Tag Archives: writers

Thoughts on Writing

To be a cynical writer is to never have been in love…well, to never have been in love and have it endly up other than badly, I suppose.

To be a romantic writer is to forever be in love – not so much with a person, or even an ideal, but more or less with the “idea” of love.

To be a “political” writer, one need only suppose that the ideal of love, while perfectly described in the theoretical world of legislation, has never been capable of reaching its ivory tower notions.

To write action and adventure, the required modus operandi for the scribe is to capture the impossibility of eternity, save through a well-placed legend or two.

To contemplate science fiction is to see love for what it is, a means to a more harmonious future, or the chaos that engulfs the order of probability.

To be an historical writer, one need only remember, with love, the periods of time with which you have no natural connection, or have imagined a connection of such magnitude that it engulfs any such intellectual advancement that may have occurred between the idealized era and the current one.

To be a motivational writer is to disregard the spirit of the times, to insist that love is to be found and described as you find and describe it, that it is to entertain your minds and not your hearts, to make by the “power of positive thinking” the lessons to be learned by losing seem the source of all true evil.

To be a nihilist writer is to never see love at all. It is to experience rejection, but not hope. Fear, but no courage. Reason, but no faith. Grounding, but no earth.

1991

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On Writing

Why is that writers — and it doesn’t matter which writer you choose — at some point in their chosen vocation end up writing about writing? And why do non-writers see that as so unusual, so self-centered and ultimately circular? You don’t question a saint immersed in their version of divinity that can only talk rationally (well, can talk at any rate) about God. LIkewise, philosophers love nothing better than to talk, discourse, put to paper in thousand-page tomes, those thoughts that ellucidate their love of knowledge. Granted, in all these cases, the conversation is limited by the frame-of-reference of the listener on one side, and more importantly, by the frame-of-reference of the speaker or writer on the other side. Writers write about writing because that’s who they are, that is their morphology, their modus operandi. Project managers look at things from the framework, the guidelines, of project management — efficiency, elimination of redundant information, structure and reporting relationships — as a tool to hone their own basis for evaluating life in terms of budget, schedule and quality. Of all the great characters of Fiction, most if not writers themselves of Poetry or Fiction to some degree, at least are prodigious letter writers. They have a need, or rather, the writer creating them, has a need to extend their own meager gitts into tangential relationship with a world that is more or less under their control. Granted, if you ascribe to the belief that all life is pre-ordained, that we choose our parents, our upbringing, our vocation and ultimately our destination, it’s as if the book has already been written — but there is no skipping ahead chapters, or skimming through to the end to see what happens, in the book of life. We are fated, if by nothing else, to the turning of pages one at a time, chapter by chapter, one single word lain in line with a countless stream of those that have come before, and those that will follow.

In that sense, I suppose, the writer, over all other occupations save for the marytr or saint, has a more distinct advantage to many others. A painter, for example, who tries to talk about painting using painting itself is likely to be swamped in a surreal, imagist, dada world that contains a dangerous degree of self-similarity. Likewise, the Musician, who tries to convey their thoughts about Music in the idiom of Music must limit themselves to communicating in this way to those who are also Musicians, and actually, that are Musicians of the same order as themselves. The saint has a more direct line of approach, in that particularly in the monotheistic traditions, there are only two goals at the outset of the path — to become a saint, like themselves, or a minister. To do, or to preach. All other positions are like half-way houses on the road to salvation, and are not among the prescribed courses outlined so nebulously in their Great Books. There is no place in the structure of religion for those who require others to cajole them into action. The very act of salvation demands much more of the indiividual that passive participation. The writer, like the saint, relies upon something greater than themselves to prove their point for them — and in both cases, it is the Word.

So much is determined by the words we experience during our childhood, during early education, in the books we read (or don’t read). To not have a word for something is to exclude that concept from your worldview. Because to live life, you’ve got to read from the Book of Life — except this book has not yet been written, so far as you know, because you are only capable of glimpsing perhaps a paragraph or two ahead. Most of the text is hidden, by the page you’ve just flipped past, or by the unknown vast number of pages yet to be turned.

The different between the saint and the writer, then, is that sense of co-creation. The saint waits patiently for the next page to be revealed by the Author to which they owe allegiance, devote their lives to the understanding of. The writer, on the other hand, sees the next page as a challenge that must be shaped, crafted; not reliant upon an external source to provide the entertainment, the knowledge, the insight and character development. Writing, then, is a pagan religion. It is about power-with, not power-over.

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The Great American Novel

Ah, how many times I have seen those words in print … so and so wished to write the “Great American Novel”…Mr. X has effectively given us the “Great American Novel”. And yet, how many times have I wondered exactly what that meant. Perhaps the GAN represents capturing the essence of American life, providing a Petri dish full of Americanisms (whatever those may truly be) or placing under the microscope some fragment of nostalgia on the one hand, or a slice of dystopia on the other. It seems to me that the GAN often is used to refer to something that captures the essence of what America has been, or is now. But just like so many modern rock bands, that notion while eloquently describing what is wrong and bewailing the negative, fractioning aspects of “American” society does so very little to suggest any kind of solution. America, they say, is a dream. America is fucked up. The American dream? What does that mean? Ask a Choctaw-Kiowa-Apache, or a practitioner of Vodoun. They will not have the same answer as the descendent of a Puritan — at least, not likely.

America, it seems to me, is a victim of its own conceit — much like so many of the monotheistic religions of the world. Both would do their damnedest to deny the theory of evolution. But a species, a culture, a nation MUST evolve in order to survive. And evolution implies CHANGE. Radical change. So by extension it appears to me that a truly American novel must address what America SHOULD be, what it COULD be. And of course, that’s not just a novel. It’s a revolution. As George Bernard Shaw once said, democracy is the only form of government where revolution is against the law — simply because the constituents of a democracy are in theory the government itself, making revolution a kind of self-abasement or self-immolation. But it is very easy to point out, particularly considering the rapidly decaying civil liberties of this country, the increasingly important role played by big money in the control and destiny of politicians, the absence of any kind of radical left, the dumbing down of educative systems so as to eliminate the role of intelligent dissent, the jingoistic emphasis on “our way or the highway”, the Hitleresque masquerade of national security threat prevention and monstrous incorporation of the philosophy of Christian Fascism into the micro-management of personal lives in service to the greater Church-State, that any nation whose president is determined by the Supreme Court in opposition to the popular vote is NOT strictly speaking a democracy. In that case, or to paraphrase slightly, when in that course of human events, it becomes necessary to stage at least some kind of revolt. Revolution, in that instance, becomes not only a right, a necessity, but also a kind of “sacred” duty.

And of course, the solution is not, as many neo-pagan organizations might lead you to believe, to establish a church of your own in every city in America. Nor is it to find some kind of “perfect” candidate who can somehow single-handedly reverse the tide of bullshit that fills the streets of Washington DC, the foxholes in Afghanistan or the trenches in Iraq. The answer, I’m ashamed to admit, can succintly be found in the Hollywood adaptation of the Gospel. That one line where Jesus screams out (and perhaps you like Ted Neeley in Norman Jewison’s film adaption, but nothing compares to Ian Gillan when it comes to screaming out) — “Heal yourselves!”

That, however, is unlikely to sell ANY copies whatsoever as a NY Times Bestseller. Because Americans are not, and probably truly have never been, that kind of people as a whole. The masses, to coin a phrase, are asses. And America never has really been about individual freedom. It’s been about conformity. Sure, the Pilgrims shuffled off to Massachusetts Bay to ensure that they could practice religion as they saw fit, without the deterrents of thumbscrews, stake burnings and other establishment cures. But they turned around and did the same to those who disagreed with them. And so on and so forth. The problem with America is that whether you call it a melting pot, or a salad bowl, people like their own fondue, their particular style of Waldorf, and think that anyone else is wrong. Which is not so bad, except that they want to picket any restaurant that serves non-standard meals, despite the fact that EVERY culture that has come to this country has been persecuted to some degree once they arrived. And then turned around and picked on someone who arrived a day later. The sad part is that this culture is about five minutes ago and the history thereof. So learning from history is fortunately an easy A.

What’s that boil down to in the long run? Who knows? But the human beings that think they run this show ought to stop and think about this: IF evolution is more than a theory, if it is the way it is, then where are we going, as a people, species, planet, etc.? IF evolution is FALSE, and the self-determination of the planet simply STOPPED when homo erectus erectus appeared on the scene, then why did we learn to swim? To play tennis? To sell junk bonds? To deal smack?

Bah. Enough ranting.

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