Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Art of Literature and the Science of Literature

A writer can capture our attention before, in some cases long before, we reach what academic critics would accept as the “meaning” or “meanings” of works. The high density of multiple patterns holds our attention and elicits our response—especially through patterns of biological importance, like those surrounding character and event, which arouse attention and emotion and feed powerful, dedicated, evolved information-processing subroutines in the mind.

"The Art of Literature and the Science of Literature," Brian Boyd

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dark Back of Time

And the narratives we invent, which will be appropriated by others who, in speaking of our past existence, gone and never known, will render us fictitious. Even our gestures will continue to be made by someone who inherited them or saw them and was unknowingly mimetic or repeated them on purpose to invoke us and create a strange, momentary and vicarious illusion of our life...We lose everything because everything remains except us. And therefore any form of posterity may be an affront, and perhaps any memory, as well.

Dark Back of Time, Javier Marias

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Field of Cultural Production

This explains why writers' efforts to control the reception of their own works are always partially doomed to failure (one thinks of Marx's 'I am not a Marxist'); if only because the very effect of their work may transform the conditions of its reception and because they would not have had to write many things they did write and write them as they did.

The Field of Cultural Production, Pierre Bourdieu

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Faustian Economics

It is true insofar as scientific experiments must be conducted within carefully observed limits, scientists are also artists. But in science one experiment, whether it succeeds or fails, is logically followed by another in a theoretically infinite progression...

In the arts, by contrast, no limitless sequence of works is ever implied or looked for. No work of art is necessarily followed by a second work that is necessarily better. Given the methodologies of science, the law of gravity and the genome were bound to be discovered by somebody; the identity of the discoverer is incidental to the fact. But it appears in the arts there are no second chances. We must assume that we had one chance each for The Divine Comedy and King Lear. If Dante and Shakespeare had died before they wrote those poems, nobody ever would have written them.

"Faustian Economics," Wendell Berry

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mystery and Manners

Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

At the Whitney Biennial, 2008

Well, isn't that the fascinating thing about contemporaneity? That to be truly contemporary you actually have to be slightly ahead of yourself, you have to be decidedly UNCONTEMPORARY in order to prefigure, presage, and prepare yourself for what is to come.

"If This was the Review of the Preview," Jan Verwoert for Dexter Sinister
Found at the Whitney Biennial, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Contingencies of Value

What are commonly taken as the signs of literary value are, in effect, its springs. The endurance of a classic canonical author such as Homer, then, owes not to the alleged transcultural or universal value of his works but, on the contrary, to the continuity of their circulation in a particular culture.

Contingencies of Value, Barbara Herrnstein Smith

Friday, April 4, 2008

And Chasing the Isolated Splashes

And chasing the isolated splashes of my lamentations,
Putting on music rather than swallow sleeping
Pills, clutching half the blanket in my knees,
I love you with every nucleus of my cell
And I want to include you in each cell of my naked
Body, but don't strive toward the secret it conceals,
For it remains transparent until I clothe it
In a betrothal dress, in a wedding dress, and then it won't
Go dim -- more likely it will remain in tones of white.
I want you to give me I don't know what, give me
Who could get what. Come close, lift me into your palms,
And I'll break out into words. And you'll make out the truth
In their thunder. Only the truth. And nothing else besides.

"And Chasing the Isolated Splashes," Anna Russ
Contemporary Russian Poetry, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A High Wind in Jamaica

Grown-ups embark on a life of deception with considerable misgiving, and generally fail. But not so children. A child can hide the most appalling secret without the least effort, and is practically secure against detection. Parents, finding that they see through their child in so many places the child does not know of, seldom realize that, if there is some point the child really gives his mind to hiding, their chances are nil.

A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes

Mute Song

The author came across the term itself during a conversation with an elderly man while traveling through the northern portion of Lika, but there is no way of telling whether it is limited to only the Lika region. One might be predisposed to think otherwise. The elderly man claimed that he knew a 'mute song': when he was urged to perform it, he refused to do so, saying that, after all, it was 'mute'. (Included is a transcription of a conversation which the author recorded on tape; most of the recorded interview is not, however, fully comprehensible.)

The author: "How can someone sing silence?" The old man: "You don't sing the silence...it sings you. You are merely the vessel." Author: "When would you sing a mute song?" Old man: "When I feel that someone else knows it." Author: "Pardon?" Old man: "When I feel that someone else or several others know it so we can sing it together." Author: "Do you mean you are silent together?" Old man: "We're singing, you're silent."

"Mute Song," David Albahari
Words are Something Else, 1996