Introducing THE HAUNTED TYPEWRITER (.com) Video Blog and Homepage of Monarch Writers’ Author Cypress Butane

Check out the first episode of Monarch Writers’ author Cypress Butane’s new literary theory video blog – revolving around the discussion of the Monarch Writers this month ‘MIMESIS’. Follow his new site for more videos and blog updates at http://www.thehauntedtypewriter.com/ and Follow Cypress Butane on Facebook

In June 2019, The Monarch Writers are discussing MIMESIS, or Re-Presentation of reality in Literature and Art. Using a perusal of Erich Auerbach’s classic book by that name as a jumping off point, we look at how MIMESIS as a largely mysterious thing, not only because it is such a broad topic- thinking of it encompassing all of artistic endeavor – the Re-Presentation of Reality in some way in Art.. but also because it flows through every key we tap to type a line, and so it flows through us.

The human mind is said to be not just a receiver of stimulus and reactor, but a co-creator of what we perceive, based on past experience and all they have in their consciousness…

And so let’s keep that in mind and move forward with it as we talk about what we take in, what we choose out, and what we put back into our writing. The novel ‘The Moviegoer’ by Walker Percy is a favorite of mine, about a character who spends his time going to the movies most nights in solitude, while having either an existential crisis, or a strange awakening, where he tries to raise his awareness, and note the light coming in through a window at a certain angle, the shadows that it casts and cascades as it moves through its path in the day, and how every place and experience has its own set of feelings and shades, colors and senses that wake when we travel with it.

Good article here summarizing the book we’re using as a jumping off point for our Discussion Theme in the group in June: MIMESIS – (And the book by that title by Erich Auerbach): Here’s an excerpt of the full article linked below!

“The subtitle of the book is The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, which gives you some idea of its scope and ambition. “Real,” of course, is an almost meaningless word in its standard broad use, but Auerbach has a something specific in mind; not the metaphysically real (as opposed to the fantastic) but the socially real—that is, the lives of more or less ordinary people engaged in more or less ordinary activities: the literary equivalent of genre painting.

To be honest, the overarching theme of the book may be its least interesting aspect. Realism of this sort is mostly a phantom concern, from a 21st century perspective anyway; daily life has been a part of our literature for so long that it seems quaint and forced to make a point of it. So, the grand structure of Mimesis is relatively uninspiring; but the readings, chapter by chapter, are magnificent. Time and again, Auerbach demonstrates how literature lives by its details. For example, the first chapter (which is also the mostly widely known and read) compares a fragment of The Odyssey with the tale of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Auerbach’s ultimate goal is an understanding of the contrast between the two cultures’ worldview, and he gets there by dissecting the passages down to their tendons and gristle, the connective tissue from which the body of metaphysics is assembled—the Bible’s use of the word “then,” for example, or Homer’s careful attention to the placement of his characters in space and time.

The book is full of such moments of understanding, such recognitions of what goes into a book, and what can be gotten out of it. A chapter on Dante focuses in part on a single phrase from Inferno, “Da me stesso non vegno”—”Of myself (i.e., of my own free will) I came not”—which Auerbach uses as an emblem of Dante’s reinvention of poetic diction. He goes through a short passage from Montaigne’s Essays almost word by word, showing how Montaigne achieved his air of intimate argument by piling up assertive clauses while leaving out the expected logical connectives (“but,” “therefore,” “because,” and so on), much as one does in a conversation.

What emerges from all this is the idea that prose should be as dense as verse and as welcoming of close reading; that not a paragraph of real writing escapes the context of history; and above all, that style is philosophy, that a decision to use commas where others might use a semicolon, or to elide the word “afterwards,” or to shift narrative perspective twice in a single paragraph, is as momentous as the decision to believe in the infinite, or to act in accord with the Categorical Imperative, or to endorse an inalienable right to privacy. They’re all part of the same will to represent the world: Kings may stand or fall on the point of a period.”

– Jim Lewis, ‘Want to Be A Writer? Read Mimesis

I recently started a homepage for my own writing, (Cypress Butane speaking) at https://thehauntedtypewriter.com/ and will be hosting my literary theory videos there. So check that out the find out more and to watch some of the videos.

I chose the name ‘The Haunted Typewriter’ to encapsulate a number of meanings. First to say that as writers, when we sit down in front of our keyboard, there is a spirit at our shoulders, that of the whole history of literature and art that has come before. Whether it is there to spook us, intimidating us out of daring to attempt what we might attempt, or whether it might aid us as a steadying hand of fellowship, it also courses through us. There is no way to separate ourselves from it. And also, I think as a cyberpunk author, there is a hint of the ghost in the machine metaphor. That of the hardware and software mixture, where consciousness comes from a complexity and emergence. And the ghost is perhaps a poltergeist who shocks our fingers into action and energy. And finally, there is the curse of the mechanization of the human spirit, the player piano syndrome. Whereby machines may learn to do the things human beings hold as foundational to the meaning of their lives. IF artificial intelligence can write stories just as well, or better than any of us can… Well, do a predictive text with as the beginning of the sentence, and you let me know how it turns out. I’ll be here trying to make my life artful and mean something positive, to me.

This blog will explore issues of literary theory and writing, the mind of the writer, techne and spirit, and cyberpunk philosophy and art.

Here is the transcript of the video above:

THE HAUNTED TYPEWRITER: SOME THEORY, by CYPRESS BUTANE – MIMESIS

(This is the script to the video I have posted. Check the FB page to view)

MIMESIS IS an old literary literary and philosophical term meaning IMITATION. IT IS A POWERFUL MAGIC, akin to painting animals on a cave wall, before one goes to hunt. Its very success in controlling reality, led Plato to suggest banishment for the poets, from his ‘Republic’, putting poets on the defensive ever since. Whether it is a divine intoxication, a madness and possession, a will, or simple distortion of things that are, artists are liars, or demigods. Putting to page their own vision, an interpretation, rather than a true picture of truth.

In the haunted house story of ideology and artistic endeavor, those who seek to overthrow reality, to chase down the mystery of the locked room at the end of the hall, either end up destroying art, or committing what Milan Kundera in The book of laughter and Forgetting called ‘the lost deed’. Pinning a dead ideal on the changeless world, of verity. Telling a truth that in its telling, becomes a lie.

When I turn to look for a theologian of Mimesis,

I first fall in the direction of Jorge Luis Borges.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” He said “I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books.”

And two perhaps complementary and paradoxical quotes. “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” and “To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god.”

Borges characters are often written without details of birth or origin, but only of character and the thoughts of which they are capable. He creates bizarrely metaphysical plots and strangely reflexive narrative

We’ll look briefly now at two particular stories, that frame the opening shot of the Mimetic war, and, perhaps, its ultimate destiny.

‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ and ‘The Aleph’. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

In ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ – It is the story of a spy, who is in a dangerous situation, behind enemy lines. He must make escape to a friend of an ancestor, an ancestor who fled public life, to, he said, construct a labyrinth. That labyrinth, in fact, turns out to be the mysterious novel he left behind. And in that labyrinthine work, a single word conspicuously absent, that word being ‘TIME’. Discussions of the friend, the ancestor, of the branching ways we have come to this place, the different people we might have been to make this connection, In the end, the spy, who has fled the enemy camp to try to get word to his network, of the name of a city where the enemy has operations, is about to be captured. And yet manages to KILL a man. A man, whose name is that of the city he needs to telegraph to his network. Suggesting, that when we move forward from the timeless labyrinth, to make a thought into a concretized, action, we also negate all other forking paths. We pin it down, like the taxidermist’s butterfly.

To Name Something… Is to Destroy it.

And then, ‘The Aleph’ a story about the project of completely mapping the territory, as Baudrillard would have it. Of describing every bit of reality so that the description might be stepped into, and the original, discarded. What some say Joyce achieves with Dublin in his novel ‘Ulysses’.

The Aleph is a story about a man, named Borges incidentally, who has just lost his beloved. He continues to visit with her family at her home and eventually is taken into the confidence of her cousin. Her cousin is writing a poem, attempting to write down EVERY PLACE and thing on earth. An exhaustive catalogue of reality.

As it turns out, the reason for this project, is not that the poet is simply inept and artless as the narrator suspected after being read some inept and artless bits of the whole. What is going on is, its author has peered into an ALEPH. The ALEPH, a kind of cosmic viewmaster that shows the peerant everything, absolutely everything that is, is lurking in the basement of the home, and when he is set to be forced to move house, the cousin reveals its existence to Borges.

An aleph, “The only place on earth where all places are — seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending.”

When the character Borges peers into this strange machine, he vows never to speak of it again, but only advises that the poet get more fresh air, and remains thankful when, days and days later, he is able to find sleep again.

Significant that this story takes place on the heels of the loss of life, and ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ takes place in the moment of a life’s decision.

And what lies in between for the artist?

Between banishment,

Between totalitarianism, and absolute freedom.

A struggle for light.

The allegory of the cave, another hidden pocket of Plato’s Republic.

The aleph, a hand pointing to heaven, and a hand pointing simultaneously to earth.

Raphael’s painting of The School of Athens, where Plato points up, to the realm of the ‘Ideal Forms’, and Aristotle gestures, remonstrating, back down to earth, to the immanent being and universality in the world all around us.

And this is why we are artists.

And why Plato, who wrote poems of philosophy,

Was but a hypocrite.

This is why we are all drunk on coffee.

This is why we are the insomniac breed.

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

“Come, my friends, T’is not too late to seek a newer world.”

When speaking with his mother about art in the largely autobiographical ‘Stephen Hero’ James Joyce jibes gleefully at his pragmatic mother, who wants to read his favorite author Ibsen to get a vision of some different life, to sample an ideal of a great artist for how one should live this experiment… or to better know her son, and, as Joyce suggests, check up on whether he is reading ‘dangerous books.’

–But that is wrong: that is the great mistake everyone makes. Art is not an escape from life!

– No?

–You evidently weren’t listening to what I said or else you didn’t understand what I said. Art is not an escape from life. It’s just the opposite. Art, on the contrary, is the very central expression of life. An artist is not a fellow who dangles a mechanical heaven before the public. The priest does that. The artist affirms out of the fulness of his own life, he creates … Do you understand?”
Do you understand?

Do you understand?

Do you understand?

MIMESIS (RE-PRESENTING REALITY)

THE MONARCH WRITERS – JUNE 2019 – MIMESIS (RE-PRESENTING REALITY)

 

“Are we kidding around out here? Or do we mean what we say!?”

Charlie “Nuwanda” Dalton, ‘Dead Poets Society’

 

I want to start by allowing us to talk about our own projects, and to try to make conscious the different techniques and poetic and other effects we use to represent reality in telling the story we are telling. I mostly see MIMESIS as a largely mysterious thing, not only because it is such a broad topic- thinking of it encompassing all of artistic endeavor – the Re-Presentation of Reality in some way in Art.. but also because it flows through every key we tap to type a line, and so if flows through us.

The human mind is said to be not just a receiver of stimulus and reactor, but a co-creator of what we perceive, based on past experience and all they have in their consciousness…

And so let’s keep that in mind and move forward with it as we talk about what we take in, what we choose out, and what we put back into our writing. The novel ‘The Moviegoer’ by Walker Percy is a favorite of mine, about a character who spends his time going to the movies most nights in solitude, while having either an existential crisis, or a strange awakening, where he tries to raise his awareness, and note the light coming in through a window at a certain angle, the shadows that it casts and cascades as it moves through its path in the day, and how every place and experience has its own set of feelings and shades, colors and senses that wake when we travel with it.

 

WHY?

 

Merovingian: Aha, here he is at last. Neo, the One himself, right? And the legendary Morpheus. And Trinity of course, si belle qu’elle me fait souffrir. I have heard so much, you honour me. Please, sit, join us. This is my wife, Persephone. Something to eat? Drink? Hmm… of course, such things are contrivances like so much here. For the sake of appearances.

Neo: No, thank you.

Merovingian: Yes, of course, who has time? Who has time? But then if we do not ever take time, how can we ever have time? Chiteau Haut-Brion 1959, magnificent wine, I love French wine, like I love the French language. I have sampled every language, French is my favourite – fantastic language, especially to curse with. Nom de Dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperies de connards d’enculis de ta mire. You see, it’s like wiping your ass with silk, I love it.

Morpheus: You know why we are here.

Merovingian: Hmph… I am a trafficker of information, I know everything I can. The question is, do you know why you are here?

Morpheus: We are looking for the Keymaker.

Merovingian: Oh yes, it is true. The Keymaker, of course. But this is not a reason, this is not a `why.’ The Keymaker himself, his very nature, is means, it is not an end, and so, to look for him is to be looking for a means to do… what?

Neo: You know the answer to that question.

Merovingian: But do you? You think you do but you do not. You are here because you were sent here, you were told to come here and you obeyed. [Laughs] It is, of course, the way of all things. You see, there is only one constant, one universal, it is the only real truth: causality. Action. Reaction. Cause and effect.

Morpheus: Everything begins with choice.

Merovingian: No. Wrong. Choice is an illusion, created between those with power, and those without. Look there, at that woman. My God, just look at her. Affecting everyone around her, so obvious, so bourgeois, so boring. But wait… Watch – you see, I have sent her dessert, a very special dessert. I wrote it myself. It starts so simply, each line of the program creating a new effect, just like poetry. First, a rush… heat… her heart flutters. You can see it, Neo, yes? She does not understand why – is it the wine? No. What is it then, what is the reason? And soon it does not matter, soon the why and the reason are gone, and all that matters is the feeling itself. This is the nature of the universe. We struggle against it, we fight to deny it, but it is of course pretense, it is a lie. Beneath our poised appearance, the truth is we are completely out of control. Causality. There is no escape from it, we are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the why.’Why’ is what separates us from them, you from me. Why’ is the only real social power, without it you are powerless. And this is how you come to me, withoutwhy,’ without power. Another link in the chain. But fear not, since I have seen how good you are at following orders, I will tell you what to do next. Run back, and give the fortune teller this message: Her time is almost up. Now I have some real business to do, I will say adieu and goodbye.

Neo: This isn’t over.

Merovingian: Oh yes, it is. The Keymaker is mine and I see no reason why I should give him up. No reason at all.

Persephone: Where are you going?

Merovingian: Please, ma cherie, I’ve told you, we are all victims of causality. I drink too much wine, I must take a piss. Cause and effect. Au revoir.

 

BECAUSE

 

From The Harvard Advocate

AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVE EGGERS

In 1993 Dave Eggers founded the now defunct Gen-X sneer of Might magazine. After a brief stint at Esquire, Eggers returned in 1998 to the avant-garde of the magazine world with the eccentric banality of Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (www.mcsweeneys.net). Eggers’ first book, the bestselling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, was published in February of this year by Simon & Schuster to rave reviews. The following is an email transcript of a Q&A exchange with Eggers in which he is prompted to “rant” by the mention of the phrase “selling out.”

——————————————————–

Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 17:06:27 -0400 (EDT)

From: Saadi Soudavar

To: McSweeney’s

Subject: Attn David Eggers: Harvard Advocate Interview

Dear David,

I’d first like to say that I hope that, by the time you get these questions, you’ve extricated yourself from under the perfidious yoke of those Massachusetts McSweeneys. Talk about a McFaustian bargain! We’ve got a light question for you before we get to the ones culled from the more serious elements of our staff.

0) In his appreciation of your work in the online magazine Feed (www.feedmag.com), Keith Gessen suggests that you might have been able to handle Puck had you been chosen for the “Real World” instead of that sniveling weakling Judd. But in your book you seem to be a little startled by Puck, even cowed. What do you think? Could you have put Puck in his place and kept his scabbed-up fingers out the peanut butter?

A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS

1) One of the most interesting aspects of A.H.W.O.S.G. is the consistently self-deprecatory tone. In the preface, for example, a list precisely maps out all the symbolism in the work. On one level, this undercuts the obvious amount of work that’s been put into the book by suggesting that the book can be reduced to a very basic level of meaning. But it also functions to point out how much more complicated the book is than the chart makes it seem. The book has been criticized for precisely this reason: in the guise of self-deprecation, it’s self-aggrandizing. What are your thoughts on this and, in general, the relation of the author to the text?

2) I’m curious as to what you were reading while writing this: your style is not that of the average memoir-writer. Resemblances to David Foster Wallace’s essays have been noted, and, by their inclusion in McSweeney’s, similarities are suggested to the style of Lawrence Weschler and Paul Maliszewski (and others published in The Baffler). Much greater parallels might be drawn, however, between your non-fiction and the work of the classic American metafictionists: the dialogue in Donald Barthelme, the narrative conniving in John Barth, or the character sketches in Pynchon. How much do you see your style as a reflection of your influences?

3) Selling out? Good? Bad? Not the issue? : What has surprised you about your book’s reception? How do you explain the backlash to all the hype about you? It doesn’t seem to be about your work, but more about you. Simple jealousy? Media saturation? How does it differ from other pop media backlashes?

4) Having attracted this much commercial attention with your book, the lit-crit establishment can’t be far behind-a slew of theses here at Harvard were written on David Foster Wallace after Infinite Jest came out, a book received in somewhat the same way that yours has been. What’s your attitude towards the inevitable critical discussion of your work (this interview…)? The aesthetic of McSweeney’s, if one can be defined, seems to be one endorsing the pure joy of reading a story. Does criticism miss the point?

5) Whatsup with the cover art of A.H.W.O.S.G.? Are Komar & Melamid for real?

6) Have you optioned or considered optioning the movie or television rights to A.H.W.O.S.G.? Who would you like to see cast (specifically as yourself) and direct? If it became a television series would it be an hour-long drama, half-hour sitcom (with laugh-track or without?) or some hybrid?

Okay. Let’s talk about McSweeney’s.

McSWEENEY’S

7) My favorite piece ever to appear in McSweeney’s is Gary Greenberg’s article on his attempts to meet and use the Unabomber. It’s not, of course, about the Unabomber so much as about the cultural and media uses he was put to. It was really a very human and very careful look at what the magazines do to people, and it’s really hard to imagine that article appearing anywhere else. Do you have any favorites yourself, pieces you think typify what McSweeney’s is going for?

8) Well, and what is McSweeney’s going for? Reading your book, one can’t help be struck by your very messianic conception of Might’s mission; that, Josh Glenn notwithstanding, you weren’t just making fun of people, that you were, in your way, saying something, though it wasn’t clear what, exactly. I somehow sense that there’s less of that in McSweeney’s. Do you agree? Without putting you in the position of explaining what McSweeney’s is “saying,” I would like to ask where you want McSweeney’s to go, what you think its place is in the history of the universe.

9) There is talk afoot in the land, Dave, that McSweeney’s, content-wise, no longer differs much from smart journals like Conjunctions or Epoch.

Even from The New Yorker, for that matter. Which is not to imply that, were The Harvard Advocate to receive a story from George Saunders, we would put our street cred above our commitment to excellence, a commitment from which we have not wavered in over 130 years of excellence. But still: are you concerned that you’re not publishing as many unknowns as you had been? And killed pieces? Are you taking any steps-are there any steps to be taken-to keep shit real?

10) One of the remarkable things about McSweeney’s, especially before the whole AHWOSG extravaganza, was the enthusiasm it seems to have unleashed-it was obviously a revelation to all of us who’d become, painful as it was, fairly accustomed to the polite, handsome literary journal that consisted primarily of academic poetry. But it’s also drawing in people who’ve not been interested in literary magazines, which is remarkable, because it is so literary, much more so than The Baffler or Hermenaut, for example. I suppose what’s especially shocking about all this is that young hipsters are so excited about an aggressively textual project. I mean, the only pictures you’ve used are for Lawrence Weschler’s “Convergences.” Your readings have been phenomenally successful. Do you think people are really interested in hearing stories? And reading texts?

11) My final question is a multipartite monster, so please feel free to jump in here whenever. The real issue at hand, Mr. Eggers, is whether you’re on the side of the good guys or the bad guys. Certainly the fact that there’s no advertising in any McSweeney’s production augurs for the former; but you’ve motivated this several times by saying that ads are “ugly.” In a similar vein, you’ve lavished great care on the design of the magazine, and in issue 4 you take this further still, both by creating a beautiful magazine and also devoting quite a bit of space to discussing the aesthetic wholeness of literary texts. Are you hewing a sort of politics from the scattered shards of aestheticism? George Saunders’ horrifying story – the most horrifying to date – in issue 4, makes a clear distinction between the dehumanizing aspects of modern work and the humanizing impulses that remain nonetheless. Saunders is also pretty clear about equating the un-human part of the equation with murder, specifically with, like, organized mass murder. In my hopeful moments, I feel like McSweeney’s is trying to carve out the human space in our culture. In moments of dark suicidal despair, I think McSweeney’s is just trying to sell a lot of magazines by being so pretty and “authentic.” Which do you think it is? And if it is to carve out a human space, why do you think it makes sense to do this on aesthetic grounds? And if this is more or less to the point, can you also explain the extent to which you feel McSweeney’s does more than simply reverse the design formula of the glossies (black/white instead of color, text instead of image, content instead of advertising, etc.)?

——————————————————–

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000 17:08:15 -0400 (EDT)

From: David Eggers

To: Saadi Soudavar

Subject: Re: your mail

Saadi:

Here are my answers. At the end is an addendum that’s explained down there. All of this is long, but you can’t edit without my permission. So let me know if you want to, though I hope you don’t.

DE

1) Well, anyone who has criticized the book for the self-aggrandizing aspect – and I must admit I haven’t seen any such review (though I stopped reading reviews a while ago) – are simply echoing my own criticisms, so it’s hardly worth comment. As a longtime critic myself, I anticipated all the possible angles a reviewer might take, and incorporated them into the Acknowledgments. So there were no surprises in terms of any reservations or comments anyone made, given that I was much harder on the book than anyone else could possibly be. As for the last part of the question, I can’t answer it – much too general.

2) I had never read a memoir before writing this thing, so that’s probably why it doesn’t read like one. There’s really nothing more crippling than reading too much of a genre before working within it. But while writing the book, I did read Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, which was a fairly devastating take on the form, in terms of how impossible it is to write compelling nonfiction without lying a great deal. Otherwise, my influences are mostly people I read in college – Nabokov, Tom Wolfe, Vonnegut, Didion, Lorrie Moore, Vidal, Wilde. The influence of Wallace is always overstated, and he’d agree readily – the similarities are very superficial. Barth, Barthelme, sure. Pynchon? I don’t see it.

3) I address the “sellout” word later on (see addendum). As for the so-called backlash, I can’t say I’m aware of one. I did expect something like that to happen, but I haven’t seen anything yet. Where is it manifest? I haven’t been looking, of course, but if there has been a backlash, it must be a very small or quiet one, because it hasn’t shown up on my radar.

4) I think criticism, more often than not, completely misses the point, yes. The critical impulse, demonstrated by the tone of many of your own questions, is to suspect, doubt, tear at, and to take something apart to see how it works. Which of course is completely the wrong thing to do to art. I used to tear books apart, and tear art exhibits apart – I was an art and book critic for a few years in San Francisco – but my urge to do that was born of bitterness and confusion and anger, not out of any real need to help or edify. When we pick at and tear into artistic output of whatever kind, we really have to examine our motives for doing so. What is it about art that can make us so angry? Is it healthy to rip to shreds something created by an artist? I would posit, if I may, that that’s not really a healthy impulse. Now, as far as I know, out of maybe 100 or so reviews that I’ve been made aware of, my own book has received only one negative example. That’s pretty lucky, especially when you consider that Wallace, for example, has gotten pretty abused by some people, people who for the most part don’t have the patience his work requires. But criticism, for the most part, comes from the opposite place that book-enjoying should come from. To enjoy art one needs time, patience, and a generous heart, and criticism is done, by and large, by impatient people who have axes to grind. The worst sort of critics are (analogy coming) butterfly collectors – they chase something, ostensibly out of their search for beauty, then, once they get close, they catch that beautiful something, they kill it, they stick a pin through its abdomen, dissect it and label it. The whole process, I find, is not a happy or healthy one. Someone with his or her own shit figured out, without any emotional problems or bitterness or envy, instead of killing that which he loves, will simply let the goddamn butterfly fly, and instead of capturing and killing it and sticking it in a box, will simply point to it – “Hey everyone, look at that beautiful thing” – hoping everyone else will see the beautiful thing he has seen. Just as no one wants to grow up to be an IRS agent, no one should want to grow up to maliciously dissect books. Are there fair and helpful book critics? Yes, of course. But by and large, the only book reviews that should be trusted are by those who have themselves written books. And the more successful and honored the writer, the less likely that writer is to demolish another writer. Which is further proof that criticism comes from a dark and dank place. What kind of person seeks to bring down another? Doesn’t a normal person, with his own life and goals and work to do, simply let others live? Yes. We all know that to be true.

5) Can’t say I understand this question. The work of Komar and Melamid is in the collections of every major contemporary-art-collecting art museum in the world. There is no artist alive today doing work that’s more important. They’re carrying on the work of Duchamp, and they’re more skilled as artists to boot. So yes, they are for real.

6) Had this been asked in another, less glib, way, I would have answered.

7) My favorite pieces were all written by Paul Collins. His series, which chronicles the lives of various hopeless dreamers of the nineteenth century, will soon be a book, called Losers. It’s the closest stuff to what I wanted McSweeney’s to be about.

8) Not sure about the Josh Glenn reference. Did you mean John Glenn? Otherwise I’m confused – should I know a Josh Glenn? I knew a Jodi Glenn in college, but I don’t think you’d know her. Anyway, yes, Might had a messianic mission, for about three months. After that, it was a vehicle within which to publish things we found important or made us laugh. McSweeney’s has no political goal. We only want to publish work that we like, and to do so with an attention to the craft of book and magazine production. Art made with mission statements is not art.

9) See addendum.

10) I’ll address the readings portion of the question. Simply put, our readings are so well-attended because they’re fun. I don’t like being bored, but most readings are aggressively boring. There is an assumption, in LiteraryLand, that readings must be sober and slow and long and serious. The spoken-word contingent sometimes improves upon this, but usually in a horribly pretentious way. So what we do is simple: we make sure alcohol is available, to ourselves and the audience, and then we have fun. And part of that involves breaking out of the author-at-the-podium-turning-pages schtick; we figure if 500 people are going to come out, you might as well have some shit happen. Thus, at our last reading, in Brooklyn, Arthur Bradford, who accompanies his stories with guitar-playing, broke his guitar against a wall, John Hodgman was interviewed by a man in a caveman costume, and, during intermission, I carefully cut the hair of five attendees. Then everyone stayed until 2, most people were drunk, and lots of people hooked up with each other. All good, and all at a reading.

11) I address some of this question in the addendum, but I want to address the “sell a lot of magazines by being pretty and ‘authentic’” part here. Honestly, Saadi, what the fuck are you talking about? You’re applying principles of mass-marketing to a money-hemorrhaging literary magazine produced out of my apartment. Please. No one here is trying to sell a lot of magazines. Why would we making a literary magazine in the first place, if sales numbers were our goal? And why would we be printing this thing in Iceland, and printing only 12,000 copies? Jesus, son, you have got to stop tearing apart and doubting the people who are obviously, clearly, doing good work. I mean, who the fuck do you believe in? The Baffler is nice-looking, too, and they print *20,000* copies. Does that put Tom Frank in league with Tony Robbins? I’m exasperated. Saadi, you have to trust me, and you have to trust Tom Frank, because Tom Frank, for example, matters. If Tom Frank, tomorrow, agreed to be in a commercial for the Discover Card – as Kurt Vonnegut did a few years ago, for whatever reason – you would still have to trust Tom Frank and respect him, because he has for a decade been doing work that matters, and you have no idea about his motivations or needs or state of mind when he say okay to the Discover gig. I am giving you really good advice, here, Saadi, and and offer it to other readers of the Advocate, because I wish I had the same advice pounded into my head at your age, when I was a bigger, more smug and suspicious asshole than you – I was the biggest asshole of all. To me, everyone was a sellout. Any band that sold over 30,000 albums was a sellout. Any writer who appeared in any mainstream magazine was a sellout. I was a complete, weaselly little prick, and I had no idea what I was talking about, and goddamn if I don’t wish I could take all that back, because I knew nothing then, just as you know nothing now. You simply cannot judge someone, especially someone whose work you have respected, when they disappoint you, superficially, once or twice. Think of the fuckheads who turned their back on Dylan when he started using electric guitars, for Christ’s sake. What kind of niggardly imbecile would call Dylan Judas when he plugged into an amp? What kind of small-hearted person wants an artist to adhere to a set of rules, to stay forever within a narrow envelope which we’ve created for them?

Now, the addendum.

First, a primer: When I got your questions, I was provoked. You expressed many of the feelings I used to have, when I was in high school and college, about some of the people I admired at the time, people who at some point disappointed me in some way, or made moves I could not understand. So I took a few passages from your questions – those pertaining to or hinting at “selling out” – and I used them as a launching pad for a rant I’ve wanted to write for a while now, and more so than ever since my own book has become successful. And the rant was timely, because shortly after getting your questions, I was scheduled to speak at Yale, and so, assuming that their minds might be in a similar spot as yours, I read this, the below, to them, in slightly less polished form. The rant is directed to myself, age 20, as much as it is to you, so remember that if you ever want to take much offense.

—-

You actually asked me the question: “Are you taking any steps to keep shit real?” I want you always to look back on this time as being a time when those words came out of your mouth.

Now, there was a time when such a question – albeit probably without the colloquial spin – would have originated from my own brain. Since I was thirteen, sitting in my orange-carpeted bedroom in ostensibly cutting-edge Lake Forest, Illinois, subscribing to the Village Voice and reading the earliest issues of Spin, I thought I had my ear to the railroad tracks of avant garde America. (Laurie Anderson, for example, had grown up only miles away!) I was always monitoring, with the most sensitive and well-calibrated apparatus, the degree of selloutitude exemplified by any given artist – musical, visual, theatrical, whatever. I was vigilant and merciless and knew it was my job to be so.

I bought R.E.M.’s first EP, Chronic Town, when it came out and thought I had found God. I loved Murmur, Reckoning, but then watched, with greater and greater dismay, as this obscure little band’s audience grew, grew beyond obsessed people like myself, grew to encompass casual fans, people who had heard a song on the radio and picked up Green and listened for the hits. Old people liked them, and stupid people, and my moron neighbor who had sex with truck drivers. I wanted these phony R.E.M.-lovers dead.

But it was the band’s fault, too. They played on Letterman. They switched record labels. Even their album covers seemed progressively more commercial. And when everyone I knew began liking them, I stopped. Had they changed, had their commitment to making art with integrity changed? I didn’t care, because for me, any sort of popularity had an inverse relationship with what you term the keeping ‘real’ of ‘shit.’ When the Smiths became slightly popular they were sellouts. Bob Dylan appeared on MTV and of course was a sellout. Recently, just at dinner tonight, after a huge, sold-out reading by David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell (both sellouts), I was sitting next to an acquaintance, a very smart acquaintance married to the singer-songwriter of a very well-known band. I mentioned that I had seen the Flaming Lips the night before. She rolled her eyes. “Oh I really liked them on 90210,” she sneered, assuming that this would put me and the band in our respective places.

However.

Was she aware that The Flaming Lips had composed an album requiring the simultaneous playing of four separate discs, on four separate CD players? Was she aware that the band had once, for a show at Lincoln Center, handed out to audience members something like 100 portable tape players, with 100 different tapes, and had them all played at the same time, creating a symphonic sort of effect, one which completely devastated everyone in attendance? I went on and on to her about the band’s accomplishments, their experiments. Was she convinced that they were more than their one appearance with Jason Priestly? She was.

Now, at that concert the night before, Wayne Coyne, the lead singer, had himself addressed this issue, and to great effect. After playing much of their new album, the band paused and he spoke to the audience. I will paraphrase what he said:

“Hi. Well, some people get all bitter when some song of theirs gets popular, and they refuse to play it. But we’re not like that. We’re happy that people like this song. So here it goes.”

Then they played the song. (You know the song.) “She Don’t Use Jelly” is the song, and it is a silly song, and it was their most popular song. But to highlight their enthusiasm for playing the song, the band released, from the stage and from the balconies, about 200 balloons. (Some of the balloons, it should be noted, were released by two grown men in bunny suits.) Then while playing the song, Wayne sang with a puppet on his hand, who also sang into the microphone. It was fun. It was good.

But was it a sellout? Probably. By some standards, yes. Can a good band play their hit song? Should we hate them for this? Probably, probably. First 90210, now they go playing the song every stupid night. Everyone knows that 90210 is not cutting edge, and that a cutting edge alternarock band should not appear on such a show. That rule is clearly stated in the obligatory engrained computer-chip sellout manual that we were all given when we hit adolescence.

But this sellout manual serves only the lazy and small. Those who bestow sellouthood upon their former heroes are driven to do so by, first and foremost, the unshakable need to reduce. The average one of us – a taker-in of various and constant media, is absolutely overwhelmed – as he or she should be – with the sheer volume of artistic output in every conceivable medium given to the world every day – it is simply too much to begin to process or comprehend – and so we are forced to try to sort, to reduce. We designate, we label, we diminish, we create hierarchies and categories.

Through largely received wisdom, we rule out Tom Waits’s new album because it’s the same old same old, and we save $15. U2 has lost it, Radiohead is too popular. Country music is bad, Puff Daddy is bad, the last Wallace book was bad because that one reviewer said so. We decide that TV is bad unless it’s the Sopranos. We liked Rick Moody and Jonathan Lethem and Jeffrey Eugenides until they allowed their books to become movies. And on and on. The point is that we do this and to a certain extent we must do this. We must create categories, and to an extent, hierarchies.

But you know what is easiest of all? When we dismiss.

Oh how gloriously comforting, to be able to write someone off. Thus, in the overcrowded pantheon of alternarock bands, at a certain juncture, it became necessary for a certain brand of person to write off The Flaming Lips, despite the fact that everyone knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that their music was superb and groundbreaking and real. We could write them off because they shared a few minutes with Jason Priestley and that terrifying Tori Spelling person. Or we could write them off because too many magazines have talked about them. Or because it looked like the bassist was wearing too much gel in his hair.

One less thing to think about. Now, how to kill off the rest of our heroes, to better make room for new ones?

We liked Guided by Voices until they let Ric Ocasek produce their latest album, and everyone knows Ocasek is a sellout, having written those mushy Cars songs in the late 80s, and then – gasp! – produced Weezer’s album, and of course Weezer’s no good, because that Sweater song was on the radio, right, and dorky teenage girls were singing it and we cannot have that and so Weezer is bad and Ocasek is bad and Guided by Voices are bad, even if Spike Jonze did direct that one Weezer video, and we like Spike Jonze, don’t we?

Oh. No. We don’t. We don’t like him anymore because he’s married to Sofia Coppola, and she is not cool. Not cool. So bad in Godfather 3, such nepotism. So let’s check off Spike Jonze – leaving room in our brains for… who??

It’s exhausting.

The only thing worse than this sort of activity is when people, students and teachers alike, run around college campuses calling each other racists and anti-Semites. It’s born of boredom, lassitude. Too cowardly to address problems of substance where such problems actually are, we claw at those close to us. We point to our neighbor, in the khakis and sweater, and cry foul. It’s ridiculous. We find enemies among our peers because we know them better, and their proximity and familiarity means we don’t have to get off the couch to dismantle them.

And now, I am also a sellout. Here are my sins, many of which you may know about already:

First, I was a sellout because Might magazine took ads.

Then I was a sellout because our pages were color, and not stapled together at the Kinko’s.

Then I was a sellout because I went to work for Esquire.

Now I’m a sellout because my book has sold many copies.

And because I have done many interviews.

And because I have let people take my picture.

And because my goddamn picture has been in just about every fucking magazine and newspaper printed in America.

And now, as far as McSweeney’s is concerned, The Advocate interviewer wants to know if we’re losing also our edge, if the magazine is selling out, hitting the mainstream, if we’re still committed to publishing unknowns, and pieces killed by other magazines.

And the fact is, I don’t give a fuck. When we did the last issue, this was my thought process: I saw a box. So I decided we’d do a box. We were given stories by some of our favorite writers – George Saunders, Rick Moody (who is uncool, uncool!), Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, others – and so we published them. Did I wonder if people would think we were selling out, that we were not fulfilling the mission they had assumed we had committed ourselves to?

No. I did not. Nor will I ever. We just don’t care. We care about doing what we want to do creatively. We want to be interested in it. We want it to challenge us. We want it to be difficult. We want to reinvent the stupid thing every time. Would I ever think, before I did something, of how those with sellout monitors would respond to this or that move? I would not. The second I sense a thought like that trickling into my brain, I will put my head under the tires of a bus.

You want to know how big a sellout I am?

A few months ago I wrote an article for Time magazine and was paid $12,000 for it. I am about to write something, 1,000 words, 3 pages or so, for something called Forbes ASAP, and for that I will be paid $6,000. For two years, until five months ago, I was on the payroll of ESPN magazine, as a consultant and sometime contributor. I was paid handsomely for doing very little. Same with my stint at Esquire. One year I spent there, with little to no duties. I wore khakis every day. Another Might editor and I, for almost a year, contributed to Details magazine, under pseudonyms, and were paid $2000 each for what never amounted to more than 10 minutes work – honestly never more than that. People from Hollywood want to make my book into a movie, and I am probably going to let them do so, and they will likely pay me a great deal of money for the privilege.

Do I care about this money? I do. Will I keep this money? Very little of it. Within the year I will have given away almost a million dollars to about 100 charities and individuals, benefiting everything from hospice care to an artist who makes sculptures from Burger King bags. And the rest will be going into publishing books through McSweeney’s. Would I have been able to publish McSweeney’s if I had not worked at Esquire? Probably not. Where is the $6000 from Forbes going? To a guy named Joe Polevy, who wants to write a book about the effects of radiator noise on children in New England.

Now, what if I were keeping all the money? What if I were buying property in St. Kitt’s or blew it all on live-in prostitutes? What if, for example, I was, a few nights ago, sitting at a table in SoHo with a bunch of Hollywood slash celebrity acquaintances, one of whom I went to high school with, and one of whom was Puff Daddy? Would that make me a sellout? Would that mean I was a force of evil?

What if a few nights before that I was at the home of Julian Schnabel, at a party featuring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, and at which Schnabel said we should get together to talk about him possibly directing my movie? And what if I said sure, let’s?

Would all that make me a sellout? Would I be uncool? Would it have been more cool to not go to this party, or to not have written that book, or done that interview, or to have refused millions from Hollywood?

The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

There is a point in one’s life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one’s collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.

Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling. Because, in the end, no one will ever give a shit who has kept shit ‘real’ except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of shit matters to some people, but it does not matter to me. It’s fashion, and I don’t like fashion, because fashion does not matter.

What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips’s new album is ravishing and I’ve listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people. What matters is that it will stand forever, long after any narrow-hearted curmudgeons have forgotten their appearance on goddamn 90210. What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who’s up and who’s down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things. We are on the wrong side because we should be home, calculating which move would be the least damaging to our downtown reputations. But I say yes because I am curious. I want to see things. I say yes when my high school friend tells me to come out because he’s hanging with Puffy. A real story, that. I say yes when Hollywood says they’ll give me enough money to publish a hundred different books, or send twenty kids through college. Saying no is so fucking boring.

And if anyone wants to hurt me for that, or dismiss me for that, for saying yes, I say Oh do it, do it you motherfuckers, finally, finally, finally.

 

THE HAUNTED TYPEWRITER: SOME THEORY, by CYPRESS BUTANE – MIMESIS

(This is the script to the video I have posted. Check the FB page to view)

 

MIMESIS IS an old literary literary and philosophical term meaning IMITATION. IT IS A POWERFUL MAGIC, akin to painting animals on a cave wall, before one goes to hunt. Its very success in controlling reality, led Plato to suggest banishment for the poets, from his ‘Republic’, putting poets on the defensive ever since. Whether it is a divine intoxication, a madness and possession, a will, or simple distortion of things that are, artists are liars, or demigods. Putting to page their own vision, an interpretation, rather than a true picture of truth.

In the haunted house story of ideology and artistic endeavor, those who seek to overthrow reality, to chase down the mystery of the locked room at the end of the hall, either end up destroying art, or committing what Milan Kundera in The book of laughter and Forgetting called ‘the lost deed’. Pinning a dead ideal on the changeless world, of verity. Telling a truth that in its telling, becomes a lie.

When I turn to look for a theologian of Mimesis,

I first fall in the direction of Jorge Luis Borges.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” He said “I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books.”

And two perhaps complementary and paradoxical quotes. “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” and “To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god.”

Borges characters are often written without details of birth or origin, but only of character and the thoughts of which they are capable. He creates bizarrely metaphysical plots and strangely reflexive narrative

We’ll look briefly now at two particular stories, that frame the opening shot of the Mimetic war, and, perhaps, its ultimate destiny.

‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ and ‘The Aleph’. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

In ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ – It is the story of a spy, who is in a dangerous situation, behind enemy lines. He must make escape to a friend of an ancestor, an ancestor who fled public life, to, he said, construct a labyrinth. That labyrinth, in fact, turns out to be the mysterious novel he left behind. And in that labyrinthine work, a single word conspicuously absent, that word being ‘TIME’. Discussions of the friend, the ancestor, of the branching ways we have come to this place, the different people we might have been to make this connection, In the end, the spy, who has fled the enemy camp to try to get word to his network, of the name of a city where the enemy has operations, is about to be captured. And yet manages to KILL a man. A man, whose name is that of the city he needs to telegraph to his network. Suggesting, that when we move forward from the timeless labyrinth, to make a thought into a concretized, action, we also negate all other forking paths. We pin it down, like the taxidermist’s butterfly.

To Name Something… Is to Destroy it.

And then, ‘The Aleph’ a story about the project of completely mapping the territory, as Baudrillard would have it. Of describing every bit of reality so that the description might be stepped into, and the original, discarded. What some say Joyce achieves with Dublin in his novel ‘Ulysses’.

The Aleph is a story about a man, named Borges incidentally, who has just lost his beloved. He continues to visit with her family at her home and eventually is taken into the confidence of her cousin. Her cousin is writing a poem, attempting to write down EVERY PLACE and thing on earth. An exhaustive catalogue of reality.

As it turns out, the reason for this project, is not that the poet is simply inept and artless as the narrator suspected after being read some inept and artless bits of the whole. What is going on is, its author has peered into an ALEPH. The ALEPH, a kind of cosmic viewmaster that shows the peerant everything, absolutely everything that is, is lurking in the basement of the home, and when he is set to be forced to move house, the cousin reveals its existence to Borges.

An aleph, “The only place on earth where all places are — seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending.”

When the character Borges peers into this strange machine, he vows never to speak of it again, but only advises that the poet get more fresh air, and remains thankful when, days and days later, he is able to find sleep again.

Significant that this story takes place on the heels of the loss of life, and ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ takes place in the moment of a life’s decision.

And what lies in between for the artist?

 

Between banishment,

Between totalitarianism, and absolute freedom.

 

A struggle for light.

The allegory of the cave, another hidden pocket of Plato’s Republic.

The aleph, a hand pointing to heaven, and a hand pointing simultaneously to earth.

Raphael’s painting of The School of Athens, where Plato points up, to the realm of the ‘Ideal Forms’, and Aristotle gestures, remonstrating, back down to earth, to the immanent being and universality in the world all around us.

 

And this is why we are artists.

And why Plato, who wrote poems of philosophy,

Was but a hypocrite.

 

This is why we are all drunk on coffee.

This is why we are the insomniac breed.

 

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

“Come, my friends, T’is not too late to seek a newer world.”

 

When speaking with his mother about art in the largely autobiographical ‘Stephen Hero’ James Joyce jibes gleefully at his pragmatic mother, who wants to read his favorite author Ibsen to get a vision of some different life, to sample an ideal of a great artist for how one should live this experiment… or to better know her son, and, as Joyce suggests, check up on whether he is reading ‘dangerous books.’

 

–But that is wrong: that is the great mistake everyone makes. Art is not an escape from life!

– No?

–You evidently weren’t listening to what I said or else you didn’t understand what I said. Art is not an escape from life. It’s just the opposite. Art, on the contrary, is the very central expression of life. An artist is not a fellow who dangles a mechanical heaven before the public. The priest does that. The artist affirms out of the fulness of his own life, he creates … Do you understand?”

 

WRITING PROMPT FOR JUNE

 

Find a writer you admire greatly, and study their style.

Discover what it is about their STYLE that moves you.

If you care to, attempt to imitate that very thing, in a piece of your own.

While you do so, note how your REPRESENTATION (Mimesis) of Reality, alters in the view.

GOETHE – STURM UND DRANG – FAUST – AND YOUNG WERTHER

In May 2019 The Monarch Writers were studying the German Author and Poet

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

And the literary movement he was a part of STURM UND DRANG

(STORM AND DRIVE).

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For a good overview discussion of the Sturm Und Drang movement, check out the BBC Radio Four ‘In Our Time’ Podcast about it here.

This was very much a formative German cultural movement that through both the introspective suicidal romantic (Young Werther) and the high magician who makes deals with the Devil (Faust), influenced the emergence of a German spirit with obviously political implications, with the fascist movements in the 20th century and the destruction of modern Germany at the hand of the Nazis. These cultural currents are in play again today, and I’d like to try to have a discussion of what we might learn from these sources of a Romantic styled Violence of Emotion / Individuality and Deeply Introspective View / Libertinism and Libertarianism / A question of What order we follow / Revolt against older formalism. From the movement that rehabilitated Shakespeare as the quintessential unique genius, from out of the hands of people who denigrated him because he didn’t follow ‘the forms’, these treasure-chests of creative energy in various cultures around the world have led to some of the worst of shallow indulgence and bad faith interpretation in our modern day.

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As a kind of crux of our current day politics, I want to take the grenade out of the hand of the boys in the Joker Halloween masks, and ask whether the grenade itself has any artistic merit.

GOETHE (one of the main authors of this movement) major works are ‘Faust’, and ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, his early novel about a romantic character who committed suicide, which led to people following his footsteps in kind. Also, I can recommend a biography of Goethe by an author who, I’ve read another one of his biographies (of

38212142Nietzsche), which have great insight and lots of awesome material on him and his age.

by Rüdiger Safranski

Goethe’s two major works, ‘Faust’ and ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ had some pretty damn intense themes. ‘Faust’, about a scientist and doctor who was weary with worldly knowledge so made a bet with the Devil that he could never be shown enough things by his Demonic tempter to one day be sated and internally say, “enough, I am at peace now and satisfied.” In which instance, his soul would be forfeit! And ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, about a young man so enamored with life and nature and the inner churning of his own heart and vision that he commits suicide for the love of a married woman, rather than lose his idealism and that feeling of supernal specialness flowing through everything, rather than.. perhaps… taste of the apple, and fall from the view of the sovereignty of his untouchable… innocence? Of purest feeling?

Consider, that The Sorrows of Young Werther painted so convincing a portrait of the Romantic Heart, that young men in Germany at the time of its release, dressed themselves in an iconic ‘blue tailcoat, yellow waistcoat, trousers, and tall boots, the Werthertracht (Werther costume)’, and paraded around town… and, some of them… also followed through with their imitation to the point of turning up, drowned in rivers or otherwise suicidally committed, with copies of Goethe’s book clutched in their devoted arms.

In the article below, Goethe’s theory of tragedy is described, in which, to sum up in simplest terms, a comedy requires a marriage, whereas a tragedy requires a human sacrifice.

Goethe formed ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ out of some real-life letters he wrote to a friend about a relationship he was in, while fully-knowing, and admitting in the letters, ‘this would make great material for a novel one day’. It makes me think of a newspaperman who takes photographs of a person drowning, to make a great headline, while neglecting to help the person. The central thesis of Dave Eggers ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’, the problem of Irony, Art, and the Media distortions of our broken age. But of course, I’m exaggerating. Faust really was the romantic, of course, and his catharsis wasn’t simply to transfer his pain to the page, giving it to ‘more interested men’ as Bruce Wayne’s father would have it in Batman Begins. But if gives one something to think about, considering that Goethe’s themes gave current to the thrust in German spirit, that arguably gave rise to Germany’s lust for power and the rise of Nazism in the 20th century, outlined in gargantuan complexity in the book The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century by Peter Watson

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Both penchant to tempting the Devil, and feeling too pure for this world, are dangerous things to highlight in one’s résumé.

If, as the article below contends, the human sacrifice in Goethe’s works, is both the author himself, AND the AUDIENCE… Goethe’s feelings of waiting nearly his entire life to complete the second version of Faust were probably correct. That his great allegory for the modernist condition, could not end by declaring that modernism was simply… a MISTAKE. But, oh, could somehow only succeed… with some hand in it, from heaven herself. Who knows, maybe a superhero film. Or some tremendous break in the storm. An ancient radiation, That haunts dismembered constellations… A faintly glimmering radio station… 

READ ABOUT GOETHE’S THEORY OF TRAGEDY HERE AT JSTOR.ORG

– Cypress

monarch signature

May 2019 – GOETHE – Writing A Letter To Myself – Sturm Und Drang

See these events on Meetup.com

2nd Monday 5/13/2019 Discussion and Prompt Night

4th Monday 5/27/2019 Share and Critique Night


In May We are studying the German Author JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe

And the literary movement he was a part of

STURM UND DRANG – Storm and Drive
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturm_und_Drang

For a good overview of this movement, check out the BBC Radio Four ‘In Our Time’ Podcast about it, which you can listen to on youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONTAcUQv3Jo

This was very much a formative German cultural movement that through both the introspective suicidal romantic (Young Werther) and the high magician who makes deals with the Devil (Faust), influenced the emergence of a German spirit with obviously political implications, with the fascist movements in the 20th century and the destruction of modern Germany at the hand of the Nazis. These cultural currents are in play again today, and I’d like to try to have a discussion of what we might learn from these sources of a Romantic styled Violence of Emotion / Individuality and Deeply Introspective View / Libertinism and Libertarianism / A question of What order we follow / Revolt against older formalism. From the movement that rehabilitated Shakespeare as the quintessential unique genius, from out of the hands of people who denigrated him because he didn’t follow ‘the forms’, these treasure-chests of creative energy in various cultures around the world have led to some of the worst of shallow indulgence and bad faith interpretation in our modern day.

As a kind of crux of our current day politics, I want to take the grenade out of the hand of the boys in the Joker Halloween masks, and ask whether the grenade itself has any artistic merit.

I just finished reading GOETHE’s (one of the main authors of this movement) major work ‘Faust’, and I’m reading through ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, his early novel about a romantic character who committed suicide, which led to people following his footsteps in kind. I’m also looking into a biography of Goethe by an author who, I’ve read another one of his biographies (of Nietzsche), and it should provide some insight.

I’ll have a study packet for the meeting on Monday, and if you have anything you want to discuss or want to prepare something related to the topic, you’re welcome to share!

April 2019 – The Schopenhauer Cure – Pessimism, Raising Consciousness, & Committing to Our Projects

See This Event on Meetup.com

Check out the study guide for this meeting here.

Saint Sebastian was an early Christian Saint and martyr. During Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians, Sebastian was tied to a tree and shot through with arrows, “till he was as full of arrows as an urchin is full of pricks, and thus left him there for dead.” Miraculously, he did not die. Rescued, and healed by Saint Irene of Rome, shortly after his recovery he went to Diocletian to warn him about his sins. As a result, he was clubbed to death.

What can we learn from his martyrdom about being a writer? And the pursuit of our projects? When the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune slay our attempts to faithfully pursue our calling… we Survive. When we are healed by the artists, believers, the very faith that led us to be put up against the tree and punctured and deflated? We do what? Take our scars and new quills made of the arrows plucked from within us, and write screed upon the face of they, that, this, that tried to undo us. And promptly, the truth pouncing at our very stubborness, We are clubbed to death with factuality.

But this is our delight. This is our curse. This is our iconic subject, the martyr who is all the more beautiful with the wounds on full display. It hurts to be this good.

Sebastian has historically been viewed as a Saint with a special ability to intercede and protect from plague. The plague of the everyday, and a comfortable night’s sleep, I’m assuming.

THIS MONTH WE’RE DISCUSSING STICK-TO-IT-IVE-NESS In our WRITING…
and will be talking about notorious pessimist philosopher ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER. Who did firmly believe, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stranger, stronger, and if you’re lucky, quite a bit shrewder.

See This Event on Meetup.com

Check out the study guide for this meeting here.

MARCH 2019 – THE FIGHT OF THE SENSES – SYMBOLISM, METAPHOR, AND SYNESTHESIA

CONTINUING OUR DISCUSSION OF

⚫ SYMBOLISM ⚫ FIGHT SCENES ⚫ SYNESTHESIA ⚫

 

WITH AN EVENING OF SHARING WORK,

FRIENDLY & CONSTRUCTIVE CRITIQUE,

FOLLOWED BY

A PROMPT FOR DISCUSSION

ABOUT THE NATURE OF METAPHOR

AND A FIFTEEN MINUTE FREE-WRITING SESSION

 

AND ALSO, A PREVIEW FOR NEXT MONTH

WHEN WE WILL STUDY NOTORIOUS

PESSIMIST PHILOSOPHER

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

WHILE JOINTLY CULTIVATING

STICK-TO-IT-IVENESS

REGARDING OUR PROJECTS

IN OUR APRIL 2nd AND 4th Monday MEETINGS, THEMED

‘THE SCHOPENHAUER CURE’


LIKE TEARS IN RAIN…


 

Symbolism originated in the revolt of certain French poets against the rigid conventions governing both technique and theme in traditional French poetry, as evidenced in the precise description of Parnassian poetry. The Symbolists wished to liberate poetry from its expository functions and its formalized oratory in order to describe instead the fleeting, immediate sensations of man’s inner life and experience. They attempted to evoke the ineffable intuitions and sense impressions of man’s inner life and to communicate the underlying mystery of existence through a free and highly personal use of metaphors and images that, though lacking in precise meaning, would nevertheless convey the state of the poet’s mind and hint at the “dark and confused unity” of an inexpressible reality.

 

 

JULIET APPEARS IN A WINDOW ABOVE

 

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

 

‘In the mathematics of Aristotle’s poetics, the line is written:  

 

Juliet = sun.  

 

Here, Shakespeare gives the thing (Juliet) a name that belongs to something else (the sun). This is a textbook example of metaphor. Indeed, this line turns up in almost every academic treatment of the subject. In literary parlance, the “thing” is called the metaphor’s “target” and the “something else” from which it takes a name is called its “source.” The terminology fits well with the etymology of the word “metaphor” itself. Derived from the Greek roots meta (over, across, or beyond) and phor (to carry), the literal meaning of metaphor is “to carry across.” A metaphor carries across a name from the source to the target.’

 

 

 


NEITHER HERE, NOR THERE…


Thou Art That

BY JOSEPH CAMPBELL

 

Let me begin by explaining the history of my impulse to place metaphor at the center of our exploration of Western spirituality.
When the first volume of my ‘Historical Atlas of World Mythology, The Way of the Animal Powers’

 

came out, the publishers sent me on a publicity tour. This is the worst kind of all possible tours because you move unwillingly to those disc jockeys and newspaper people, themselves unwilling to read the book they are supposed to talk to you about, in order to give it public visibility.

 

The first question I would be asked was always, “What is a myth?” That is a fine beginning for an intelligent conversation. In one city, however, I walked into a broadcasting station for a live half-hour program where the interviewer was a young, smart-looking man who immediately warned me, “I’m tough, I put it right to you. I’ve studied law.”

 

The red light went on and he began argumentatively, “The word ‘myth,’ means ‘a lie.’ Myth is a lie.”

 

So I replied with my definition of myth. “No, myth is not a lie. A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time.”

 

“It’s a lie,” he countered.

 

“It’s a metaphor.”

 

‘It’s a lie.”

 

This went on for about twenty minutes. Around four or five minutes before the end of the program, I realized that this interviewer did not really know what a metaphor was. I decided to treat him as he was treating me.

 

“No,” I said, “I tell you it’s metaphorical. You give me an example of a metaphor.”

 

He replied, “You give me an example.”

 

I resisted, “No, I’m asking the question this time.” I had not taught school for thirty years for nothing. “And I want you to give me an example of a metaphor.”

 

The interviewer was utterly baffled and even went so far as to say, “Let’s get in touch with some school teacher.” Finally, with something like a minute and a half to go, he rose to the occasion and said, “I’ll try. My friend John runs very fast. People say he runs like a deer. There’s a metaphor.”

 

As the last seconds of the interview ticked off, I replied, “That is not the metaphor. The metaphor is: John is a deer.”

 

He shot back, “That’s a lie.”

 

“No,” I said, “That is a metaphor.”

 

And the show ended. What does that incident suggest about our common understanding of metaphor?

 

It made me reflect that half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.

 


I KNEW THESE BIRDS WERE OMENS, BUT OF WHAT?

I WAS NOT SURE. . .


PROMPTS & DISCOVERY

 

If a metaphor is a way of connecting one thing to something related, but -across a distance- somehow different…

  • Think of something you care a great deal about, then consider things you associate with it. Or, things connected, in any way. Then, try making leaps to other solid stones in the lake it lives in.
  • Do any of these step-outs take toehold?
  • Think about perhaps, this thing, or another element, in a story you’re crafting. See the connections to whatever it is, a feeling, a character, an event, and how those relate to the other elements in your story. Think of the connections you have in place so far, feel them as they are there, living. And think of new ones, as you see the story as a pulsing, living thing. Be sure to think of all the senses, give your settings eyes, give your characters lungs, give your events emotions and tactile touch and sounds. Now, does John run LIKE a deer… Or IS he a Deer?

MORE:


FROM: I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World  by James Geary  

 

Rhetoricians throughout history have recognized metaphors as linguistic hand-me-downs, meanings passed on from an old word to a new thing. In De Oratore, Cicero observed:  

 

When something that can scarcely be conveyed by the proper term¹⁶ is expressed metaphorically, the meaning we desire to convey is made clear by the resemblance of the thing that we have expressed by the word that does not belong. Consequently, the metaphors in which you take what you have got from somewhere else are a sort of borrowing.

 

 In his treatise on rhetoric, The Mysteries of Eloquence, Abdalqahir Al-Jurjani also described metaphor as a sort of borrowing. In fact, the Arabic word for metaphor is isti’ara, or “loan¹⁷.”

But when we lend a thing a name that belongs to something else, we lend it a complex pattern of relations and associations, too. We mix and match what we know about the metaphor’s source (in Shakespeare’s case, the sun) with what we know about its target (Juliet). A metaphor juxtaposes two different things and then skews our point of view so unexpected similarities emerge. Metaphorical thinking half discovers and half invents the likenesses it describes.

The “Juliet is the sun” metaphor allows us to understand Juliet much more vividly than if Shakespeare had taken a more literal approach, such as “But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is Juliet, applying her luminous restorative night cream.”

Metaphor is, however, much more than a mere literary device employed by love-struck poets when they refer to their girlfriends as interstellar masses of incandescent gas. Metaphor is intensely yet inconspicuously present in everything from ordinary conversation and commercial messaging to news reports and political speeches. Metaphor is always breathing down our necks.

Look no further than the common expressions we use every day to convey our feelings. Whether you’re down in the dumps or riding high, on the straight and narrow or at a crossroads, cool as a cucumber or hot under the collar, you are fulfilling the classic Aristotelian definition of metaphor by giving the thing (your emotional state) a name that belongs to something else (waste storage facilities, well-paved thoroughfares, refrigerated vegetables).

Even the simplest, most unassuming words are capable of a bewildering variety of metaphorical mutations. Take “shoulder¹⁸,” for instance. You can give someone the cold shoulder or a shoulder to cry on. You can have a chip on your shoulder or be constantly looking over your shoulder. You can stand on the shoulders of giants, stand shoulder to shoulder with your friends, or stand head and shoulders above the rest. Wherever you turn, you can’t help but rub shoulders with one of the word’s multitude of metaphorical meanings.

Metaphor is present in proverbs (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, Let sleeping dogs lie), in idioms (shoot the breeze, kick the bucket), in compound phrases (forbidden fruit, red herring), and in formulaic expressions (in the zone, the last straw).

Ordinary conversation is so rife with figurative phrases because metaphor is about more than just words. We think metaphorically. Metaphorical thinking is the way we make sense of the world, and every individual metaphor is a specific instance of this imaginative process at work. Metaphors are therefore not confined to spoken or written language.

Visual metaphors abound in advertisements and other types of popular imagery, such as the lightbulb that appears above someone’s head to signify a bright idea. But metaphors are not merely symbolic; they have implications for—and impacts on—the “real” world. In one study, for instance, participants exposed to a bare illuminated lightbulb performed better at spatial, verbal, and mathematical problem¹⁹ solving than those exposed to shaded lightbulbs or fluorescent lighting. Brightness, it seems, facilitates insight.

A common metaphorical gesture is the “thumbs-up” sign, in which we indicate our state of general well-being by closing the fist and extending the thumb upward at a 90- degree angle. Visual metaphors like these also follow Aristotle’s definition. The only difference is that the thing is given an image or a gesture rather than a name that belongs to something else.

Metaphor is so essential that it is impossible to describe emotions, abstract concepts, complex ideas, or practically anything else without it, as art historian and connoisseur of metaphor Nelson Goodman wrote in Languages of Art:  

Metaphor permeates all discourse²⁰, ordinary and special, and we should have a hard time finding a purely literal paragraph anywhere. This incessant use of metaphor springs not merely from love of literary color but also from urgent need of economy. If we could not readily transfer schemata to make new sortings and orderings, we should have to burden ourselves with unmanageably many different schemata, either by adoption of a vast vocabulary of elementary terms or by prodigious elaboration of composite ones.

Shakespeare’s description of Juliet is a marvel of metaphorical economy. On the surface, Juliet is nothing like the sun. Nevertheless, she shines. Romeo is inexorably drawn by her gravitational pull. She is the center of his universe. She radiates heat. And her brightness can, of course, burn. In these particulars at least, she is indeed the sun. Shakespeare’s schematic transfer tells us everything we need to know about Juliet—and Romeo’s feelings for her—in just four simple words.

After hundreds of years of constant use, this comparison has become something of a cliché. But the metaphorical thinking that enabled the equation to be made in the first place is the essence of creativity in the sciences as well as the arts. Whenever we solve a problem, make a discovery, or devise an innovation, the same kind of metaphorical thinking takes place.

Scientists and inventors compare two things: what they know and what they don’t know. The only way to find out about the latter is to investigate the ways it might be like the former. And whenever we explore how one thing is like another, we are in the realm of metaphorical thinking, as in this comparison, another academic staple, from Scottish poet Robert Burns:  

 

My love is like a red, red rose²¹.  

 

By drawing our attention to the similarities between the object of his affections and a perennial flowering shrub of the Rosaceae family, Burns exquisitely—and economically— tells us about the unknown (his love) by comparing it with the known (a red, red rose). We can therefore be reasonably sure that the beauty of Burns’s beloved is flush and full (and fleeting), her perfume is sweet, and she can be very prickly. And we know all this without ever having laid eyes on her.

The paradox of metaphor is that it tells us so much about a person, place, or thing by telling us what that person, place, or thing is not. Understanding a metaphor (like reading a book about that process, in fact) is a seemingly random walk through a deep, dark forest of associations. The path is full of unexpected twists and turns, veering wildly off into the underbrush one minute and abruptly disappearing down a rabbit hole the next. Signposts spin like weather vanes. You can’t see the wood for the trees. Then, suddenly, somehow, you step into the clearing. A metaphor is both detour and destination, a digression that gets to the point.

Aristotle identified the mastery of metaphorical thinking as “a sign of genius²², since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.” French mathematician Henri Poincaré found an ingenious metaphor for metaphorical thinking in the theories of one of Aristotle’s predecessors, Epicurus.

According to the Greeks, the world was made up of just two basic things: atoms and the void. “Atoms are unlimited in size and number²³,” wrote Democritus, the fourth-century B.C.E. philosopher who formulated ancient Greece’s version of atomic theory, “and they are borne along in the whole universe in a vortex, and thereby generate all composite things—fire, water, air, earth; for even these are conglomerations of given atoms.”

To the Greeks, the physical universe was, quite literally, an atomic shower, a steady downpour of tiny, indivisible particles falling through empty space. All the objects in the world—all the things we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste—were made up of atoms combining and recombining in every conceivable way.

In some of the wilder expositions of the theory, thinkers imagined a distant time when the body parts of every living thing tumbled through the void. The early universe was a cascade of arms and legs, feet and paws, fins and wings, hands and claws. Every limb connected randomly with every other until it met its corresponding shape and clicked into place. Through this process of trial and error, the world as we know it was made.

But Epicurus, who was born around 341 B.C.E., spotted a flaw in the theory. In order to meet its match, an atom could not simply fall through the void like rain. It must veer from the vertical path and waft its way down like a feather. Otherwise, he reasoned, it would never bump into any other atoms and thus never form the conglomerations Democritus described.

So Epicurus came up with the clinamen—the unpredictable moment during which each atom deviates from its course, creating the opportunity for a chance encounter with another atom. It was only through these “clinamactic” collisions, Epicurus believed, that change, surprise, and variety entered the world.

Like most ancient Greek philosophers, Epicurus left behind very few of his own words and even less about his own life. We know about the clinamen largely thanks to the first- century C.E. Roman poet Lucretius, whose epic poem On the Nature of the Universe is an encyclopedic exposition of Epicurean philosophy.

Not much is known about Lucretius, either, except that, according to Saint Jerome, he was driven insane by a love potion and killed himself at the age of forty-four. Whether his love resembled the sun, a red, red rose, or something else entirely, we do not know.

Still, for a love-crazed, suicidal poet, Lucretius summed up Epicurus’s ideas quite lucidly. Without the clinamen, he wrote, “No collision would take place²⁴ and no impact of atom upon atom would be created. Thus nature would never have created anything.” Some 2,000 years after the composition of Lucretius’s poem, Poincaré used Epicurean atomic theory to explain the nature of mathematical discovery and, by extension, the nature of metaphorical thinking.

Born in Nancy, France, in 1854, Poincaré was a cross between a dandy and a distracted professor. He was “short and plump²⁵, carried an enormous head set off by a thick spade beard and splendid moustache, was myopic, stooped, distraught in speech, absent-minded and wore pince-nez glasses attached to a black silk ribbon.” He was also intensely interested in the sources of creativity.

In The Foundations of Science, Poincaré set out his general theory of ingenuity. Based on his own experience as well as his interrogations of other mathematicians, Poincaré concluded that great creative breakthroughs occur unexpectedly and unconsciously after an extended period of hard, conscious labor. He invoked an Epicurean analogy to explain this. Poincaré described ideas as being like Epicurus’s atoms, writing:  

 

During the complete repose of the mind²⁶, these atoms are motionless; they are, so to speak, hooked to the wall . . . During a period of apparent rest and unconscious work, certain of them are detached from the wall and put in motion. They flash in every direction through the space . . . as would, for example, a swarm of gnats . . . Their mutual impacts may produce new combinations. What is the role of the preliminary conscious work? It is evidently to mobilize certain of these atoms, to unhook them from the wall and put them in swing. After this shaking-up imposed upon them by our will, these atoms do not return to their primitive rest. They freely continue their dance.  

 

Poincaré’s atomic two-step is a deft analogy for how mathematical creativity—indeed, all creativity—lies in the dance of metaphorical thought, the tumultuous tango that ensues when idea rubs up against idea, when thought grapples with thought.

Metaphor is the mind’s great swerve. Creativity don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that clinamactic swing.

This same idea is contained in the three most famous words in all of Western philosophy, Descartes’s “Cogito ergo sum.” This phrase is routinely translated as:  

 

I think, therefore I am.  

 

But there is a better translation. The Latin word cogito is derived from the prefix co (with or together) and the verb agitare (to shake). Agitare is the root of the English words “agitate” and “agitation.” Thus, the original meaning of cogito is “to shake together,” and the proper translation of “Cogito ergo sum” is:  

 

I shake things up, therefore I am.  

 

Metaphor shakes things up, producing everything from Shakespeare to scientific insight in the process.

The mind is a plastic snow dome: most beautiful, most interesting, and most itself when, as Elvis put it, it’s all shook up. And metaphor keeps the mind shaking, rattling, and rolling long after Elvis has left the building.

MARCH 2019 – THAT GOOD OL’ DECADENCE, SEX & VIOLENCE, AND ART FOR ART’S SAKE

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”

– T.S. Eliot

 

LITERARY THEORY . . .

Some Excerpted from ‘The Symbolist Movement: A Critical Appraisal’ by Anna Balakian, Some From Literary Criticism by M.A.R. Habib 

LTERARY ACTION !

Grammar Girl’s HOW TO WRITE A FIGHT SCENE

SYMBOLISM & AESTHETICISM WRITING FIGHT SCENES
  • Drugs, Music, Perfume
  • Fight Scene Cliches
  • Art For Art’s Sake . . .&
II.    Make Your Fight Scene Fresh
  • Decadence (The Symbolists’ ETHICS)
III.   What Did You Bring to the Fight?

 

BONUS: SYNESTHESIA  / IDEASTHESIA PROMPTS

 

LITERARY THEORY . . .

SYMBOLISM & AESTHETICISM

 

Even as the currents of realism and then naturalism held sway in European literature, there was also fermenting in the works of poets such as Charles Baudelaire an alternative set of concerns: with language, with poetic form, with evocation of mental states and ideal worlds, and the most intimate recesses of human subjectivity.

To some extent, these concerns were inherited from the Romantics, as was the antagonism toward an urban life regulated by the cycles of modern industry and commerce. The followers of Baudelaire eventually became associated with a literary and cultural disposition which stubbornly resisted the main streams of thought stemming from the Enlightenment, and which crystallized toward the end of the nineteenth century as a series of reactions against the realism and naturalism then in vogue. These reactions included symbolism, aestheticism, and impressionism, which have sometimes, and in varying combinations, fallen under the label of “decadence.”

This broad anti-realist and anti-bourgeois disposition had already surfaced in many writers and movements: in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of artists formed in 1848 in England which looked back to the direct and morally serious art of the Middle Ages prior to the advent of the Renaissance artist Raphael; in the Parnassian poets of France, inspired by Théophile Gautier and Leconte de Lisle (1818 –1894), who adopted an ethic of “art for art’s sake”; and in the theories of poetic composition elaborated by Edgar Allan Poe.

Baudelaire and his successors, such as Paul Verlaine (1844 –1896), Arthur Rimbaud (1854 –1891), and Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898), were the heirs of these aesthetic tendencies; and they have all been associated with French symbolism. This affiliation is retrospective since the symbolist movement as such arose somewhat later, its manifesto being penned by Jean Moréas in 1886. The other symbolists included the poets Jules Laforgue, Henri de Regnier, Gustave Kahn, the novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, the dramatist Maurice Maeterlinck, and the critic Remy de Gourmont. This movement reached its zenith in the 1890s and thereafter declined, being often derisively viewed as a form of decadence and affectation. It was the precursors of the symbolists – Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé – rather than the symbolists themselves who have had a vast and enduring influence, extending from major poets such as W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot, through writers of fiction such as Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf, and dramatists such as August Strindberg, to philosophers of language and modern literary theorists such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and Julia Kristeva.

The major critic of the symbolist movement was Remy de Gourmont, who urged the ideals of subjectivity and artistic purity. He asserted that “only mediocre works are impersonal” 1 and advocated a “pure art” which was “concerned exclusively with self-realization” 2 This affirmation of personality in literature was based upon Gourmont’s philosophical dispositions: a staunch subjective idealist, he insisted that idealism found its best formulation in Schopenhauer’s statement that “the world is my representation,” a formula that Gourmont held to be “irrefutable.” 3 These statements embody the central philosophical and aesthetic stance of symbolism. In general, the symbolists refused to take the material world they had inherited as the real world. Drawing on Platonic philosophy, they saw the present world as an imperfect reflection or expression of a higher, infinite, and eternal realm which could be evoked by symbols. Hence they rejected the descriptive language of the realists and naturalists in favor of a more suggestive, symbolic, and allusive language, a language that could evoke states of consciousness and experience. They spurned all forms of discursive language – argument, debate, and narration – and the ideals of logical coherence or accuracy of reference. They also drew on Baudelaire’s notion of “correspondences” between the senses to elaborate an aesthetic of synaesthesia, and their predominant analogy for poetry was with music.

Symons quotes Carlyle’s definition of the symbol as possessing a “double significance,” as a locus where “the Infinite is made to blend itself with the Finite” (2–3). Seen in this light, symbolism was an attempt to reinvest language with its powers of ambivalence and mystery, to relieve it of the stultifying burden of representing factitious identity and clear-cut categories. As Symons put it, symbolism “is all an attempt to . . . evade the old bondage of rhetoric, the old bondage of exteriority” (8).

In a sense, French symbolism is a return to the arbitrariness beneath the layers of convention, a flight to a deeper subjectivity which negates or situates the literal subjectivity of the bourgeois self. Far from returning to a medieval religious regimentation of the signifying powers of language,

French symbolism must erect subjectivity itself – and the literature which uniquely expresses it – into a religion. As Symons says, such literature attains its “authentic speech” only by accepting a heavier burden: “it becomes itself a kind of religion” (9). As so often at the end of the nineteenth century, the totalizing impulses of philosophy and theology were displaced into the realm of poetry.

 

 

  • Drugs, Music, Perfume

 

 

“To handle a language wisely means to practice a kind of evocative witchcraft.”

 

Metaphor and symbol, by comparing what exists inside of us to what exists in the world, makes leap that sew threads connecting the human soul into the divine mind. This makes the poet, in a large sense, a translator, a decipherer of divine hieroglyphics. The literary movement of Symbolism was largely influenced by the religious mystic (who seemed to be blasphemous to many mainstream churchfolk because of the connections he was making) Emmanuel Swedenborg, because he explained the divine and familiar religious concepts in terms of human experience and relationships.

 

There was a fervor for shaping literal correspondence between the divine and natural worlds.

 

Much of the Symbolist movement was also based on an obsession with music, and making the forms of music rush into the forms of poetry and to have them intermingle there.

Wagner displayed for Baudelaire “the mystical uses of music: symbolism that is not allegory, since it leaves a gap to be filled by the imagination of him who hears it. If the melodies are deemed to be the personification of ideas, they nevertheless leave the ultimate interpretations to each man who experiences the phenomenon. This is, of course, parallel to the effects of intoxicants, which, depending on the sensory and neurological make-up of the intoxicated, are as variable and personalized as those of music. Wagner was for Baudelaire the true artist, the complete artist, who in his combination of drama, poetry, music, and decor exemplified that attainment of the perfect interplay of the sense perceptions that was to be the ideal of the poet.”

 

“The synesthesia that occurs in the mingling of sense perceptions does not produce a link between heaven and earth, nor does it transport us to a divine state; instead, it finds its connections between sense experiences here on earth: between perfumes and the flesh of children, linked by an adjective which has an olfactory as well as a tactical connotation, between sounds and colors (not in Heaven but here on earth) linking the oboe and the prairies, again through the clever use of an adjective that is applicable to more than one category of sensual imagery. In the last line, Baudelaire reveals that the secret of attaining synesthesia is not through the inner eye and its contact with the divine, but rather in the connection of the mind (Vesprit) with the senses (les sens) by means of a natural stimulus, such as incense or amber. The synesthesia is strictly earthly, descriptive of the kind of chain association that sensual stimuli can produce in the mind of man, and from which Proust was later to derive his notion of involuntary memory. Here the expansion of the sense stimulus does not go so far as to awaken a whole series of remembrances; what it does is to unleash metaphors on a double tract of sense perceptions. There is no spirituality here, even though most translators of Baudelaire’s famous sonnet have used the English word “spirit” to transmit the concept”.

 

“This is the process of indirect discourse in full play: not the direct expression of emotion by means of qualifying, descriptive adjectives, not the representation of the emotion through specific allegorical personifications, but rather the intervention of communication between ihe poet and the reader through an image or a series of images that have subjective as well as objective value. While their objective existence is unilateral, their subjective meaning is multidimensional, and therefore suggestive rather than designated: the censer, the altar, the monstrance, the violin, the blood. Poetry communicates through the intermediary of the image: as a river purges itself of debris in a lake and comes out looking quite different, so the propelling concept passes through the pool of the metaphor and comes out transfigured.”

 

“I have been saying for a very long time that the poet is supremely intelligent, that he is intelligence itself—and that imagination is the most scientific of all faculties, because it alone understands universal analogy, or what mystic religion calls “correspondences.””

 

“Correspondences”, as in Baudelaire’s poem of that name, are ways of linking different senses to objects, emotions, events, and being transported, via synesthesia, fanciful bouts of imagination, and the conduits of divine and earthly mind, that these poets traversed in their explorations of images and meaning. The symbolists were seeking for the infinite, in order to pull it down into the world of appearance, and trap it onto a page via word and ink. The way they tried, and perhaps, managed, to do so, was due to the form their movements took, and that is what style came to be known as, technically ‘Symbolism’, but in shade and hue, ‘Decadence’, ‘Art-For-Art’s-Sake’, and by matter-of-heart what Paul Valery had to say, so far as… the ‘Symbolist ETHICS’. “There is no symbolist aesthetics,” “their aesthetics divided them, their ethics united them.” And these manifested in both the symbols that became reused and perhaps worn out, but also the stance they took to the world, to the mysteries of nature, to death, to the blank page, and likewise to the void.

 

 

  • Art For Art’s Sake . . .&

 

 

“The artist is the creator of beautiful things,” Oscar Wilde writes in his preface to ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

 

With this salvo, “Already, we are worlds away from the notion of art as imitation, art as expressing either reality or ideality, as well as from any purported connection of art with truth or morality. Indeed, Wilde continues, there “is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book” and “No artist has ethical sympathies.” Moreover, no “artist desires to prove anything . . . Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” For Wilde, as for Pater, the prime object of pursuit is beauty, beauty absolutely divorced from all other considerations, moral or practical.”

 

The phrase ‘Art For Art’s Sake’ was coined by critic Walter Pater. “Pater’s work belongs to an era of what is called “decadence,” marked by a resigned withdrawal from social and political concerns, disillusionment with the consolations available in religion, and a rejection of the philistine and mechanical world which was the legacy of mainstream bourgeois thought and practice, in favor of an exaltation of art and of experience. Needless to say, the views of Pater, Wilde, and other aesthetes and impressionists brought them into conflict not only with the builders of systems and the defenders of religion or morality, but also with those Victorian writers who saw art and literature as having a high moral purpose and civilizing function.

“In the preface to his The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, Pater rejects as useless any attempt to define “beauty in the abstract.” While on the surface Pater claims to accept Matthew Arnold’s imperative that the function of true criticism is to“see the object as in itself it really is,” he redefines this formula in a subjective way:to see the object as it really is, he says, “is to know one’s own impression as it really is,to discriminate it, to realize it distinctly” (viii). The kinds of questions we should askare: “What is this song or picture . . . to me? What effect does it really produce on me?”The answers to these questions are the “original facts” which must be confronted by the critic (viii).Pater’s views of aesthetic experience are rooted in his account of experience in general. In the conclusion to Studies he observes that modern thought tends to view all things as in constant flux. Our physical life is a “perpetual motion” of ever changing combinations of elements and forces. This is even more true of our mental life, of theworld of thought and feeling. At first sight, he says, “experience seems to bury us undera flood of external objects . . . But when reflexion begins to play on those objects they are dissipated under its influence . . . the whole scope of observation is dwarfed into the narrow chamber of the individual mind” (234 –235). Hence the world which seemed overwhelming, which seemed solid and external and of boundless scope, is actually encompassed within the circle of our impressions, our experience (235). Not only does the whole world reduce itself to our impressions, but these impressions themselves areever vanishing and in “perpetual flight” (236). Given the brevity of our life, we must“be for ever curiously testing new opinions and courting new impressions, never acquiescing in a facile orthodoxy, of Comte, or of Hegel, or of our own.” For Pater,experience must be undertaken for its own sake: “Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end . . . To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life” (236 –237). Such intense experience is furnished foremost by “the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake”(239).

We have here reached a point in Western culture where experience is dirempted and abstracted from any kind of constraint whatsoever, even from its consensual overlap with that of other individuals. Hegel would have regarded such experience as an abstract category, not even possible; but Pater expresses a desperate attempt to redeem experience from the weight of centuries of oppression and coercion and molding into various socially acceptable forms. He effectively aestheticizes experience, equating the fullness of experience with beauty, in an attempt to extricate the category of experience from the burdens invested in it by bourgeois thought. Experience is no longer a reliable source of knowledge or a basis of scientific inquiry; it is not a realm which constrains the operations of reason; nor is it a realm under the strict surveillance of morality or of religious institutions. It is raised from the mereness of means to the exaltation of end, a celebration of purposelessness, a celebration of indirection, of relativism and randomness.”

 

“As for the isolation of the poet, Mallarme took an unequivocal stand on that subject, which he conveyecl to his followers. He felt that, in a society that made no official place for, nor gave any recognized rank to the poet, the poet did not need to concern himself with society. He had the right to withdraw from the circle of social action, to work in solitary or in sheltered surroundings, and once in a while to send a poem—a visiting card, as it were—to the world, to remind it of his existence. Most of the Symbolists were to acquiesce in this attitude and to go out of their way to create a gulf between themselves and the public; they drew closer to each other in order to remain the more withdrawn from the world. The ivory tower became in truth a reality, a symbol of the poet’s stand, a sharp reversal of the attitude of Victor Hugo or Tennyson, who had thought of themselves as the eloquent spokesmen of the people, the voice of humanity.”

 

“For Mallarme the word “obscure” has a purely subjective connotation. When a journalist is obscure, he is defaulting in a domain where it is necessary to have unequivocal reporting; the nature of journalism demands the use of words that leave only one meaning for all and suggest no doubts. When a poet is accused of being “obscure” he is in reality being told that he is not being journalistic; according to Mallarme, if he did narrate and describe like a journalist, and thereby became clear, by virtue of that very clarity he would no longer be a poet. His so-called obscurity is the public’s recognition of the veiled meaning—the only valid distinction between poetry and prose, in Mallarme’s opinion; here is how Mallarm^’s English friend Edmund Gosse reports in his “Symbolisme et M. Mallarm6” Mallarm^’s very strong sentiment in this respect: “no, dear poet, except by awkwardness, I am not obscure, as soon as people read me in terms of the principles I maintain, or as an example of the manifestations of an art which happens to utilize language, and I become obscure, it is true, if people are misled and think that they are opening the pages of a newspaper.”

 

 

  • Decadence (The Symbolists’ ETHICS)

 

 

“Symbolism is a style; it is a signature.

The greatest misunderstandings about it have arisen because of the impressionistic criticism by which it has been described.

Among the heterogeneous miscellany of elements associated with symbolism there are three prevailing constants:

  • ambiguity of indirect communication;
  • affiliation with music;
  • and the “decadent” spirit.”

 

-concern with the mystery of life, the futility of free will, the imminence of death in man’s daily existence, the abyss of our incomprehensions—but, with it all, the consciousness of the role of the artist, the comfort of the arts as the only means of demolishing chance, the permanence of man through the emission of a thought. In accepting this position, the symbolists demonstrated a deeper philosophic mettle than Verlaine, or Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. The mirror,which had been the symbol of the contemplation of self, became the representation of the void, the absence of life, or gave way to the white sheet upon which the poem might blossom. If “decadence” was basically the haunting awareness of man’s mortality—“the daily tragic,” as Hofmannsthal calls it; “the tragic sentiment of life,” as Unamuno expressed it—then the impermanence of the artist as creator was overcome by the permanence of the created work, and nihilism was able to negate itself through the work of art. What Rimbaud had earlier discerned, in the distinction he made between the egotist and the creative artist, became the true gauge of the validity of the symbolist work of art. Does the so-called probing of the soul consist of the dazzling effects of synesthesia, or of the great flight into solitude, or of the togetherness of the elite, or of consolation in alcohol and/or drugs? Or do the images of death and devastation, of the cruelty of time and the frailty of man, transcend the narcissist preoccupation and achieve a representation of the human condition? The best of the symbolists achieved ihis end.

 

Paul Valery, commenting on the historic significance of symbolism in the development of poetry, has said that “there is no symbolist aesthetics,” and also explained that “their aesthetics divided them, their ethics united them.”

 

All the myths that could signify this hopelessness of man’s destiny were utilized. In this respect, the myth of Hamlet, so attractive to this end-of-a-century attitude, is hardly identified with the Shakespearean character struggling within himself, but has been stylized into the moment of contemplation of Yorick’s skull. This is the Hamlet who identifies man as the “quintessence of dust.” From one end of Europe to the other, under the banner of symbolism, poetry became a danse macabre, in which death, the great and formidable intruder, waits in the shadows, mingles with us, takes his mask off at the least expected moment

 

to the traditional parallelism between the abstract and the concrete. In fact, Baudelaire defines Romantic art in terms of the famous duality and its representation in poetic imagery.

Furthermore, if personal immortality is rejected, death becomes instead the frontline target of metaphysical meditations. The “gouffre” is the frontier between the visible and the invisible, the conscious and the unconscious, nonlife and the living; how far one can push beyond the accepted frontier and still come back to write about it, became the foremost poetic question after Baudelaire. For the “decadent,” who has grown tired of all other experiences, the “gouffre” is the only fountainhead of novelty, although the dangers of the journey are multiple and evident. This flirtation with death, suggested by Baudelaire, and its representation in literary imagery, will be exploited by the symbolists as they assume more and more the character of the “decadent” and explore the Plutonian fields of the morbid and the lethal. Swinburne, one of the first translators of Baudelaire, was also a sponsor of the “decadent” with his beautiful poem “Proserpine,” a shining star of the darkness.

LITERARY ACTION! 

HOW TO WRITE A FIGHT SCENE by Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast

BONUS: SYNAESTHESIA  / IDEASTHESIA PROMPTS

 

____

220px-Synesthesia_5 220px-Booba-Kiki.svg
An illustration drawn by a synesthete showing her time unit – space synesthesia/ideasthesia: the months in a year are organized into a circle surrounding her body, each month having a fixed location in space and a unique color. Which one would be called Bouba and which Kiki? Responses are highly consistent among people. This is an example of ideasthesia as the conceptualization of the stimulus plays an important role.

Ideasthesia (alternative spelling ideaesthesia) is defined as a phenomenon in which activations of concepts (inducers) evoke perception-like experiences (concurrents). The name comes from the Ancient Greek ἰδέα (idéa) and αἴσθησις (aísthēsis), meaning “sensing concepts” or “sensing ideas”.[1] The main reason for introducing the notion of ideasthesia was the problems with synesthesia. While “synesthesia” means “union of senses”, empirical evidence indicated that this was an incorrect explanation of a set of phenomena traditionally covered by this heading. Syn-aesthesis denoting also “co-perceiving”, implies the association of two sensory elements with little connection to the cognitive level. However, according to others,[2][3][4][5][6][7] most phenomena that have inadvertently been linked to synesthesia in fact are induced by the semantic representations. That is, the meaning of the stimulus is what is important rather than its sensory properties, as would be implied by the term synesthesia. In other words, while synesthesia presumes that both the trigger (inducer) and the resulting experience (concurrent) are of sensory nature, ideasthesia presumes that only the resulting experience is of sensory nature while the trigger is semantic. Meanwhile, the concept of ideasthesia developed into a theory of how we perceive and the research has extended to topics other than synesthesia — as the concept of ideasthesia turned out applicable to our everyday perception. Ideasthesia has been even applied to the theory of art. Research on ideasthesia bears important implications for solving the mystery of human conscious experience, which according to ideasthesia, is grounded in how we activate concepts.[8]

MARCH 2019 – SYMBOLISM AND AESTHETICISM LITERARY MOVEMENTS

March: Symbolist and Aestheticism movements: Ch. 19 in our Literary Criticism Text https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bskzgZp-tXVwAbUnQT_8ClqnVKOs0TCy/view?usp=sharing

Focusing on authors Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), Walter Pater (1839 – 1894), and Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900), running countercurrent in theory to the Realist/Naturalist movements we studied in Feb, Symbolists and Aestheticists address “an alternative set of concerns: with language, with poetic form, with evocation of mental states and ideal worlds, and the most intimate recesses of human subjectivity.” Baudelaire’s works were censored, Wilde was imprisoned for his sexuality.

Pater’s criticism “belongs to an era of what is called “decadence,” marked by a resigned withdrawal from social and political concerns, disillusionment with the consolations available in religion, and a rejection of the philistine and mechanical world which was the legacy of mainstream bourgeois thought and practice, in favor of an exaltation of art and of experience. Needless to say, the views of Pater, Wilde, and other aesthetes and impressionists brought them into conflict not only with the builders of systems and the defenders of religion or morality, but also with those Victorian writers who saw art and literature as having a high moral purpose and civilizing function.”

Some moved onwards and upwards in their rebellion to a position of ‘Art for Art’s Sake.’

“The artist is the creator of beautiful things,”

With this salvo, “Already, we are worlds away from the notion of art as imitation, art as expressing either reality or ideality, as well as from any purported connection of art with truth or morality. Indeed, Wilde continues, there “is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book” and “No artist has ethical sympathies.” Moreover, no “artist desires to prove anything . . . Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” For Wilde, as for Pater, the prime object of pursuit is beauty, beauty absolutely divorced from all other considerations, moral or practical.”

There’s been interest expressed in the group for discussing how to better write fight scenes, and also better sex scenes.

We’ll spend some time going over both the LitCrit text and talking writing these scenes, and to try to find some ways they tie together perhaps.

I love these youtube videos about how

‘John Wick Changed Action Movies And You Barely Noticed’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPTQlfPQo6o

and

‘Movie Violence Done Right’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKiQs1dE0Tc

by critic ‘The NerdWriter’

They have lots of insight for someone working in literature as well.

A good example of a fight scene, one integrated into plot that moves story along, is this one from the book ‘The Princess Bride’, which was on many of the lists of best fight scenes I looked up online. Imagine reading it through for the first time, knowing the characters only from the book, and having them in your imagination… facing the end of their journey. But if you’ve only seen it as a movie, perhaps you are comparing it to the action in the film and get a sort of sluggish feeling from reading through it, compared to how you remember it, in the film? Let’s discuss what you think! Here’s a link to the whole thing: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EQKKFaepGaTrFCB2kAKRy-3v6feUvmuUTePfPDhIbfA/edit?usp=sharing

As for a sex scene, I was going to pick one from Henry Miller, who I am fairly familiar with, but decided to expand my horizons and read some Anais Nin to look for one, which I’ll post soon and add to the study packet for discussion.

If you have a favorite scene you wish to share, feel free to bring it to a meeting, or post a link in the Monarch Writer Discussions. As well, if you have anything you want to mention about a connection to the Literary Criticism theme this month, or anything at all on your mind, really! https://www.meetup.com/The-Monarch-Writers/discussions/

Please bring $1 to chip in for Meetup.com hosting.

FEBRUARY 2019 – TECHNIQUES FOR ACHIEVING TRUTH: Realism and Naturalism

This month I want to talk about Techniques for getting at TRUTH. Which the Realist and Naturalist Movements were both working on. They were trying to write in a way that reflected Real Life, and depict the struggles of Real People, without the overly fanciful flights of Romanticism or some of the Over Idealisations of the Enlightenment. Many times they were harsh in their depictions, and they had their characters fall into troubles that they claimed were justified by scientific theories, rough chance, ‘the way things are’, or other deterministic equations that reflected the face of reality as it presented itself to their increasingly modernistic minds.

It seems, we’re all doomed in the end to a negative fate. But art, I think, is about knowing the world as it really is, and accepting it for what it is, and fighting anyway. And still putting up a damned good resistance. Art, is about not giving into the inevitable. There’s a bit of madness in the artist, always.

The Realist and Naturalist movements are semi-reactionary movements against Hegel’s philosophy, and his idea that History is progressing towards some positive, absolute good, and that the mind works with reality to create an ideal. For a brief moment it seemed the world might make sense. But the vision falls from such sublime heights into the chaos of fractured ideas about how to make the world ‘better.’

It reminds me of the 1960’s in our more recent cultural history and how the 70’s turned all those great ideals of revolution and peace back on themselves and end up turning everything into marketing and money and jeans ads and from LSD mind expansion and garage rock to cocaine and… Disco.

In the Sixties a lot of writers were experimenting with Fiction and Non-Fiction blends and cross-overs, from Norman Mailer’s ‘The Armies of the Night’, billed as “History as a Novel / The Novel as History”, to Hunter S. Thompson writing ‘Gonzo Journalism’. Going back to the Realists and Naturalists, they took a first step in this direction by no longer making fiction only about Kings and Queens and the Aristocratic Elites, but starting to write about the lower classes, and everyday people, to say that their lives were just as important and full of meaning. That class war in who cuts muster as SUBJECT seems to me to march onward to find itself engaging on the same battlefield in the battle of IS THE TRUTH OF THE SUBJECT worthy of the SAME REGARD AS THE TRUTH OF SO CALLED ‘OBJECTIVITY’. Though, again, that way traverses into MADNESS TERRITORY. Off the edge of the known map, where they mark the unknown, non-terra-firma “HERE THAR BE MONSTERS!”

These are the realms the poet makes their home when they decide to tell their story, though! That is written invisibly on every blank page: “Here thar be monsters!” – Is it not? And the best tools at our disposal for cutting through the jungle are both machete-like, AND mystical. The things that give us the raw energy to attack the page, to hold back our fear and refill the inkwell with subconscious hutzpah, whether it is a writing group that lets you be yourself, the help of the whole community of art and the books you give your faith to daily, as a reader and fellow, and the sheer willpower to tell your story. And also, those divination techniques that free the muse, from the use of tarot cards, or the ‘Cut-Up Technique’, or Dream Journaling, regular journaling, 10 minute writing exercises, all those things that let you get a word in edgewise and continue beating down the blankness of the page. Truth is cumulative, and spreads like fire, fed. The more you add to it, the more it grows strong, and has a hunger for more of itself. But we also must find ways to stay connected to it. To not have those days where we feel disconnected from what we have created, or fall into imposter syndromes from all that we have already accomplished. We need to practice self-gratitude and appreciation for what we have and who we are, then. And this grows with the strength of our voice!

So, this month, let’s start a discussion about both TRUTH and FACT. From the SUBJECTIVE portion, where we spark those flames, and throw our oxygen, and fuel (our sweat, hard work, and will) at the goals we set for ourselves… The things we see behind our eyes, the dreams we envision… to the OBJECTIVE side- The things that for one, we can never know, but only interpret, and yet, keep nagging at us, for they seem to never live up to what we hope to receive. The appreciation and acceptance we want from the world, the publications we want to achieve, the finished book we want to hold in our hands finally. — The history that we remember and want to try to remember in a sharper, clearer way; to make into our truth, that may hurt us to remember. The harshness of that bright reality that makes it hard to try sometimes, which we keep trying to turn into productive days. To be worthy of our own dreams.

QUESTIONS / PROMPTS FOR FEBRUARY:

  1. Is my writing an experiment where I am trying to learn something, to test a hypothesis, to figure out a thought while I write?
  2. Or do I want to present my writing like a magic trick where all the hard work goes on behind the scenes, and I make the telling seem effortless, and all the reader sees is rabbit popping up from the hat, where there was no rabbit before? Will I eventually strive to hide the mechanism?
  3. What is the benefit of each of these types of writing?
  4. It is very important to write on the ‘in-between’ days, when you are working through something, but don’t feel like ‘talking about’ it. Because the thoughts that are churning in your head, happen to be the very conflict of the story, of your personal/character dillema being thought through. Try to at least make a few notes on these days, so that you can flesh out the thoughts that are at the heart of where your story goes through tough changes! You don’t go from point a to point b without  a ½ ? Know what I mean?

JANUARY 2019 – IMAGINATION WRITING PROMPTS

  1. Imagination is usually seen as a Creative force, but many of the writers and philosophers in Romanticism talk about using IMAGINATION to make sense of contradicting visions in the real world. The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre says when we imagine, we must first destroy the image of what exists in our mind before we create something anew, that consciousness necessarily involves a power of negation. Write about IMAGINATION in your work as either a CONSTRUCTIVE or DESTRUCTIVE force.
  2. If IMAGINATION is the power to turn chaos into meaning, to cohere the random events of our day into a type of story, (if we take it as one of the essential powers of our minds), how can we strengthen and flex our imagination during the day to help us not just as artists, but as human beings?
  3. Think about children at play. Using imagination, playing games, creating games in their own minds that may have rules that wouldn’t even make sense to an adult, perhaps working on a kind of dream logic. Working on developing relationships and making connections. What kind of narrative techniques might hide in these games? What kind of breakdowns in normal storytelling might get at an intimacy with ourselves that could bring us back to a childlike state? Freud observed his grandson playing with a block on a string, a type of yo-yo. He would throw the object away from him and say  out loud “fort!” (“gone away!”) and then reel it back to him and yell “da” (“there it is!” or “back again!”). Freud speculated the child was playing this game, as a way of testing and teasing his mental control over his power of the absence and fulfillment of needs. Because we cannot control at that age exactly when our needs are met, he was making a game of the experience of possibly being able to control that.
  4. Think about what you get from fiction and imaginary worlds in your life, and what you’d like to give other people, on whatever scale and dimension imaginable, in creating a world for them. Do you want to create a Universe to explore like a Star Wars saga? Or true moments, true breaths, in poetry?