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    The Editorial - TMYS Review September 2020

    PERSONAL, SOCIAL, CULTURAL REALITIES AND CONFLICTS OF ADOLESCENCE

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    EDITORIAL

    Why do we write stories? Or even creative non-fiction? When do we write? And what do we write? The questions are at once easy and difficult; they yield no conclusive answers. Let us take them up one at a time. We write to tell the people around us what we make of the world and its inhabitants and to make sense of what we experience. We write, at times, to converse with ourselves, to exteriorize ourselves and see our thoughts, even the innermost recesses of our psyche or the most turbulent exercises of our intellect, reflected as in a mirror. But we also write in order that we may grow wiser. With each word that we write, we take a definite step towards something higher, something gradually fulfilling and enriching. As we engage in the process of writing, we constantly question preconceptions and prejudices. When do we write? We may, of course, write any time that we desire to put pen to paper, or, for that matter, fingertips to our computer keyboard. But good writing, like all good art, comes from the state of being inspired. In spite of the freedom that we can write whenever we please, there is a moment that occasionally visits us and whispers to us, telling us that now is the right time. What determines the right / write time (never mind the pun!) is not just this intangible visitor, but also what many would call an unfathomable burst of inspiration, or a thunderbolt of revelation. Zealous religionists would term it divine revelation. The Anglo-Saxon poet Caedmon, we are told, was inspired to write in a dream that he dreamt one night. And now on to what we write. Regardless of questions of censorship or political correctness of writing, or even into social and moral acceptability of what one may write, the subject of our writing is almost always a march through abstraction and chaos, an attempt to organize and rationalize creative madness.

    Writing, by no means, is easy. One does not have too many material tools to facilitate one’s effort. A painter has his colours, an array of brushes, a canvas or a sheet of paper, a colour palette, and a host of other things. A singer or a musician has musical instruments, while an actor has costumes and, importantly, the stage itself. But a writer? Only a sheet of paper and a pen. Or the keyboard and the page on the computer screen. Writing, seen this way, is more difficult than the other arts. In some ways, it is more difficult than conducting a scientific experiment because even a scientist or a laboratory assistant works with a vast range of equipment. A writer’s task, then, is almost exclusively cerebral, unless you factor in the need to know word-processing if the writer is typing on a computer.

    With the writer’s tools being so scanty, it becomes difficult to focus on the ‘reality’ that the writer seeks to reproduce. This is because not one of the material tools that he is working with is in any way, a representation of that reality. The green paint that a painter uses to paint trees on canvas bears resemblance to the colour of real leaves. The musical instruments that a musician plays on may produce sounds that have the power to evoke the ‘mood’ of the reality that the music seeks to reproduce. But a writer is simply putting together words. Weaving sentences. Creating a page with rows of characters from the alphabet. Doing it with rows of words. And a page that has been written has several such rows. And the physical appearance of the words on the page do not evoke the ‘reality’ that is the writer’s subject in the way a painting or a musical composition or an actor’s performance on the stage does. The latter three, unlike words on a page, bear physical resemblance to the ‘reality’, and demand responses from the physical senses. Words on a page, however, make demands upon the brain and upon the heart. Writing, in other words, is predicated upon intellectual and emotional responses from its recipients if it is to take steps towards evoking the ‘reality’ that the writer wishes to articulate. That ‘reality’ could be a fragment of experience or a figment of imagination. It may be anything that the writer wishes to say to his readers. In the case of stories, or, more precisely, fiction, the imagination plays a role very similar to that which Duke Theseus assigns to it in this celebrated passage from the final Act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

    The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
    Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
    And as imagination bodies forth
    The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
    Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
    A local habitation and a name. 

    Theseus, of course, is speaking about poets. And like Plato long ago and Shelley in ‘To a Skylark’ and Coleridge in ‘Kubla Khan’, he is suggesting the creative madness of a poet. This madness is not insanity. On the one hand, the madness of a creative writer, whether a poet or a writer of prose, is a condition of being gripped by divine inspiration that one may call frenzy. The writer is a frenzied person, though he himself may not know it. On the other hand, but closely related to the idea of divine frenzy, is the idea of alienation. As Socrates postulates in the Phaedrus, ‘some of the highest goods have come to us by way of madness’. The madness that Socrates speaks about is a condition of alienation, including alienation from the self. Self-alienation implies that one is possessed. Here, the writer is possessed by genius in much the same way as an actor playing Hamlet is possessed by the tormented and philosophical prince. The writer, in the process of writing, is no longer himself. And yet, here we have a strange paradox. It is about himself that the writer writes. He writes about what he has experienced in the mind, in the heart, and in the body. He writes of his relation to the world and its people, he writes about his responses to circumstances. Even the most objective kind of writing, then, is essentially subjective.

    The stories in this issue are very special. They are the works of authors who have all been born in this century. The authors are teenagers. The stories that they have written belong to a category that is different from the category of Young Adult (YA) fiction which is generally written by older people for and about teenagers and pre-teens. This is precisely what makes the stories in this issue so significant. This issue also carries essays by research scholars who have analysed and interpreted the stories from a variety of critical perspectives. The importance of these scholarly interventions lies in their offering exciting critical insights into not only the craft of the young story-tellers but also into the social and cultural contexts within which the ‘reality’ had been experienced before being transmuted into fiction. The stories, written as they are by teenaged authors, are in the category of writing in which we accommodate classics such as Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl and Ruskin Bond’s The Room on the Roof. The striking thing about this kind of writing is that older people seem to enjoy them as much as teenagers do. The stories that you will find here have been divided along lines such as social order and what that means to teenage minds, teenagers’ understanding of and responses to deprivation, images of society and life in the context of religious festivals, friendly interactions in society, the socio-cultural and psychological fear factor in teenagers, and teenagers’ understanding of gender identities. The writing is extremely competent, and these young and talented writers have brought together a vast and complex range of experiences from real life to bear upon their stories. The content of these young writers’ consciousness which the reader will encounter here in digital print is not independent of reality. If it were, then the stories would have taken us on fruitless voyages into the unknowable. A good story, on the other hand, derived from experiences of reality, takes us into the unknown and becomes a revelation. Importantly, it often becomes for us a mirror of what we too have known, and then the known and the unknown converge into an extraordinary synthesis of experience.

     

    Dr. Subhajit Sen Gupta

    Editorial Board - TMYS Review

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