Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Richards Powers wrote his new novel by dictation. Does that affect the quality?
Richard Powers’ new novel, Generosity, was published this week. I am a huge fan of Powers, and I loved the novel. But not all had the same reaction. James Wood wrote a lengthy article critiquing Powers and his latest novel in this week’s New Yorker. Wood argues that Powers’s novels lack convincing plots and characters. Fair enough—we are entitled to disagree. But in the middle of his essay he makes a comment that reveals an odd literary prejudice.The main character of the novel, Russell Stone, is a failed writer. Since “Stone is himself a failed writer, perhaps Powers thought that mimetic fidelity compelled him to compose a failure, too.” Ouch: a novel about a bad writer is badly written on purpose. But then Wood goes on to give what he deems a more reasonable explanation for s the novel’s weakness: “A less postmodern explanation might be the now reasonably well-known fact that Powers has for some time been writing fiction by dictation, with the help of speech-recognition software.”And he leaves it at that. No explanation, no warrants to explain the assumption, no claims, supports or data to back up this explanation. The fact speaks for itself, Wood assumes: the novel is bad because Powers dictated it.Huh? Is it a truth generally acknowledged that writers who talk are inferior to those who scratch or tap? I think not. I know not.Henry James dictated many of his novels. So did Mark Twain. Socrates and Homer? Well, you get my drift.There is no logical, historical, cultural, aesthetic, or cognitive reason why dictation is a poor way to write. As Powers himself said of his use of voice recognition software a few years ago: “Writing is the act of accepting the huge shortfall between the story in the mind and what hits the page. ... For that, no interface will ever be clean or invisible enough for us to get the passage right.”I would argue more of us should dictate than do now. I have seen how much fun my 10 year old son has when he gets to dictate his creative writing assignments for school to me. Freed from trying to find the “p” on the keyboard or remember to cross his “t,” words flow. Sentences, even, with clauses. Every so often he says out loud: “Return.”Not all of us have the gift of composed speech, or speaking to write. I do not. I am a cut-and-paste revising maniac—never the first time will do for me, and I never know where I am going to go next. But just as anyone can be trained to write, anyone can be trained to memorize.In his textbook on rhetoric, the Insituto Oratoria, Quintilian describes how to build a memory palace, a form on mnemonics in which orators picture a structure they know well—a palace, a house, and imaginatively furnish it with objects. Each object is then used as a symbol for a point the orator wants to make. Thus when giving a speech a speaker can simply take a virtual walk through the structure and remember what he wants to say.In other words, there are all ways to get from conception to execution, or from God’s lips to your ears.Faulty assumptions about writing are everywhere, from “do not start a sentence with ‘And’” to “never end a sentence with a preposition.” Now, I guess, some believe one should “never dictate novels.” None of these dictates has good reasons to support it. Why this insistence on rules, protocols, right and wrong ways? It is all very ungenerous. Unscrew the locks form the doors already, so we can all try to get closer to what we mean.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
I found this on Cory Doctorow's website Craphound and I think it's cool.
"One of Jonathan's (Johnathan Worth commercial photographer) photograph pictures showed me in my office, and I went a little Flickr-crazy marking up the photo with notes explaining what everything was. I tweeted the photo, and lots of people came by to see it -- several thousand, some of whom ended up offering Jonathan paying work. It was a win all around."
(Click on the photo for full image, including Cory at work.)
Here is the the link to the photo on flickr with Cory's notes.
Friday, October 2, 2009
San Fran lit mags
Lit mag central
Much more, some repeated.
And they're every where.
Literary Editing & Magazine Publishing, An Editor’s View.
Lit mag that
seeks play submissions.
More lit lists.
Lit lists from EWR (every writer's resource)
And even in Kentucky.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Now this is some weird shit. All I can hear is the theme music from the David Carradine seventies tv show Kung Fu.
Oh and this is just crazy, a poisonous spine, really?
Here we have the ongoing argument about literature versus mainstream fiction, and specific genres like science fiction.
This little tidbit I found on io9 could be great and it could be like this piece of petrified poop. The Moleman spouting Shakespeare is cool though. Anybody remember this 1979 goofy Captain America TV movie? When I was an eleven year old kid I loved it, and I have to admit, I still like it in a "Batman and Robin" 1960's TV series way. POW! WHACK! SMASH! WHAM!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
"What the hell happened J?"
"I have no idea, Babe. Walking by the bathroom I heard a dripping sound. I went in to check it out and...And well, you know the rest, here we are."
My wife leaned over the threshold of the bathroom to take a quick peak. She clucked her tongue that at any other time might have irritated me, but this time I took a small sense of well being from the sound as if were a kind mantra back to what passed as normality.
"When you were in the middle of your fit or what have you, your eyes were rolling around in your head and bouncing left to right."
"Really," her revelation sent a chill through me, a chill of recognition of something not quite familiar and not quite alien; something that I should have remembered and not the disjointed recollection and blankness between words that I was experiencing. Blood seeped through the toilet paper into my hand. This was no shaving cut that I could staunch with tiny pieces of paper. I balled up some more paper and held it against the blood saturated deteriorating paper trying to add to its effectiveness.
"Yeah, remember that TV show when we we're kids about the talking car?"
"My Mother the Car," I asked.
"No, that other one, the one where the car had a red light sensor thing that moved back and forth on its front.”
"You mean on the grill," I stated more than asked. She nodded vigorously. "Knight Rider, the show was Knight Rider." I told her.
"That's the one, that's the one," I found her excited response to be contagious.
"Your eyes reminded me of that show traveling back and forth like that car's red sensor thing, almost as if you were reading something." She reached up and removed my hand from my face. "Shit J, I can see your cheekbone. Here." Barefoot, she had picked her away among the minefield of debris that covered are bathroom floor.
"Be careful," I yelled to her.
"Don't say that, you'll jinx me." She replied and somehow, somewhere found a clean wash cloth, antibiotic ointment and peroxide. She picked her way back to the safety of the carpeted hallway. "You're definitely going to need stitches or staples or something. Let's clean you up in the bedroom bathroom first, I think..." She stopped talking and walking all at once. "You're right J, the crap on the floor won't be difficult to clean, but there is blood everywhere; the floor, ceiling, the tile, tub, sink...I mean everywhere. We may have to hire professional cleaners." She had another look, took my offered hand, switched off the light and locked the door behind her.
In our bathroom it seemed brighter than usual. "I don't feel so good Pix."
"You lost a lot of blood, babe, of course you don't feel well." She bent my face over the sink; removed my half-assed makeshift bandage and poured peroxide into my wound, it fucking hurt.
"Fuck me!" I bellowed.
"Hold still and don't be such a baby. She peered at my face closer. "J, I think there is still some glass in your cheek. We're going to the emergency room now."
"Just dress it here."
"Like hell, every time you talk or move you start bleeding out pretty good again. We're going, and that's final." I'll call Marta and Cole and ask them to pick up the kids after swim practice, they won't mind."
"Yeah, okay," I replied only half listening. My head was swooning. "I'll drive." I said.
"Like hell," She said again. "J, I think it's the same side of your face that has that other scar, but can't tell because of all the blood."
"What other scar?" I asked.
I don't remember much about the ride into the hospital. I do remember Pixie telling me to hold the dressing tight against my face. She had placed gauze around the glass shrapnel and wouldn't let me pull it out. She told me that I needed to let the doctors remove it or I would lose even more blood. So I applied pressure with my hand while my fingers straddled around the glass. Whenever Pix hit a bump a sharp edge of shard bit into the web of my hand between my flip off digit and ring finger. The glass made a slight scraping sound almost imperceptible by pinging out tiny Morse code messages on my wedding band. I think I may have gone into semi-shock and drifted off into unconsciousness, when I opened my eyes again my wife and a PA or a doctor stood over me. The guy had to be too young to be a doctor, but he had already cultivated one of those, "I'm-the -doctor-and-you're-not" attitudes.
"There is evidence of former reconstructive surgery. Has you husband had facial injuries before?"
"None that he could recall, but he has had a scar on his cheek, barely noticeable, really, ever since I met him. He doesn't remember how he got it. Is he in a lot of pain?"
"The inner scar tissue is quite extensive. The former injury must have been traumatic. I gave him something for the pain. He'll be zoned out for a while. I'm not sure if there is any nerve damage, time will tell."
"Will there be a big scar Doctor?"
"Plastic surgery techniques are state of the art these days, evolving all the time. I'm sure the plastic surgeon can repair the recent damage very well. That shouldn't be a problem. The older injuries, I'm not so sure about, be sure to get all the details from the surgeon. We stapled off and stitched the bleeds. He shouldn't lose anymore blood. I am worried about the chance of infection, so I'm prescribing antibiotics just in case."
His youngness annoyed me, even though I faded in and out, I found him irritating. Even though I was snowed, I knew he was trying to impress my wife. He kept checking her out. She didn't seem to notice, but I noticed.
"There is one thing that I think should be investigated, Mrs. ,um..."
"Sally, just call me Sally."
His voice lowered into a slick conspiratorial whisper. If I wasn't doped up, I might have hit him. "Sally, I ordered a psychiatric consult just in case, his injury is self-inflicted."
Self inflicted? Are you fucking kidding me? I remember thinking to myself, Pompous ass, why didn't Pix hear the insincerity in his voice.
"You think he did it on purpose?"
"Past traumatic events can be easily blocked out by the mind. From the older scar tissue one can deduct that there has been earlier trauma." His voice dropped to another level that sounded slimy to me, worse than the psychobabble he fed my wife. "Don't concern yourself too much Sally. It is routine that we seek a psychiatrist when it comes to severe disfiguration of the face, to help the victim, er, patient deal with the shit."
Did that little asshole say shit? If he did, Pix didn't seem to be too concerned with his bedside manner, let alone his beside language.
"His face will be disfigured? I thought you said that he would be all right."
"I did, but sometimes, the patients react badly to the news of a facial injury and it is good to have a professional nearby just in case. Sally, would you like to get a cup of coffee?"
I knew it, that fucker! If I could just focus, I would show him facial disfigurement.
"I'm not thirsty doctor, but if you lock the door and draw the curtain I'll show you close up and personal what you've been undressing with your eyes for about the last ten minutes."
"Suddenly I don't want coffee either Sally."
This couldn't be happening, through the shadows of my eyelids and the fog in my mind, my wife took off her clothes as the dick-head doctor, locked the examining room door and pulled the curtain around them.
"Call me Pixie," she said, dropping onto her knees and unbuckling his pants."
"Pixie it is then."
"Can he see us?" She asked him as she took him in her mouth.
The doctor turned back and looked at me through the crack of the semi-closed curtain. He laughed, "I don't know, he's so drugged up…Yeah, probably."
"Good." My wife said; her mouth full. Acidic tears squirted from my eyes as I watched helpless.
"Very good," the doctor had mistaken my wife's statement as a question.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Art Manifesting the Mythic
By C.S. Thompson
Some of the ancient Gnostic sects spoke of something called the Monad, the noumena from which all phenomena are derived, the unity behind all multiplicity and the Absolute behind all relativity. This Monad, being beyond relativity, could not be defined, for to define a thing is to set it apart, to say it is this and not that, which cannot be said of the Absolute. Unknowable and beyond definition, the Monad could not be said to create in any conscious sense, but the myriad phenomena of reality are its emanations and thus its creations. Like the physical universe exploding from a single point at the beginning of time, the Monad spontaneously gave birth to the Pleroma, a realm of immortal entities known as the Aeons. The Pleroma, in turn, gave birth to our world, a series of emanations from the Monad like ripples in a pond.
The word Pleroma means fullness, and corresponds to everything we mean by the word divine. As for the Aeons, they are "thoughts of God," aspects or modes of approach to the unity of the Monad. They are also "the gods." The Pleroma, in other words, is the realm of Myth, a transcendent although not-quite-ultimate realm beyond the realm of our world.
Where is this "Realm of Myth"? Is it in our minds? The philosopher Sallust defined myth as "That which never was, but always is." It is not, in other words, to be found in the world, in the sense of being bound or trapped by a particular moment in time and space. To reduce Myth down to time and space is the Fallacy of Fundamentalism, just as to dismiss it entirely is the Fallacy of Materialism. So if the realm of Myth is not bound by the physical world, not to be reached primarily through the physical world, then we must find it through the mind- through media such as dreams and imagination, visions and ecstasies. And the things we see in these dreams can be communicated through art, evoking their strange power in the waking world. Reaching up through our minds to the realm of Myth, we bring something of its magic back down with us and incarnate it in a work of art. The work of art then acts as a key, allowing those who can enter into its spirit to soar upward again to the realm of Myth. The Mythorealist artist is a mediator between these two realities, a "priest of the invisible" in the words of Wallace Stevens.
Is the realm of Myth only in the mind? It depends what you mean by that. The boundaries of any individual mind go gray at the edges, and the core elements of Myth seem to be universal. Just as the realm of the mind is a private world behind the realm of the external and physical, might the realm of Myth not be another level beyond that of the mind?
But let us confine ourselves to what is right in front of us. Whether or not the realm of Myth is defined by the mind, the purpose of magical art has always been the same- to access this realm and bring its power into the world. People have been sitting around campfires telling each other amazing stories since the Stone Age. Storytelling will always be popular because it taps into something primal in us- the place inside us from which myths are born. The part of us that believes in magic.
There is a special ingredient that sets what I think of as Mythorealist fiction apart, that marks it as a true representative of that ancient tradition of storytelling. I think of that special ingredient as mythic resonance. What is mythic resonance? The feeling that you're somehow in the presence of magic, whether horrifying or wonderful or both at once.
Just war until the end of time,
Until the sun goes out.
There’s nothing else I still require.
The night has touched my mouth.
Its lips are soft
And I am now
Both paralyzed with fear,
And shaken by ecstatic glory,
Silent, vast and clear.
The world will end in ice, they say,
Or else perhaps in flame.
The horror and the wonder are the same.
This feeling of wonder goes far beyond mere entertainment, evoking the same primal emotions as the Viking Sagas or the Arthurian legends. People crave that sensation of magic, of imagination unconstrained, of Myth made accessible.
Mythorealist fiction takes the magic of Myth and incarnates it in our world, making it clear that there are not actually two worlds in the first place- the magic is all around us. Consider the fiction of Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker, in which ordinary men and women of the modern world come face to face with other realities, vastly complex and beautiful and terribly dangerous.
Mythorealist art presents the image of the realm of Myth in front of our eyes, allowing us to stare directly into the land of dream in all its wonder and all its horror. Consider the paintings of Zdzislaw Beksinski, the weird landscapes and organic architecture of another world, presented just as matter-of-factly as a photograph.
Mythorealist poetry evokes the Otherworld like a prayer or perhaps a talisman, just as comfortable with dream as it is with nightmare.
When dreams demand surrender
Burn the bridges
Close your eyes.
I'll paint myself
And we'll rise.
The holy war
For human horror
Flowers here in me:
Just try to stop our march
And you will see.
Even the horror of nightmare leads us upward to the Fullness, awakening our spirits with its magic- but only if it is embraced. Mythorealist art confronts horror and wonder fearlessly, seeing both of them as pathways. These things do not corrupt the spirit- they help set it free. The Mythorealist artist is a magician, not the tawdry kind that seeks only to manipulate the world through non-physical means, but a far more profound kind of wonder-worker- the kind that helps us to see.