the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for October, 2015

Calvino on moving past external judgement

Posted by rigorousm on October 30, 2015

I went on living, waiting for the remote moment when, from the galaxies, the comments on the new episodes would arrive, charged for me with embarrassment and uneasiness; then I would be able to rebut, sending off my messages of reply, which I was already pondering, each dictated by the situation. Meanwhile, the galaxies for whom I was most compromised were already revolving around the threshold of the billions of lightyears at such speeds that, to reach them, my messages would have to struggle across space, clinging to their accelerating flight: then, once by one, they would disappear from the last ten-billion-light-year horizon beyond which no visible object can be seen, and they would bear with them a judgement by then irrevocable.
And, thinking of this judgement I would no longer be able to change, I suddenly felt a kind of relief, as if peace could come to me only after the moment when there would be nothing to add and nothing to remove in that arbitrary ledger of misunderstandings , and the galaxies which were gradually reduced to the last tail of the last  luminous ray, winding from the sphere of darkness, seemed too bring with them the only possible truth about myself, and I couldn’t wait until all of them, one after another, had followed this path.
pg 138, The Light-Years, Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino

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saunders on presenting, writing

Posted by rigorousm on October 27, 2015

One night, Doug has us do an exercise: after the break, we are going to tell a story from our lives, off the cuff. We are terrified. …None of us wants to be a flop and so each of us rises to the occasion by telling a story we actually find interesting, in something like our real voice, using the same assets (humor, understatement, overstatement, funny accents, whatever) that we actually use in our everyday lives to, for example, get out of trouble, or seduce someone. For me, a light goes on: we are supposed to be—are required to be—interesting. We’re not only allowed to think about audience, we’d better. What we’re doing in writing is not all that different from what we’ve been doing all our lives, i.e., using our personalities as a way of coping with life. Writing is about charm, about finding and accessing and honing ones’ particular charms. To say that “a light goes on” is not quite right—it’s more like: a fixture gets installed. Only many years later (see below) will the light go on.

What’s he doing? Talking to a student? Photocopying a story for next day’s class? I don’t remember. But there he is: both writer and citizen. I don’t know why this makes such an impression on me–maybe because I somehow have the idea that a writer walks around in a trance, being rude, moved to misbehavior by the power of his own words. But here is the author of this great story, walking around, being nice. It makes me think of the Flaubert quote, “live like a bourgeoisie and think like a demigod.” At the time, I am not sure what a bourgeoisie is, exactly, or a demigod, but I understand this to mean: “live like a normal person, write like a maniac.” Toby manifests as an example of suppressed power, or, rather: directed power. No silliness necessary, no dramatics, all of his considerable personal power directed, at the appropriate time, to a worthy goal.

My Writing Education: A Time Line, George Saunders for the New Yorker (link to article here)

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gaitskill on pop music

Posted by rigorousm on October 19, 2015

So much association and imagery; it is a lot of weight to put on such a small song, and I didn’t think any of that at the time. I just felt it sort of speeding past. But the wistful sound that translated as a kind of emotional touch entered my system with all of that somehow encoded, and it bloomed in my subconscious imagination….

This is a quality that many, maybe all good pop songs have, this deceptively light ability to touch and awaken multiple associations that blend with the wordless, innocent and completely non-hierarchical sense of dreams. …It is a quality that can make pop music appear ephemeral to the point of cheap, exceptionally vulnerable to changes in fashion, attachable to dumb things like ads for cars or pizza, dependent on its period of time for its language of shared associations to make sense. It is also a quality that makes pop music exceptionally powerful in its ability to enter a person’s most private schema and whisper to that person in secret.

— “Nowhere Girl,” Mary Gaitskill for Catapult (link)

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Posted by rigorousm on October 12, 2015

These and other sundry obstacles, all of them oriented toward rupturing the smooth flow of narrative, are tools in the service of what Shklovsky called ostranenie, which is variously translated as “estrangement,” “defamiliarization” or simply “making strange.” In Theory of Prose, Shklovsky would distinguish between “recognition” and “seeing.” Ordinary perception falls into the former category: we don’t see objects so much as recognize them according to pre-existing patterns of thought. The world arrives “prepackaged” and passes us by without a graze. “And so, held accountable for nothing, life fades into nothingness. Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives, and at our fear of war.”

The point for Shklovsky was to find a way to shake ourselves out of this collective stupor so that we might see the world in all its startling brightness and, presumably, act on what we see.

— “Making Strange: On Victor Shklovsky,” Ben Ehrenreich for The Nation (link to article)

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