Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Dont' bother your father, he's feeding his ancestors"

An exert from ThinkBuddha, Will Buckingham's blog, touches on the writing process, on how our brains delegate authority.

The thought, that is to say, emerges in the writing, and if it doesn’t emerge, I save the article as a draft so that, if I feel like it, I can come back to it later. To write – to use the image from Russell Hoban that I have quoted here before – is to (or to attempt to) make friends with your own head. This idea implies, quite correctly it seems to me, that our own heads go their own merry way without taking the trouble to ask us if that is OK. They do their stuff, and we do ours. And when they do things that we don’t like, we claim not to be in our right mind (“What was I thinking of..?”) whilst when they do things that we do like, we congratulate ourselves and tell us how clever we are.

But who, we might ask, is taking the credit here? Not the brain, but the noisy, garrulous self that seems ( to my mind at least – a curious expression in the present circumstances…) to pop in and out of existence, to come and go on whim. It is as if, in the busy office that makes up the mind, there is one colleague at least who, whenever he shows up for work (and, for much of the time, the work goes on far better without him) can’t help going on and on about what he is up to, about how important he is to the running of the whole show, about how the decisions that he made last week (his colleagues are too polite to point out that he was, in fact, mysteriously absent when the real work was happening) have been so successful that he is going to award himself a further bonus and a pat on the back…
I've had several ideas buzzing around in my own brain but I realize I'm not ready for them... or they're not ready for me. They buzz and fly about, but nowhere near ready to come in for a landing. Reviewing Bataille on Surrealism just stirred them up all the more. This is related (one of those buzzing flies) to something that came up at the end my of post on The Rhetoric of Hope, and was more my purpose in writing it than the stuff about Obama--though I only discovered this at the end:

The word 'literature' should be retired as the all-inclusive term for imaginative writing.

It will do for those four color fold-outs they give you at auto shows, or for Establishment Literary Fiction--all that stuff that's been chewed up digested and regurgitated as corporate feel-good pabulum, the stage dressing for our everybody's-a-participant Consumer Reality Show. All that stuff out there to seduce us into becoming believers...believing that this wonderful paper-moon fabrication is REAL.
Something about poetry punching through.
The words punching through ... like buzzing flies.

That what we used to call 'literature'... we can best recognize (an American colloquialism I happen to like) in poetry--where commercial success offers you no hand (and no cross-signals) in judging the good from the drech.
I'm telling you, I haven't thought this through yet. But poetry--what makes poetry poetry... is its power to punch through (there it is again) the conventions of reality, to disconcert our wish to believe. And anything that now or ever deserved to be thought of as literature--yeah--Flaubert too, he's no fucking 19th C. founder of ELF--no mater what the retro lit-crit voices chant! You've gotta have your head buried way deep in sentence level criticism to swallow that one.
I've been thinking about that too. Emma and M. Moreau... how their empty romantic dreams expose the bourgeois emptiness they hoped to flee--how Flaubert, in contrast with so many of his ELF progeny, doesn't offer false hope, feel-good symbols of noble humanity, the wonderful mystical blah blah blah satisfactions of love conquers all, the humble satisfactions of ordinary domestic life, etc etc etc... one emptiness exposes the other, reveals, not "reality" but the unrelieved unreality of the everyday. And by that means, leaves us, his readers... free.
No compensation but that.
Poetry. It's all poetry... or

So here's what I find myself thinking... flies buzzing away... my thesis. My reading touchstone.
... but they haven't landed yet.


  1. Hi Jacob:

    Where can we read your review of Baitaille on Surrealism that you mention (if I'm reading it right) in this post? I checked the blog index for Bataille, Surrealism and reviews but couldn't find it....

  2. Reviewing, as in going back and reading again--this is the collection of pieces in The Absence of Myth, my current subway reading.

    Mentioned it because I was reminded of Bataille by something in the Think Buddah post.

  3. OK then -- but now that you got me all excited about your review of Bataille and Surrealism, consider writing one!

    Adorno's short piece on surrealism in Notes to Literature is pretty interesting, too... (altho' obviously very different from B's).

  4. I'm not qualified to write a review of Bataille, but I do want to write notes and commentary... the last half of this anthology is fucking wonderful... and a review of Magdalena Zurayski's The Bruse that it deserves... or at least, as close as I can come to it.

    Or maybe you can do an even better one! Please, go buy this book! Read it. Write about it. You want to get excited about reading or writing novels?

    Read this book!