When Urania was young/ All thought her heavenly/ With age her eyes grow larger/ But her form unmaidenly

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Magic Flute
I was listening to Mozart's opera and thinking about GB Shaw's famous remark about the music for Sarastro, the High Priest:  "It is the only music which might be put into the mouth of God without blasphemy."

There's something  comic - doubly heartbreaking - about imagining God's Song would be diatonic.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Scenes from a Marriage, Parts 1 and 2

He: "You know, I've been thinking: Valentine's Day, our anniversary, Mother's Day, then your birthday. Four occasions in four months. Maybe we should decide which ones I should really do something for."

She: "Okay. What do you not feel the need to celebrate: that we fell in love; that we got married; that I gave you children; or that I was born?"



She: "Okay, now say something nice about me."

He: "Okay. You look really hot in those blue jeans."

She: "No! I mean about my Inner Self."

He: "Hmm. Okay. Your Inner Self does not get in the way of you looking really hot in those blue jeans."



Proof positive that you CAN watch too many screwball comedies, Thin Man marathons, and Restoration plays.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Fur Eliste

Assume two dots above the u.  But she's right, I need to drop something else into the well that is this journal, despite the fact that I scammed out of a dinner party and really only want to go to bed.

Conclusion on why Jane Austen and "My Best Friend's Wedding" are cool with men (insofar as we read that kind of stuff at all and I have been deputized to speak on their behalf), while the Brontes (another missing umlaut) and "Titanic" are not?

Ding-ding: and the answer is Apollonian versus Dionysian.

Question:  Is this because men are afraid of the awesome majesty of women's passion unleashed?

Bzzzzzt:  No, men are likely to find it annoying or inconvenient, even when it is directed in our direction, and any artistic celebration of it insufferable.

But men celebrate their own irrational obsessions!

Bzzzzzt.  Only when immediate and trendy enough not to be noticed as irrational.  A little distance, and men can't stand their own passions much either.  Don't see nobody getting into the Young Werther or Manfred thangs anymore, at least not from the originals.

Sorry, Eliste - more of the same.

Friday, July 16, 2004

This Spinoff
from noodling around mentally on gender issues in reading preferences - something I'll probably discuss incoherently this weekend.  To me:
Men who worship their women seem sweet.  Women who worship their men seem foul. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Detroit Steel, Man

That I still accept my father's opinion: "Cars are just transportation. Even when they don't cost much, they cost too much" heartens me this morning. It suggests that whatever family traditions I've dumped, I've shed for a reason - and this one I've only slightly tweaked. I mean, we can't completely disregard semiotics. Oh, and forget the utter hair shirt of that childhood succession of rickety, uncomfortable and vaguely cool Beetles.

Having my first car, purchased with gambling winnings and a loan from my girlfriend, stolen within six weeks of purchase and without theft insurance - well, aversion therapy can certainly reinforce rational conviction. Cars still make me twitchy.

So, after renting that Ford Crown Vic in California, I now know what I want to do: Buy one. A big boat of Detroit steel, with a barcolounger ride and all negative signification: domestic = red state, redneck, nonurban; fullsize mushy suspension = middle aged or elderly (I may get a straw boater too); bottom brand make = economically challenged. As my father's son, I'll also buy it 2-3 years old, letting someone else take the off-the-cliff depreciation of American cars, but recent enough that the real improvements Detroit made to their cars will be mine. Because, y'know, the only thing worse than an expensive car is a car that doesn't work at all. Oh, but leather seats? I did mention leather seats, didn't I? No point in a cloth barcolounger.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Lurching Frankenstein

Still thinking about editing, especially other-suggested editing. No problem with the analytic writer - even in an enormously complex, interrelated work (thinking about the agonies of cutting down an information-packed first paragraph, where each word had been placed for exploitation later) - since ultimately each piece is still ultimately a product of conscious intention. Wha about those organic types, where things just "feel" right. Whereas I can test suggestions, think about them, do they make sense - how do you operate when it's just a question of what feels right? I can plug a sorts of lego pieces in-and-out - but if something is "organic" - does it mean that attempting to do so results in a stitched-up monster, of unmatching dead parts and an overly obvious cranium? Or can you somehow end up with an Edward Scissorhands, poetry in spite?

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Composing by Committee

Something most of us don't want to do, and (I think) a problem when you have a genuinely multivocal workshop and a writer who tries to trim (or pile on sail) to every shift of the prevailing winds. So - when discussing your own writing, when to listen to your readers and when not? And what to do if you're listening?

Okay, I suppose beginning should start with ends: know/choose your purpose(s). Know what your writing (the action, secondarily the actual product) is for, while avoiding sour grapes, or fear, or false modesty, or daydreams extraneous to why you're sitting at the keyboard - why are you writing? And this may not be a static thing - you may scale back, or wildly expand, or simply shift what you want to do, and that may even come in response to comments from your readers. You might even recognize that perhaps the compatibility of a Pynchon homage and your mother loving the book exists only somewhere over the rainbow, and you'll drop one or the other. But as long as you're still writing, it's still a matter of what you want to do. After you're done, of course, readers will do whatever they want and can with it, towards their own purposes.

Your readers don't need to share your purposes, or even know them, to say something valuable - or to say something that sparks something valuable in your own mind. The odds do go up if they want what you want, or a decent reps of the audience - if any - you have in mind.

Thinking of my favorite experience of this type, with my litficky "Third Law of Thermodynamics", with three other people, two of whom had no strong interest in lit journal type writing. But they were interested in the story and prodded at an odd point - a break in the fourth wall, until I saw that I should move it, so that it not only played the essetnially moral purpose I intended, but also acted as a structural transition - like Mendelssohn decision to move the first movement (sonata-allegro form) credenza of the E minor Violin concerto from its customary place at the beginning of the coda to the joint between the development and recapitulation - where it DID something other than be pretty. (Those of you who are pretty do not need to follow Felix's example. Pretty, in the flesh, really is enough.) Anyway, a earthshattering half an hour discussing it. Never bothered to send it out afterwards, though.

What made it interesting was my original First Reader - he wanted me to get rid of that section entirely for the simple reason that we had gotten too old for public self-mutilation (and because he didn't want to break the story" "let her live", he said, refering to the narrator.) But me and Brecht, hey! While it hadn't been planned when I first wrote the story, it became the point.

Anyway, never foreclose revelations by saying that no matter what, you're not changing a word. You cannot dull the infinite surprises the universe can offer; you can only close your eyes to them.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Ego, Superego and Id-eas

Take heart - the title has little to do with the post. I just wanted to see if I'm still capable of the learned stupidity of conference paper titles. And the verdict: Ay-up - I suspect that even having brain ganglions overgrown by Alzheimer kudzu wouldn't choke off that tendrilled vine.

Although I have been thinking about ego and public writing. Hmm, and it's a peculiarity of my mind that typing that qualifier makes me want to talk about private writing, partly because until this moment I hadn't yet been watching that idea chase its own tail. >SLAP< Okay, public writing - there's something peculiar in engaging in a largely solitary activity, with the intention of showing it to the world. Aside from thed humble folks who think they're just conduits for messages some higher power (humble?), people think they themselves have something worth saying, worth reading. And while I envy people who enjoy the act itself, as I admire people who really do want to feel their lungs and muscles burning from harsh and extended exercise, I imagine that most novelists can continue for day after day driven by ambition or self-display or messianic mission or some other aspect of blind rasping ego, as animal as appetite.

Funny, haunting the fringes of writing sites - the you-go-girlism of it all, makes me wonder - do people really think the "talent' they're praising is really there, or that well-wishing will make it so, or whether that's not the point anyway. But, really, it's beneath argument in most cases, like worrying about whether someone is destroying the elegant asceticism of a pig by slopping it. I think there's bad writing that does harm, but by content and dishonesty, not by the coarsening of ineptitude. Anyway, no one so lame that they cannot find affirmation of their swiftness somewhere.

But this is still not what's been rattling through my head - and, fact, that rumination above taken the wrong way would be a deadly insult. I want to talk about writing and response and ego and perfection and all that. Later this afternoon, I guess.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

A sadness while listening to Roxy Music

At those times when I, like some cultural conservatives, think that America has lost itself to decadence, what strikes me is what a joyless, tired, commercial, and styleless decadence it has chosen.