Deconstructing Madelyn Nguyen: The art we need is the art of of redemption.

The art we need is not violence disguised as valor, not vengeance masked as purity. The art we need is the art of goodness, the art of redemption. Poetry is leadership, but it ought to be leading you someplace you truly should go, don’t you think?

I ran across that image yesterday on Twitter and objected to it immediately:

Strife doubled is halved? Violence, retribution, vengeance, comeuppance – those are the values evil prizes. The art of goodness is goodness.

Twitter is an airline carry-on bag of text, but that serves to focus the mind. That is the argument I’ve been making about art for more than four years now:

The art of redemption makes people better – and its contraries make them worse.

If the goal of art is to make people better, we’re making the wrong art.

The art-making business is going down in flames right now, so maybe some fire-sale buyers would like to learn how to do something different. I have lots of ideas.

Meanwhile, I promised Cathleen that I would document my abstract goals in writing “Why Madelyn Nguyen’s always gonna win.” Typically, this is English class stuff, and there it’s usually conjectural. This is straight from the horse’s mouth.

Doing this is contrary to my interests, so you know. The only way to last as a writer is to get “petrified poindexters” to conjecture about your work, and the only way to make that happen is to be as opaque and mysterious as possible. (E.g., Zimmerman, Robert.)

I don’t know if other people actually even have abstract goals in their writing. It could be they’re just writing about people they dream up – or simply ‘fictionalizing’ real people – and the academics are quibbling over abstract intentions that were never there at all. But I definitely have work I intend to do, when I sit down to work.

Willie stories are fables, and the Traindancing world is a fabulous fablegrounds: Willie can be involved in anything that can happen at the mall, and he can show you just as much of it as he wants you to see.

This story is an extended metaphor about the neutron stars, so we introduce the ideas that matter at the end very early: Stars, orbits, family, etc. I lean on the idea of gold four ways: Her skin, the mythos, the gold made by the stars, then back to Madelyn Nguyen again as the gold made by her parents’ union.

There are seven people in the story, but only Willie and Madelyn Nguyen speak. Her parents get to show you their world in their reactions, and her poor cousin is a punching-bag in narrative. That’s all.

I was delighted to be praised for so-vividly describing spaces I describe not at all, and I strip away so much of the world of physical reality in the second half, the now-story, that those golden threads of the mythos can seem to be all that’s left.

All that’s baked in the cake, the stuff from which the story is made. These were my thematic objectives:

1. A rom-com birth story for Madelyn Nguyen herself. I think this kind of story is perfect for bedtime: How the universe conspired to whip up the perfection that is you. Every kids wants a blankie made from that yarn.

2. An ostensive defense of The Clan Testudo family. When mom and dad are both fully committed to dad’s plan, everyone is. Madelyn Nguyen is who she is because she has never yet been afraid to be who she is.

3. A recapitulation of the eleven-billion-year dance of the neutron stars, in metaphor, taking some gestatory liberties with the physics at the end.

4. A rhapsody on the genius of humanity, equating conceptualization with conception with the creative process of the cosmos.

5. A history of the birth of a new goddess, complete with her eons-long cosmology. This is where Uncle Willie’s fabulism pays off: Madelyn Nguyen is so real and yet so abstract – so much a jaw-dropping goddess of a certain kind of unselfconscious effrontery.

6. A better way of dealing with the-birds-and-the-bees. Where do babies come from? Stars collide – and they strike sparks.

7. It’s all one thing: The immense is equated with the tiny in every imaginable way to show their actual integrity – their status of being all one thing.

There is DISC, too, though not much. Madelyn Nguyen doesn’t change in the story, so she starts and ends Dics – the Ironman profile at almost-four-years-old. I’m very deliberately distinguishing Driven genius – the real deal – from Cautious studiousness, but that’s just low-hanging fruit around here.

And, of course, I’m leaning all over the education stuff I’ve been talking about this year. Madelyn Nguyen is not exceptional, she’s normal. She’s what every kid can and should be at the age of conceptual fluency. If you’re looking for a human ideal, she’s it. It’s her way of addressing the world – at first hand, even when in comical error – that keeps us alive.

“Why Madelyn Nguyen’s always gonna win” is 2,300 words in length, and I would have made it shorter if I could have. With luck, I gave you just enough to make a movie-of-the-mind, fleshing out everything I left out. If I hit the jackpot, I made you go back to read the story a second time, to see a rom-com played out in the stars.

This is The Way of Willie: Nothing arbitrary, nothing accidental, nothing extra. That way you know that when you see something, it matters. And that way, too, you come to be that much more involved with the story by doing at least half the work yourself.

Does it work for you? I hope so. It works for me. The best part of this one, for me: So much mine, so much of my world in so few words, and I had the whole thing, idea-to-polished-fiction, in forty-eight hours – less time than it takes for neutron stars to collapse into each others arms.

The universe is all one thing – one turning – and every bit of it is in each piece, big or small. Just 130 million light years from here, it found a cosy little hidey-hole for two near-neighbors who are now BFFs for all eternity. In Glendale, Arizona, it found a home for Madelyn Nguyen. The whole of the universe is in every sun-storm, every thunderstorm, every raindrop, every teardrop – and in Willie’s world, the weaker the voice, the louder the message.

The art we need is not violence disguised as valor, not vengeance masked as purity. The art we need is the art of goodness, the art of redemption. Poetry is leadership, but it ought to be leading you someplace you truly should go, don’t you think?

So who is my ambassador for all of humanity, my representation of all that is best in us, my fierce, fearsome and fearless general leading us toward ever-more-redeeming redemptions?

Madelyn Nguyen.

No one else can win, since she already did.

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