THREE - GYMNASTIC ONOMASTICS - OR - WHO THE HELL IS NED DOTLAND?
THREE: GYMNASTIC ONOMASTICS: WHO THE HELL IS NED DOTLAND?
Emma's 14 January 2023 entry in her electronic journal certainly gave me a lot to think about and to unpack.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the name Ned Dotland . Emma's passion is film semiotics, and mine is onomastics, the study of names.
The name "Ned Dotland" might be a pseudonym; it's usually a safe bet that characters in stories are bestowed with names that suggest something important about the character of the character. In the case of Ned Dotland, I concluded after several minutes of brainstorming that Ned Dotland sounds an awful lot like "Ned Land" (the main character in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). But what to make of that, I don't yet know.
Since the name "Ned Land" is well known to those who have read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I suspect the man uses this name, Ned Dotland, to suggest some kind of secondary meaning referring to that story. Emma had, after all, described Ned as very literary, unusually so.
I feel confident that what this Ned person said to Emma was a clue that might be inviting Emma to contact Ned again, but only if she can successfully decipher that last thing he said to Emily: Ned Dotland.
Ned was the 'father' of this baby that Emma was pregnant with; but she had no way of telling him about their child. No reliable way of ever even seeing Ned again. She had taken one serendipitous train ride, and was now pregnant with Ned's . . . seed story, that story which has a destiny to grow into some specific thing.
Ned, I realized, had offered Emma what she needed, but did not know that she needed it. Ned had thoroughly fertilized a literary egg that contained Emma's authorial essence.
I found a web site that uses the ".land" domain (which I didn't even know existed until now). The site is called ned.land. On that site, I find an interesting entry about a chafing dish or something (the ned.land site needs a lot of work, honestly). This was a creepy experience; creepy because there is a storyline in the ned.land fiction blog which centers primarily around two characters: Emma and Charlie.
There are many Emmas (Emmæ ?) and Charlies in the world. So many, in fact, that one might be able to pair hundreds of people with those names. Sometimes names in stories are just names. But if you ask me, an author who names a character without any thought to the onomastic significance is an author that isn't ready to join our guild until they understand what is important about names.
Emma had explained all of this to me a few years ago and I find it very convincing. She gave the example of "Odysseus" and the fact that the name alone makes a very clear reference to the famous Iliad and Odyssey. The name Odysseus even invokes the completely separate name Homer at the same time, by inference and association.
Names are, in a sense, an indexical link to much larger personal stories. Symbolic meanings in names are sometimes fortuitously well-preserved by etymology, esotericism, charm, fame, cleverness, puns, intrigue, and so forth, but most of all by getting into published print (paper or electronic, as long as it’s recorded in writing).
By serendipity I came across a story's inception that seemed to take onomastics (i.e. the study of names and their significances), very seriously. In reading one of the ned.land entries, I came across this quote:
"Names index our individual stories against
The Great Conversation of collective human storytellers
throughout time and geography.
We who still breathe are but stewards of Names.
The Names in our collective charge can never die,
I find that to be really moving for some reason. It's beautifully written, and potentially even true. I'd have to think on it some more. But it sounded really intelligent, which gave it a 50% chance of being so, I reckoned.
So, I am beginning at this point to conclude that Ned Dotland offered Emma not his full name, but his web site! Ned Dotland is 'Ned dot Land'. I don't think Ned's family name is Dotland. I think Ned was telling Emma where to go to find out more about the nascent revolt against genre. I started to feel a great deal of intrigue about this theory of mine, so I read more of the entries on the site. It seemed that perhaps the entire site might be relevant to Emma and myself.
A feeling of confusion and fear came over me, in the same way that I might have experienced if I were suddenly made aware of my identity as a fictional character trapped in a world that feels just as real as the real world. One explanation for this could be that what I was experience was simply living in the 'real world.'
Ned (whatever his real name is), has now called into question something that I cannot avoid being troubled by. Most of the posts on that site -- especially this one about 'letters'. were written years ago. In the story, a pair of writer-friends, named Emma and Charlie, are called to a very literary adventure. The similarities are too uncanny; I will not be reading any more of the ned.land site until I can come up with some plausible, satisfying, rational, and therefore relieving explanation for how that story gets so much right about how Emma and I used to behave. Oddly, I'll also need to explain why the story also gets many important things wrong about the experiences and friendship that Emma and I have shared over the years.
I wonder if Ned was writing about some other Emma and Charlie. Our names are not so uncommon. There are some famous literary Emmas (Emmæ?), and lots of famous people named Charles, Charlie, Chuck, and so on. It will be important, I reckon, to not assume too much about the putative relationship between Ned's fictional Emma and Charlie. They very well may have nothing whatsoever to do with us.
Nonetheless, I'm not comfortable with any of this. I am eager for Emma's return now, because now I understand, I think, why she was so upset earlier. She was feeling what I'm feeling now: utterly confused about how to make sense of this ænigma.
It occurs to me now that Emma said she was going to Queens to stay with her brother for a while. But her journal entry suggested she was going to Crystal City, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. I wonder where Emma really is. Since we're in Paris now, her journey to the United States would be effortful, especially when under such stress and concern as Emma was feeling.
Had she simply misspoken? Did she have a plan that involved visiting both Queens, NY and Crystal City, VA?
Unfortunately for me, I would not know any of the answers to these question unless Emma were to call from a landline in the USA, or await her return home here in Paris. I would now have to wait for one of those things to happen, while wondering all along why a person so oriented to literature as Emma would choose to buy such an enormous and expensive car as an FJ Cruiser for use in France -- and in Paris, no less a city than!
Importing it from Oregon was expensive, driving it is expensive, avoiding other cars is cheap until you sideswipe one, which then, surprise, turns out to also be expensive. Emma didn't have much reason to care about money. She was loaded; you might say she were a trust fund brat that never became a brat. A trust fund thought leader she is.
One thing I do feel confident in having already correctly garnered about Emma: When Emma does or says things that seem eccentric, insane, uninteresting, fallacious, or erroneous . . . she is almost always later proven to be prescient, a genius with foresight and insight, and a passion for spreading the profound ideas that Emma was willing to fight for.
January 8th, 2022