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  • I am too concerned with myself to see others. Quoting Stendhal in A Lion for Love - A Critical Biography of Stendhal by Robert Alter


    Imogene is overweight. Over. When she smiles a crease at the bottom of her face shows a row of teeth in need of immediate repair. The betel nuts she chews on causes that ochre coating and a fowl breath.
    Even before I asked her what she thought about my latest story, she ventured:
    The problem is not if you capitalize or not the pronoun I, but if you can go beyond it. Are you informing others or are you talking to yourself? The same goes for conversations between people. Most stories are about self-aggrandizement. The world is made up of people listening to iPods or to their own stories. The best stories are told by people who know how to listen. Too many chatterboxes in our world. Too much background noise. Will the story you have written bring silence to the reader or not? Listening is only possible in silence.
    A long pause ensued. I could even hear the betel nut juice slushing in her mouth.
    I knew she was not going to say more. She had retreated to a place so far from where we were that even the chewing was brought to a halt.
    Then she was back:
    All that noise is about not wanting to hear that primal scream. It's all about pain, is it not?

    [photos by jean-claude]
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