've had sizable impact on my life. My first pub credit was tiny, but it helped me feel legit.

And, I'm so completely addicted to GG, I've inflected my obsession on my eight-year-old daughter. I still mourn the loss of the show, years after its demise, and I own all seven seasons on DVD. On Sunday afternoons, me and Abby fix microwave nachos and return to Star's Hollow. Oy with the poodles already, I tell her whenever the situation arises. Which is surprisingly often. It's a great phrase. I hear they're even putting it on t-shirts.

This past Sunday, though, my GG fix led to a contemplation of something very literary, and so I feel my devotion to the show is completed warranted. It seems to fit in with our discussion of props in fiction.

Here's what happened: Sookie is getting married. At the beginning of the episode (season 2 finale), the main characters Lorolei and teenaged daughter Rori are helping Sookie pick the music for her wedding. She's stuck on Ella Fitgerald's "I Can't Get Started," insisting it's not too depressing, even though Lorolei points out: It's about a heartbroken woman: I've flown around the world in a plane; I've settled revolutions in Spain;The North Pole I have charted, but I can't get started with you

Fast forward to the end of the show: Lorolei has attempted and failed to connect with the man she's long loved, and the song plays again, Lorolei as maid of honor, completely torn apart.

This is rhyming action: "All ballads love repetitive actions, or cycles of double-events...Prophecy run backward, into rhyming action or deja vu, gives the participant a power of understanding...A reverse prophecy, a sense of rhymed events, is unworldly and has something to do with insight. It moves us back into ourselves." From Charles Baxter's essay, "Rhyming Action" found in his wonderful book, Burning Down the House.

Okay, the GG example is a bit overdone, but I really like what it does. The wonderful thing about it is that its two occurrences play perfectly against each other. In the first, it's ridiculous, funny, that anyone would pick such a song, almost suicidally sad, for her wedding. In the end, the irony is bitter and perfect. It shows so much about the relationship and what Lorolei is coming to understand, and it's just deeply satisfying to the viewer, to have the story bookended in this way.

I love how it spirals: at the end, we're exactly where we started, and yet also, at a different place altogether.

More on this tomorrow. And next week. Props and rhyming action. Oh, the possibilities!!

1 comment:

Lakin said...

Charles Baxter is the bomb, isn't he! I've thought of this technique as a resonance in the story, or an echo, sometimes. But Rhyming Action is pretty perfect. It captures the sense of the repetition, but allows for some variation.