Reflections on Circumspections
Over the summer, my creative writing professor Wayne Thomas handed me Circumspections from an Equestrian Statue by Jaimy Gordon, who sits on the review’s Advisory Board. As I’m an aspiring fiction writer and playwright, Wayne and another of my professors, H. M. Patterson, decided the novella would be a new source of inspiration for helping me move from one medium to another. I was to ask myself how Gordon’s novella might be adapted for the stage.
I fancy myself a Jungian scholar, so my initial temptation was to try and dissect Gordon’s characters in order to discover the “bigger picture” behind their symbolic placement in the novella as a whole. All for naught. The more I read, the more I decided that Gordon’s intention was not to write some enigmatic social commentary that only the intelligentsia could truly appreciate. I believe she really just wanted to tell an interesting, slightly absurd and comedic tale about a simple-minded general; the simple-minded general’s dead nephew, overbearing mother-in-law, promiscuous wife; a theologian; a theologian’s wife; and a British gynecologist who sends everyone into frenzy.
I was impressed by Gordon’s ability to introduce dynamic and compelling characters from page one. Her scenes and dialogue are written so precisely and unpredictably in a style reminiscent of theatre of the absurd. Her story grabbed my attention from page one without employing the cheap tricks of lesser writers and Hollywood directors—explosions and impromptu sex scenes—but with a mastery of language and scene.
I feel that I must caution readers to thumb through her books with an open and careful mind. Speed readings won’t allow one to appreciate her subtle craft. A reader unwilling to fully digest her work risks the chance of missing her comedy and commentary.
All in all, I believe Circumspections could make for an enjoyable and unforgettable night of theatre, if someone were to finally adapt the novella for the stage. Gordon has said people have suggested the work shift from page to stage, and she’s even expressed an interest in doing so herself.
Have you got anything to say about Circumspections or another work by Jaimy Gordon? (My hope is that this blog will play at least some small part in helping resurrect a wonderful title that’s currently out of print.) If so, we’d love to hear from you.
David Roncskevitz is a junior creative writing student at Tusculum College. He’s tall and has long hair—at times.