25 May 2009

Consciousness in stream

I think Joyce was mostly correct in Ulysses by his depiction of consciousness as in movement like an unending stream. When I run it intrigues me the amazing patterns of thought which transpire. I run with music—the ubiquitous iPod—and so sometimes the sense of the song directs my thought into a certain path, but there is no order (except that which I create, which may be the whole sense of order anyway!) to the array of thoughts.

But if I sit and write and read, then the stream is directed and the pattern evident. I cannot stop the stream, indeed, but I can slow it down so that I can have some control over its current. As now, when I search for words and sentences that flow smoothly and regularly. Perhaps that is why Joyce had to send Bloom and Daedalus walking through Dublin—to ensure that their minds would be open to the abandon of the rushing stream, and not restricted in flow by conscious effort.

Of course, when I sit writing and reading I cannot wholly control the stream, but that phenomenon does not hurt the writing; indeed, perhaps it helps it by ensuring that I don’t halt too severely the movement of the stream but leave it open to influence and gravity.

And so again it strikes me that the control of narrative voice is central to the writing of fiction. The monk so far is the narrator of Part I, and it is the women through whose eyes we know Frank Lloyd Wright. Their thoughts are not a free flowing stream, but rather, quite controlled and smooth moving.


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