Tuesday, October 28, 2008

thoughts on -fy

So I'm flipping through my dictionary last night and come across the suffix "-fy."

Fascinating suffix. Here's the definition:

"-fy. suffix used to form verbs meaning produce, as in stupefy; cause, as in solidify; and make, as in satisfy."

Consciously recognizing this combination, something long internalized since it's my first language, struck me like I'd uncovered some key. Tumblers shifted, doors unlocked. It compelled me to wander, think about satisfaction, how people rarely are, if they're chasing art.

Artists I know who've become good (I'm thinking about a buddy of mine who makes music under the name Banjo Drill, a guy I grew up with in rural Austinburg, Ohio) have become good by obsessively creating and creating. The urge overwhelms, that absolute need to do art. With music, you sit in front of the technology, the keyboard or guitar, the computer screen. With writing, it's you and paper--kinds of technology, too--and really there's no difference in the apparatus since what's important is that the chasing of art, a word I use deliberately, is chasing something elusive, something you can't get.

It begins in the subconscious: black ocean. Something, a face or shoulder, a hip or twitch of fingers, surfaces. That's what you want to communicate in a story, or in a song or image, as suits you.

You can't. Not fully. Language flickers, illuminates like matches, to use a Virginia Woolf metaphor.

The point is, what we make in art can't really satisfy, not all the time anyway, not lastingly. The combination of object and suffix equals sensation, brain activity that enlivens, it's partly a lie, a high.

But all's not lost. We come close. Artists often do. Gardner's Grendel. Joyce Carol Oates in the best of her fiction. The composer Bach. Others.

Chasing satisfaction, that result of and key to understanding, helps us, fumbling though noble animals we are--helps us understand.

Still, what we finally articulate only approximates the leviathan.