Secret Plan of the Tenured to Torture Readers Revealed!
Yeah, yeah, I know it's a challenging -- the most challenging -- subject, but still, the only excuse for being so non-linear is a particularly beautiful literary style, which is lacking here.
I mean, I enjoy free jazz as much -- or more, if you want to believe my neighbor -- as the next guy, but playing it properly requires intense discipline, the reason being that one must find the compositional center, or "container," so to speak, even while one is spontaneously producing the content.
This requires, on the one hand, a kind of surrender, but on the other, the ascent to, or descent of, a higher order. It frankly requires a kind of mating between ♀ (container) and ♂ (contained), but let's keep this clean, okay?
What this means is that whatever comes out must be placed in a higher and deeper context, just as in a normal melody, only at a much higher level of abstraction. The alternative is just blowing notes with no internal coherence, which is hardly the same thing (similar to the difference between liberty and freedom, as discussed a couple of posts back).
It reminds me of something a particularly brilliant friend of ours wrote to Mrs. G, which I'd apparently filed away for just this moment. She writes of "a huge gulf between being able to play the piano in a technically brilliant, dazzling way, and the people through whom the music literally lives and breathes. For the latter very small group of pianists, making music is a very spiritual experience, and playing the piano is like opening up a window into their soul."
More: "It's difficult to describe, but when you play piano you can enter a kind of transcendental state where you feel at once both entirely disconnected from, and at the same time almost controlled by, the music you are making.... The physical actions of playing don't require any thought at all. You don't think about technique or how to play, and your mind is entirely free to go anywhere; meanwhile your hands are playing the music and it keeps just appearing as if by magic. In fact, if you try to think about where it's coming from or how you are doing it, then it's impossible and the magic stops. Often I've sat at the piano and started to play, and it's been 3 or 4 hours later before I know what's happened.... Each piece leads seamlessly to another and it's like my mind went on a vacation to another place."
As I said, brilliant. But what about the restavus slobs? I think I know the feeling, because writing can definitely engender a similar experience, especially this type of writing, which is completely, er, spontaneous. But if it were only spontaneous -- i.e., self-indulgent -- then why would anyone want to read it?
Oh, right. That explains a lot.
The key, it seems to me -- and it is clearly not something within our conscious control -- is to "be controlled by the music you are making." Sounds paradoxical, and it is. Orthoparadoxical, to be precise, meaning that it is, among other things, an irreducible mystery.
Therefore -- well, as usual, Don Colacho has a piquant aphorism made to order: The writer who has not tortured his sentences tortures the reader.
Ah, Don Colacho. Now there is a man who knew his lumitations. Of his own gnomic style, he writes that The reader will not find aphorisms in these pages. My brief sentences are the dots of color in a pointillist painting.
That is an apt description, for each aphorism is a free-standing gem of its own, and yet, throw them into a big pile and a whole sensibility emerges. In fact, I would say that the soul of this person, Don Colacho, appears before us.
In this context, each aphorism is a fractal, or microcosm, of the macroman, like spiritual DNA. Indeed, "The only pretension I have is that of having not written a linear book but a concentric book" (DC). And his center is everywhere in those pointillist dots that constitute the circle.
Hmm. I wonder what other advice he has for the aspiring blogger?
"To write honestly for the rest, one must write fundamentally for oneself."
Yes! Now maybe my in-laws will finally believe me that it's not just morbid introspection.
"The first step of wisdom is to admit, with good humor, that there is no reason why our ideas should interest anybody."
I am unworthier than thou!
But also, if you're going to toss yet another book onto the existing pile of millions, you'd better have a damn good excuse.
"Only he who suggests more than what he expresses can be reread."
See, I told you I wasn't just being vague and evasive.
"A phrase should ruffle its wings like like a falcon in captivity."
As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.
"Prolixity is not an excess of words but a dearth of ideas."
Ouch! I'll let you field that one, Professor Rahner.
"A writer should know that only a few of those who look at him will actually see him."
Hello? Is this thing on?
"Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader's soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond."
Ah. That would explain William Yelverton.
"Clarity is the virtue of a man who does not distrust what he says."
Call me credulous, but at least I got that going for me.
"The fewer adjectives we waste, the more difficult it is to lie."
So true. In the back of my head I always hear the stern voice of Professor StrunkWhite: Omit needless words! That and Do not affect a breezy manner!
No, I am not affecting one. Rather, it's genuine.
"Mere talent is to literature what good intentions are to conduct."
In your face, Shakespeare!
"Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick."
Well, if that's the way you feel about it.