C.B.’s own bad example of superimposing the past on the present was bad, he said, because it didn’t involve any kind of superimposition at all, merely an interjection. A “flash back” if you will:
Ramona was bored by Baxter’s presentation in the Little Theater. What was he talking about? Lushness, or something. Outside, the grass was fragrant. Sitting back in her uncomfortable chair and gazing first at the grass and then up at the ceiling’s crisscrossed wooden beams, Ramona thought back to the previous week, when she had visited the Vermont State Fair. [. . .] Suddenly startled, Ramona came back to the present. Baxter was still droning on about lushness.
The problem with such a passage is its implication that the past resides in a place separate from, or beside the present. That we exist in both times at separate occassion, whereas, Baxter argues, quoting Faulkner, “the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.” If the past resides in the present, then writers looking to capture that experience need to render both simultaneously.
Continue reading Charles Baxter, “Lush Life” craft lecture (part 2)