In the Margins, or On Current Events.

Why do you write? It’s a question I don’t hear asked enough of writers. Personally I’m not interested in questions of craft. I feel much of what’s asked can often times be learned through reading a writer’s work. Whatever else seems more like the Special Features on a DVD, I’m more concerned with the product rather than the process. Not that the process isn’t important, I’m just not sure that’s where the focus should be placed.

Over the last few days, there’s been a report of a young man found dead on Kamehameha Highway in front of the Hygenic Store in Kahalu`u. The article is brief; the one I found (which took quite a bit of searching) was five sentences long. The one I had first seen on Monday morning was roughly the same length. There has not been an update nor a follow-up to the report, and initially the man’s death was seen as traffic related.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up here. Maybe because such stories are constantly lingering in the margins. Maybe because as a community and as a state, we are becoming desensitized, and stories like this are often written off. Assumed to be about something else, and those assumptions lead us to believe that we have answers when really none have been provided. I want an answer. I want to know more about what happened and why.

I don’t believe I’m alone in this respect. Looking at message boards, talking with community members, friends, family, I know that this is a problem. More of the mainstream focus needs to shift. The community is already trying to make a difference, what about more action from the organizations that can make a difference: the government and the media. How many incidents have occurred in the last two months that have brought up conversations concerning drugs in our community? How many acts of violence? Now think about the last year(s)? It has been the focus of a few novels, local and otherwise, short stories, documentaries, and of a great piece of local non-fiction: Mark Panek’s Big Happiness. More importantly, how many people do you know that have been affected, are being affected? What is being done to change this?

As a writer, I’m often more concerned with bringing up questions than answering them. The answers are not as important as the conversations, the discussions, and the discourses that lead to them. When asked about the craft of writing, a common answer deals with a writer’s ability to observe. To take note of that observation and begin to make the connections between it and the world that makes such things possible. More than anything it’s about the spaces between, it’s about the stuff that’s in the margins, and about why a young man’s body found on an active street is denoted five sentences and nothing more.



Talk story

  1. BetweenWatersUnseen says:

    First of all, thank you for pointing out that excerpt. A lot of good points throughout. I think, looking at something like that interview for example, there's a lot that can be gained there through the discussion of the work. As this interview is included in the BR issue, it's a very meta way of examining what's going on in the text while still remaining a part of the text. The important thing too is that Wang doesn't necessarily supply an answer, more an explanation for the audience to draw their own conclusions. Would Chan is Missing be as great a text without the interview and introduction? Definitely, but the inclusion of both emphasizes the themes and pushes it forward that much more.

    One of my favorite quotes: "I think that people look for easy answers all the time, particularly in more commercial films. And I think that's a bad thing. I think films can be a lot more open-ended, that people can be more creative in their own ways of finding answers." A good narrative makes you question and reflect, makes you think. I suppose it's the literary aspect there, but even something simple can be effective at drawing blood. The whole American ideology is based on binaries, and focused on the heroics of the good guy. It's as if we need the hero to come through in the end otherwise our whole world gets thrown out of wack. Thinking about myths, legends, allegories, especially that of non-Western cultures, you see more of an interrogation of ethics rather than a "pure" presentation of right and wrong, more so when presented orally.

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