At hand to be able to communicate the real and be

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at hand to be able to communicate the ‘real’ and be true to our own selves. The language of “Piano Lessons” is exceptional in the ease with which it narrates events, the difficulty of even imagining that which is inconceivable: such as taking a piano for walks, why this ordinary piece of furniture “farts” and is spoken of as an “old man,” the elephant goad being used “in quite such a/ manner,” etc. We are astounded, outraged, or feel terribly betrayed further when the poem endswith the girl’s mother just saying: “…well, this was really not/ quite expected, but past the initial shock/ one learns to expect what has already happened.” Really? Is this true of language generally,or of theexceptional language of Edson’s narrative? What, indeed, are our expectations of language— that it will give us only that which we might reasonably expect; or that it would giveus only that which we could easily comprehend; that language will allow us to reconsider what it could do otherwise than supply us the K. Narayana Chandran
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11 predictable or comprehensible? How much of reality, in thename of realism, could we bear? Would authentically realized fictional worlds demand authentically realizable language to match them? Further reflections on the topic of language seemquite implied in the phrase, “past the initial shock.” Learning one’s language actually means progressively getting past the initial shock, onto other minor and major shocks, one after another. We grow with language, much as our language grows with individual learners, and successive generations in whose lives it lives. It is debatable though whether we grow up ever, or what role, if anything, one’s language plays in this process. Other interesting questions follow. We have not yet come past Moore’s “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” That we have been negotiating (initially unawares) two incommensurable worlds in “Piano Lessons” becomes evident when our usual certainties of the word and the world are belied. We notice, for example, that this “girl who was learning to play a piano” has slowly begun to make a play for it/him, and that the piano has begun to play around with her. And what splendid lessons! Her parents observe all this but we are not sure that they are only mildly embarrassed or simply wonderstruck. Another question that engaged my class was the nature of this narrative. While Moore told stories allusively, Edson tells a story directly. But, again, we are not too sure that this is not quite a parable; it might well be a short commentary on the motives and methods of story-telling, or a bid to answer: What makes us homo narrans ? One of the motives clearly discernible here is the mutuality of ‘being-in-a-world’ and ‘a-world-in-a-being’ afforded by narratives generally. Put in simple terms, human beings are stories variously told and made by the world to which they belong. My life therefore is a story (crisscrossing several others) I want to make, andmake it cohere, more than anybody else.
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