Some follow up comments by Michael Slade after his presentation, which help to clarify his key point.
What was it like – looking Death in the face – to go on a combat mission? This passage by Murray Peden (a WWII Canadian bomber pilot) in A THOUSAND SHALL FALL captures the experience.
“Imagine yourself in a building of enormous size, pitch black inside. You are ordered to walk very slowly from one side to the other, then back. This walk in the dark will take you perhaps five or six hours. You know that in various nooks and crannies along your route killers armed with machine guns are lurking. They will quickly become aware that you have started your journey, and will be trying to find you the whole time you are in the course of it. There is another rather important psychological factor: the continuous roar emanating from nearby machinery. It precludes the possibility of your getting any audible warning of danger’s approach. You are thus aware that if the trouble you are expecting does come, it will burst upon you with the startling surprise one can experience standing in the shower and having someone abruptly jerk open the door of the steamy cubicle and shout over the noise. If the killers stalking you on your walk should happen to detect you, they will leap at you out of the darkness firing flaming tracers from their machine guns. Compared with the armament they are carrying, you are virtually defenceless. Moreover, you must carry a pail of gasoline and a shopping bag full of dynamite in one hand. If someone rushes at you and begins firing, about all you can do is fire a small calibre pistol in his direction and try to elude him in the dark. But these killers can run twice as fast as you, and if one stalks and catches you, the odds are that he will wound and then incinerate you, or blow you into eternity. You are acutely aware of these possibilities for every second of the five or six hours you walk in the darkness, braced always, consciously or subconsciously, for a murderous burst of fire, and reminded of the stakes of the game periodically by the sight of guns flashing in the dark and great volcanic eruptions of flaming gasoline. You repeat this experience many times -if you live.”
And here – thanks to the Internet – we can actually be in the thick of battle at 30,000 feet:
So, with that background and having survived against 2 in 100 odds, is it any wonder that in meeting my mom and falling in love with her, my dad had an overwhelming appreciation of the bliss of romantic love?
Moral of the story: Write about love as relationship, and you’ll capture female readers. Write about love against a background of climactic events, and you’ll capture male readers as well.
Michael Slade (Jay Clarke)
P.S. “But, Slade,” you wonder (perplexed by the unanswered mystery), “what’s the meaning of the visual you sent us as a teaser for your address? Romance turns to horror when she sees the face behind his mask?”
Answer in two words: “Oscar Pistorius.”
Answer in two more words (with a twist): “GONE GIRL.”
This link is a soundbite of a WWII bomber crew’s conversation during a cat fight.
For my own part, these were the key messages from Michael Slade’s presentation:
1. The human ‘triune’ brain has three parts. Read more here:http://www.psycheducation.org/emotion/triune%20brain.htm.
All stories, including romance, need to show that all three brains are engaged in order to be true. It’s the fight between them that determines human behavior.
2. For men, romance has everything to do with being ‘heroic’ and ‘conquering the world’ (incidentally having a woman to “worship” at your side) and nothing whatsoever to do with the interior emotional landscape of ‘relationship’. The most ‘masculine’ romances include: James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan.
3. He read an interesting quote out of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. (Does anyone have that quote handy?) which had to do with the passing of time and our relationship with ourselves and our own past. (At least that’s my take on it.)
4. He also read a W.H. Auden poem about time, relating to the same theme. A couple of times he quoted “The memories of an old man are the deeds of a man in his prime” but I’ve forgotten if that’s from Auden or Wilde.
5. His favorite, and in his mind, quintessential, romance movie is in fact the trilogy, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I infer that he feels these three movies together capture that arc of human experience through the ages and stages and how we, I think, are perhaps dominated more by one or the other part of our brain at different times in our lives, and that this affects the way we experience love, relationships, romance, intimacy, marriage, etc. I’ve see the first and third but not the second one, so I can see his point. The third one is one long intellectual debate/argument (involving the cerebral cortex). Even the high emotions are based on long simmering intellectual ideas like self-worth, autonomy, responsibility, respect and promises one makes to oneself, I guess that would be integrity. His favorite of the three is the first one which most closely resembles ‘romance’ the way it is usually portrayed in literature and film, and I guess is the foundation of his point about the quote about memories above.
6. I think he has come to some appreciation of romance literature as serving that memory of our youth, and the possibilities inherent therein to live and experience life large and with infinite possibility, and keeping that degree of ‘aliveness’ alive in us as we age, and our day to day lives change and move away from those kinds of intense visceral experiences.
Anyway that’s what I got out of it. That and I’ve never before met a person so in love with his own origin story. He has positively mythologized his own parents and their relationship. I wonder what that is like?
Mary Ann Clarke Scott