Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Adderley Dannley-Bearden (Page 1 of 2)

From Santa Cruz, CA. This is my second year at Evergreen. Trying to become a better writer.

Adderley Dannley-Bearden “Goodbye Things” 3/10/16

A few goodbye things: 

i. With Dogtooth finished and turned in I feel like the past few days have been one large exhale; my spine unfurling like a fiddlehead fern, sprouting up and out from where I’ve been cramped over my desktop. I’m excited about a new project I might start. It’s been on my mind for awhile now, yet after this quarter I think I will feel more confident going into the process. Less skittish of making mistakes, because with Dogtooth I’ve learned to make errors and then move forward, not being stalled by them. Accepting them. 

ii. I just watched a murder of crows chase and accost a robin. The robin was trying to make off with a scrap of something in its talons and the crows didn’t take kindly to whatever it was. They cawed aggressively, like a mob. The violence of it… made me feel like I was watching something terrible happen, or about to happen, but it was out of my reach. Black wings beating around the robin in midair. I thought of the specific panic when your hair gets blown into your eyes and you can’t see anything and it feels strangling. 

iii. Waitlisted for Beginning Photography. I’ll show up anyways. The next quarter hangs in the balance of whatever number I am on that waitlist, and if enough people don’t show up I might be able to grab a slot. I hope they all sleep in or miss their bus, or don’t care more than me. I want to get in. 

Adderley Dannley-Bearden “Whatever Else” 2/26/16

So whatever else… Whatever comes of “Dogtooth” I should think of it as an accomplishment. I have never written anything this length, or anything that felt so original (like I wasn’t trying to imitate another author)… I haven’t ever enjoyed my own content as much as I have enjoyed writing this short story. There are many lines and passages that I’m genuinely proud of and I’m going to try and hold onto that feeling of pride for as long as I can. Until I kick it out of myself the next time I pick up a pen. I’m trying not to brush these positive feelings off like I usually do. I’m trying to recognize and absorb it and remember it when the inevitable self-loathing sets in the next time I try to write. 

Adderley Dannley-Bearden “Tense” 2/20/16

i. The closest I’ve gotten to flying is being lifted by a rolling wave that peaks just before it breaks. You are carried gently downward, watching the ocean unfold itself onto the shore.

ii. If I were to describe a stomach ache, it would be like fruit rotting in your gut. A fast forward of something decaying, splitting open in the heat. Each blip in your belly like the turgid body of a plum growing hot and bloated on the pavement. 

iii. It will be harder to kill my darlings than expected. After critique I know I will have to deconstruct what I’ve written. I know I will have to sacrifice certain pieces and it will hurt to do it. I’m being a baby about it. I’m out of steam. My shoulders haven’t been this tense since I played club. 

iv. “Gaslighting: a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.” Twelve years old and unraveling like a ball of yarn. My whole goddamn life. 

v. 120 sit ups 

Adderley Dannley-Bearden “Monarchs” 2/13/16

I was startled into remembrance just now. Looking out of my bedroom window, I noticed a flash of wings. A moth tore itself from the side panelling of the house and careened like a base jumper out into open air. 

This instance reminded me of a dream a had the night before. I wake up, from one blink to the next and forget what I was dreaming of only a moment before. But the moth’s wings snapped my mind’s eyes back to the dream, like a projector slide.  I saw a monarch butterfly brushing up through the air, soft as a ballerina’s skirts when she pirouettes. The orange of the wings were so bright and caught the sunlight within them  so that the butterfly seemed illuminated from the inside out, like the flipping of a coin. Twirling through air, winking in and out of luminescence. 

In the dream, I reached up to touch it, thinking of how they would all be dead soon and so I might as well touch one for the last time. While I still could.

When I was younger, our elementary school classes would take field trips to the coastal state park “Natural Bridges”, famous for the seasonal monarch migrations. The eucalyptus would be draped like the earlobes of a rich old lady with monarchs. Hundreds upon hundreds of them, all vibrant and clustered together. 

But over the years the colonies of monarchs have dwindled to precarious, barely existent numbers. Children still go to the state park, but I pity them. They have no idea how many there used to be in comparison to their paltry experience. Things like that always make me want to cry. 

Sometimes when I was a kid, they would float down like drifting leaves, wings allowing them to hang on the sea breeze, until they landed like snow drift on our coats and hair. We’d shriek from joy, our mouths open in childish glee. Like we were chosen especially by them, as if they knew us.

Reaching up in the dream, I hoped the butterfly would land on me, that old joyful feeling right on the edge of banking into me, like a skater on the rim of a deep pool. But when my fingers skirted over the wing, the butterfly seemed to curl up into itself, wings beating frantically. Its wing looked broken, bent in on itself. 

“I hurt it,” I hear myself murmur, anguished. 

“They’re too fragile, sometimes,” my dad’s voice intones from somewhere in the background. 

“But there aren’t that many of them left and this one–I killed it, didn’t I? It’s probably going to die now…” My voice gets smaller with each word. 

The dream ends shortly thereafter. 

Adderley Dannley-Bearden “Teenage Survey” M/F Close Analysis 2/11/16

 

Teenage Survey

Jean Luc Godard said something like, “Each time any teenager talks, they’re taking a survey.” I suppose this means that anything teenagers say to each other is up for analysis. Perhaps to compare and contrast each other’s lives, to see if the status quo is being followed. Godard’s characters in Masculine Feminine seem to adhere to his theory because their conversations often follow a question and answer format. Sex, parents, music, and politics are all fair game. Yet oftentimes characters will be speaking one thing, but their body language and physicality will communicate something completely different. The way I see it, Masculine Feminine was a film about the different ways people can communicate with each other, both verbally and nonverbally.  

To speak of verbal communication, one example of a survey occurs in the bathroom near the start of the film. In the scene, the protagonist Paul is prompting his love interest, Madeleine, to go out with him later that night. During this dialogue-heavy scene, the camera remains trained on either Paul or Madeleine’s face for long intervals as they ask questions and then receive responses. This allows the audience to track each character’s personal reactions, feeling their hesitation, their discomfort, and their barely contained thrill as the flirting progresses. However, the underlying purpose of the scene is not just to acquaint the audience with the characters, but to expose from the very root of their relationship the fundamental differences between Paul and Madeleine.

As the survey evolves, the questions grow more intimate. “What is the center of the world to you?” Madeleine asks and the camera switches back to Paul’s face as he mulls over his answer. After a moment’s pause he responds quite seriously in clear opposition to Madeleine’s more playful demeanor: “Love,” Paul offers, looking at Madeleine. The camera is still studying his face, but Madeleine answers off-camera with a smile in her voice: “Funny. I’d have said ‘Me.’” Paul casts his eyes down as if in thought. “Does that sound strange?” Madeleine asks, but Paul does not answer. Madeleine continues as if she’s uncertain of the answer she’s given him, “Don’t you think you’re the center of the world?” There is some silence before Paul finally admits, “In a way, sure.”

In terms of nonverbal communication, Godard has his characters perform habits such as Paul’s cigarette flipping and Madeleine’s hair touching. These quirks are used by Godard as physical evidence of how each character is faring throughout the story. For example, Madeleine plays with her hair almost incessantly throughout the film, but it is very prominent when she’s angry or uncomfortable. When Paul reads her profile from a magazine in an outlandish voice, the camera looks up at her tensely tugging a piece of hair around her fingers until she says, “Don’t make fun of me.” The same anxious hair pulling occurs at the end of the film when she’s in the police office giving a testimony of Paul’s death. And while listening in the studio to the song she’s just recorded, Madeleine toys with her hair, unhappy with her performance, and also unhappy with Paul, evident when he tries to hold her hand and she pulls out of his grasp.

Madeleine’s hair is also used as a prop for other characters to establish a kind of claim on her. In the movie theater, Elizabeth intimately brushes Madeleine’s hair aside in order to whisper into her ear. Paul watches this occurrence with thinly veiled jealousy, and when he walks past the two girls’ seats, he carefully, purposely smoothes down the hair Elizabeth had touched. It is almost like a claim to Madeleine herself that the two are fighting over. Like dogs who piss in order to mark their territory.

On the other hand, Paul habitually flips cigarettes up into his mouth in the film, a kind of dorky trick to establish his character as a French youth with a blaise sort of attitude. The first couple of times we see him do it (in the cafe, in the bathroom) he gets it on the first try. However, the only times he fumbles the toss is when Madeleine is with Elizabeth. The first time he messes up the flip is when Madeleine and Elizabeth are walking out of the dance club to the bar where they get sodas. The second time is in the bedroom scene where Madeleine invites Paul to sleep with her and Elizabeth. Paul cannot get the cigarette into his mouth on the first attempt when in Elizabeth’s company, perhaps because he feels threatened by her presence.  

At the tailend of the film, Paul resolves in a voiceover how all the surveys he has been conducting have been failures. The questions he was asking people reflected a deformed collective mentality. “My lack of objectivity, even when unconscious,” he says, “tended to provoke a predictable lack of sincerity in those I was polling. Unawares, I was deceiving them and being deceived by them.” I would argue that the same lack of sincerity occurs between Paul and Madeleine in the bathroom scene. They ask each other questions as part of a “teenage survey”, to follow Godard’s theory, and they are deceived by one another. As Paul experiences with the polls he’s conducting, people search for the answer they believe is expected or desired of them. I suspect the same might have been true for both Paul and Madeleine when they questioned each other.

If all teenage interactions are surveys, then the bathroom scene which serves as a foundation for the rest of Paul and Madeleine’s relationship is built on faulty ground. How could their answers not be value judgements, the same as the people Paul was polling? Was there any truth to their interactions? These are questions I am still asking myself even after watching the film multiple times, and I doubt that I will come to any definite conclusions until watching it several more times. But it is clear to me that Godard’s use of both verbal communication as well as nonverbal communication is very important and that sometimes a character may be saying one thing, yet their physicality will speak to a different feeling entirely.

Adderley Dannley-Bearden “In Order to Live” TWA Essay 2/2/15

Adderley Dannley-Bearden
Schrager
“Eye of the Story”
1 February 2016

In Order to Live

Examining the social and cultural upheaval of the 1960s, Joan Didion, in a collection of essays from her book The White Album, seeks to identify her own personal turmoil during that era and how the combined incidents of people, politics, architecture, music, and status quo influenced her psychological affair.

On the first page, in an essay which the book is titled after, Didion explains to the audience from the very first sentence how “We tell ourselves stories in order to live” (11). These are the types of stories, not found in books persay, but the ones we formulate on a daily basis. They are the assumptions we make about someone’s shirt or their lunch, maybe their family. Constantly trying to find reason and solution for the knowledge we do not have. Didion goes on to say:

“We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience” (11).

She addresses the audience with the frequent usage of “we” as if to include them in her dilemma. Didion wants to acknowledge, or perhaps prove to herself, that she is not alone in her experience, therefore she makes it a universal experience. By saying “we live entirely” on a narrative, is another way of saying we are dependent upon it.

Didion states that the 60s were a time period where she began to question, or doubt, “the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself” (11). Feeling like life was a production and that every encounter or conversation followed a specific script, Didion admits to improvising. If she was given a script, she must have lost it, and could not adhere to the cues, nor the plot. Didion admits to only knowing what she saw: “flash pictures in variable sequence, images with no ‘meaning’ beyond their temporary arrangement, not a movie but a cutting room experience” (13). Seeing her own life in the 60s through a series of discombobulated imagery which had no evident meaning, Didion found herself still craving a narrative, still wanting to believe in the narrative’s accuracy, something to help her make sense of the events around her.

The 1960s leading into the early 70s was a period of inexplicable transition. From Didion’s other descriptions about being in a studio with The Doors to talking about the logistics of book publishing with Elderidge Cleaver, a leader of the Black Panthers, Didion allows the scope of her existence at that time to envelope the audience. Simply based off those two examples alone, it might be safe to infer the era was not one for scripts, nor did its citizens deign to follow them as strictly as Didion may have presumed.

While reading “The White Album”, I found myself relating with Didion’s need to formulate a narrative, especially after viewing The Nine Muses directed by John Akomfrah. The combination of found footage and original material had my brain in overdrive, trying to piece together a narrative when we were told not to make an attempt. The film had a lot of intent but whether or not we were supposed to–or even allowed to–understand what was being projected is unknown. I think the same idea could be lended to Didion’s idea about narrative. I am unsure whether or not you are meant to understand what is occurring in your life until it has come and gone.

I live most of my life by assuming narratives, but the problem with narratives, specifically your own, is that they cannot be trusted as you are experiencing them. Didion had to come to terms with that when she looked back on her life in order to write her books. She needed to be able to reflect upon the narrative from a later viewpoint and how the observations and assumptions she was making about the time period and about herself in the midst of the mansions, the Reagans, and the feminist movement, were mostly premature.

8tracks, Adderley Dannley-Bearden

Some of you may be familiar with this website already, but I thought it might be nice to share.

This is a website just for playlists. You can search for certain keywords such as “writing”, “calm”, “study” and find an endless amount to choose from. There are a lot of playlists that fit what you might be working on tonally. I find it helpful if there’s background noise while I’m writing and this resource helps me find music that accomplishes that.

Adderley Dannley-Bearden, “Trio” 1/31/16

i.
It’s so hard for us to put our loved ones back into the ground.

Before yielding to the truth that we must all live and then consequently die, we bury each other in nice coffins. They have a silk interior lining and expensive cushions for our undead comfort. We’re dressed in nice clothes, albeit ones we would never wear if we could still protest these kinds of things.

We are not allowed to be given back to the earth, not entirely. If anything, we’re kept from it.

ii.
Another thing about the rain in California is that it stays damp, more drowned than Washington afterwards. When it pours, the leaves become congested with water in the gutters and the cracks in the sidewalks stay flooded with veins of muddy rainwater. The pavement remains a few shades darker from all the moisture it’s soaked up, even a day or so after the rain.

iii.
“Dogtooth” has creeped into my subconscious so severely these past few days. I had a dream last night after watching those wolf hunting videos that I was running with or from something, the wolves maybe. I think we were being hunted. Probably by men, something I don’t need to be dreaming to be afraid of. I remember that feeling, too. We were all very scared.

We landed in a riverbank, the bed nearly dried or otherwise frosted over. In between hurtful breathing, I noticed laying in the bank, nearly so blended with the ghastly scenery that I almost missed it: a skeleton of a great elk. It’s antlers fanned out from the base of its skull like the end of a fallen tree branch.

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The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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