mnchm

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Become intellectually polyamorous, cultivate an insatiable curiosity for knowledge and experience in as many different guises as you possibly can, question everything, always challenge, learn that failure and rejection are positive things, subscribe to at least three non-literary magazines in three completely different fields (for me, right now, it’s National Geographic, Juxtapose, and Wine Enthusiast – last year it was Seed, Esquire, and Art in America), forget politics: it has nothing to do with you and any time or energy you invest in it is wasted time and energy you could be using productively to learn and experience and create, do not choose sides, do not agree or disagree, embrace contradiction, watch cinema from as many different countries and time periods as you possibly can, seek out unclassifiable music, spend time in unfamiliar locations, expose yourself to new activities, go to the opera, go to the ballet, go to the planetarium, travel a lot, observe as much as you can, pay attention to the way people talk and the way people listen, eat strange food, watch at least one sporting event but instead of thinking about it as entertainment think about it as narrative, ABR = Always Be Researching, carry a notebook and pen at all times, remember it is more important to ask questions than give or receive answers, seek to open up and never close down, seek to seek, do not seek to find, fall in love with language, think obsessively about language, about words, about sentences, about paragraphs, about the sound of words, the weight of words, the shape of words, the look of words, the feel of words, the placement of words, and most importantly be your biggest advocate, think of yourself as a genius, think of yourself as an artist, think of yourself as a creator, do not despair, do not listen to criticism, do not believe naysayers, they are wrong, you are right, they are death and you are life, they destroy and you create, the world needs what you have to say.

The intimate lives of writers have always had a special attraction for readers, perhaps because we imagine that people who can shape ideas and arrange scenes on the page should be able to offer us some special insight into how to order our messy off-the-page lives. This has rarely been proven the case—writers often seem less, rather than more, gifted at the mechanics of everyday existence; all the same it has not stemmed our interest in finding out what Sylvia said to Ted or why Simone pimped for Jean-Paul. This interest speaks, I think, to a dream of coherence—a matching-up of intellect and emotion, of romance and reason—that continues to inspire us even as it eludes our grasp.

THE BABE ASSASSIN. She is svelte and cat-like. She looks like a supermodel, but she can crack a man’s neck between her thighs. She’s the femme-fatale on steroids and on the surface, she seems to suggest the writer’s belief in gender equality. (See? A woman can shove a snitch’s hand down a garbage disposal just as well as any man!) When she’s handled, well, she can be a lot of fun to read. But she’s rarely handled well. More often than not, this female ninja comes to us via a writer who has gorged on graphic novels for most of his life. Her high-kicks and chokeholds turn into a repetitive form of sexual performance that titillates straight male readers, for a few chapters at least, but bores the rest of us before she has time to leap from her next crossbeam. (Spoiler Alert: There is epic sexual trauma in her past!)

This is why, I think, sensitive people are wrong when they chant in unison, “The brain is the most erotic organ.” That just sounds prissy to me; it means they are going to be a little revolted when I wave any other body part in their face. Of course sex is about body parts; it’s when we are hesitant about naming them, when we resort to euphemism and metaphor, or when we spend too long on the emotional significance of physical union in order to justify its description – and I would say the same about explaining too much emotional significance in any fictive narration, sexual or not – that’s when we end up with lines about touching the core of her being or exploding in light; that’s what makes people snicker.

A Gutenberg moment is one which changes the way we produce and consume text as dramatically as Gutenberg’s machine did. Before Gutenberg rigged a wine press so that it could press a sheet of paper against inked, movable, cast-metal type, scribes laboriously copied books by hand, leaf by leaf, volume by volume, a process that was so slow and so expensive that only the filthy rich could afford books. Gutenberg’s press enabled the mass production of books, whose lower unit cost democratized book ownership: anybody could buy a book, or at least borrow one from the library. Another thing about the Gutenberg moment: scribes were notorious for introducing errors into the books they copied, but the press allowed books to be cloned ad infinitum. After Gutenberg, there’s perfect copy, every time.

Written by menachemkaiser

15 April at 06:08

Posted in rants

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