John Tang

Gardner’s Psychic Distance

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 17, 2010

Gardner’s Psychic Distance

(Inspiring Advice)

There is an eternal battle between writing in pen and typing on the computer with me. There is an organic-touch when writing in pen, but remarks and phrases are clearer when typed on the computer. Today in Starbucks I discovered Gardner’s Psychic Distance. While looking over Jeans’ sketches, I wondered how authors emulated those expressions.  A patient face. A stern lip. Worried eyelids closed on sun-down. I wanted those gestures in my notebook, and Gardner suggested you could alter the connection through distance in the psychic, the home of language. Here are Gardner’s gradations from away to beside:

  1. It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.
  2. Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
  3. Henry hated snowstorms.
  4. God how he hated these damn snowstorms.
  5. Snow. Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul.

I practiced a few in my notebook on a group of students, which I didn’t believe were studying but socializing and enjoying their Sunday evening.  One student noticed Lebron’s performance hinged on a rumor that a friend of his had an affair with his mother: “Compared to the elbow, this was fucked up.”

  1. 50’s music played over the speakers of this coffee shop. One employee finished lunch and stepped behind the counter, while the other had left the milk on the counter for thirty minutes, until now, smelling the rigid lip of the bottle. Both ignoring the line John led, the elder woman behind him asked, “I ordered whip on my hot chocolate.”
  2. Lazy, her replied had said, as he read the message off the lime phone. “Can’t take out trash. Backyard.” He whispered, as if for a second, he read something different.

These are not good examples, but I am excited to practice. At first Gardner’s technique reminded me of Chekhov’s setting (where setting reflects the character’s current mood), except Gardner shows the treatment of language has distance as well. So there is distance in voice as well as in space.



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