Sunday, July 25, 2010
Yes, this qualifies as plagiarism...-ish
As I've gotten older, I've noticed an increase in how engaged I am with what I read. I'm hard on books, scribbling in the margins, folding over pages, and generally making a text my own, just like Ondaatje's patient (kudos to anyone who can explain that reference). Take this as a warning before you loan me any book; it will in all likelihood come back with my thoughts on it inside. Part of the reason I do that is so I can remember the things that stood out to me as I read. I find much of life to be referential, or at least increasingly interconnected. Something I see reminds me of something, which makes me think of something else, reminding me of this one time...and so on. I've found this blog to be a good place to process the thoughts that I have while reading, to get feedback on them. This blog is not a collection of essays, though I have included excerpts from those in the past. The posts are not book reviews, and this is certainly not a daily account of my life, though aspects of those are included as well. Simply put, it's unoriginal and nonacademic, though (I hope) food for thought. It certainly has been for me. So as I set out to write this post, I started by asking myself what may seem a fairly unintelligent, but vitally important question: What am I writing? Fortunately, the answer came quickly (though it took me way too long to get the time to actually write it). So this is a collection of thought-provoking quotations from Vladmir Nabokov's "Pale Fire" and Louis LaAmour's "The Education of a Wandering Man". (Key = Nabokov ; LaAmour; Sturm )
-"When I hear a critic speaking of an author's sincerity I know that either the critic or the author is a fool." The word "sincere" is a bit of a throwaway word, especially when applied to literature...what exactly is is supposed to mean, anyway? Really, all it seems to infer is that the author is trying really hard, despite his work, which seems quite patronizing.
-" When the soul adores Him Who guides it through mortal life, when it distinguishes His sign at every turn of the trail, painted on the boulder and notched in the fir trunk, when every page in the book of one's personal fate bears His watermark, how can one doubt that He will also preserve us through all eternity?...We who borrow in filth everyday may be forgiven perhaps the one sin that ends all sins". Well said, my Russian friend. But can we really be forgiven "the sin that ends all sins"? We're called to use what little life we have to spread the Gospel. Is being done with the troubles of the world really worth the risk that suicide may be an unforgivable sin? Interesting thought.
-"The amusing paradox with these men of action is that they constantly have to endure long stretches of otiosity that they are unable to fill with anything, lacking as they do the resources of an adventurous mind." A good quote for someone who is as easily amused as I am...clearly the only reason other people get bored is that they just have an underdeveloped imagination. ;)
"The one who kills is always his victim's inferior". Always? Often, perhaps. I'm hesitant to make it absolute.
-"We who write fiction are not writing history, yet I do not believe anybody has a right to alter history for the sake of a story. If nothing else, it betrays a lack of creative ability. The actual history is amazing enough and I prefer to put my characters into what is actually happening and let it happen to them." One of the reasons I often prefer to study history rather than read fiction...no author's imaginings compare to reality of human experience.
-" I suppose I was lonely. I know that I often longed for someone with whom I could talk of books, writers, and things of the mind, but that was not to be for a long time, except here and there when I chanced on some other lost literary soul. Loneliness is of many kinds, and the mere presence and companionship of people does not suffice. The people I had been meeting were friendly, pleasant and the salt of the earth, but they did not speak my language. I enjoyed them, but something in me reached out for more." I've often felt this growing up, and now every time I move. Thankfully, I have something LaAmour (coming to manhood in the 1920s) did not: the internet. Makes connecting all those "lost literary souls" so much simpler.
-"One is not, by decision, just a writer.One becomes a writer by writing, by shaping thoughts into the proper or improper words, depending on the subject, and doing it constantly...most young writers waste at least three paragraphs and often three pages writing about their story rather than telling it." I've written so much that fits this description...by the time you finish the introduction, you've lost the reader's interest. Guess I need to practice.
-"It is often said that one has but one life to live, but that is nonsense. For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time." This really relates back to the whole concept of imagination that Nabokov spoke of. On one level, the more you've experienced and know, the more you have to think of; the inverse is also true, as the most sheltered neophyte can amuse themselves for hours with merely an active mind.
It's all about the archetypes, man. ;) There's nothing new under the sun. I used to get upset when a story was predictable, but now I take pleasure in seeing how different writers/playwrights/directors rework and use plot devices to create their works. It's like looking at a painting and complaining that it's composed of merely a canvas, paints, and brushes rather than appreciating the brushwork of the artist, or how they incorporated certain colors and themes to create a unique reworking of the subject. The fact that many artists created sculptures of David does little to diminish the beauty and skill of Michelangelo's.
-"For a writer, of course, everything is grist for the mill, and a writer cannot know too much, sooner or later everything he does know will find its uses. A writer's brain is like a magician's hat. If you're going to get anything out of it, you have to put something in first". Really, this is along a similar vein as the last quote. I did find it interesting that he used a magician's hat...really, it's a bit of an odd analogy. Isn't part of the "magic" of the hat the thought that nothing goes into it, but amazing things come out? But upon further thought, I suppose that's how most of us try to write. We expect to make great work, but avoid the "putting in" of thoughtful research, ample time for reviewing/editing, and so on. This explains several papers I've composed.
-" I have read because I loved reading, and I have learned because I love learning, yet all one needs to know cannot come from books. It can come from sounds and music, from the play of light and shadow, from the people that one meets or those one does not meet". People who are bookish need to get out too. Reading about hiking can't show you the magic of a sunset on a mountainside, or get you in shape.
-" A person or situation can only be understood against the background of its own time." Really, it seems a lot of conflict could be resolved if this were actually followed. Out of context, what makes sense?
-"The idea that it might be fun to get drunk never appealed to me, for I had come to believe I could cope with any situation that might arise if I had my wits about me." So true. It's not necessarily that I'm "too good" to get drunk (or high). I'm just too proud to let myself get into a situation where I'm not in control of my mind.
-"Writing...is a learning process. One never knows enough and one is never good enough". So there you go. I will never be good enough at writing.Thankfully, "all the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him".