Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Friday, May 13, 2016

Veneration for Things Ancient


I'm dismayed by a certain writer's reverence for the ancientry, their practices and beliefs. We moderns have, most of us, concluded that our ancestors were wrong about a great many things. And in any event, whether they were correct in any specific instance, there is no question but that modern, Western societies are nicer places to live than ancient kingdoms. I would not want to go back two thousand years. Ancient people hurt others for little or no reason and waged war as a regular profession. Cruelty was commonplace. Everything was the fault of invisible demons or gods or spirits, and people were afraid of the dark and did not understand anything about science. Ignorance was rampant, reason in short supply, and people died for stupid reasons.

Also, our ancients were not that old, in the cosmic sense. Ten thousand years is not really all that much compared to the age of the planet we live on. What reason have we to suppose that there was anything the ancients knew that we do not? What sort of advantage accrued to the practitioners of magic? We do not today see any on the public stage. Why should they hide, and why should they be in the minority, if their practices work, even in some small way? These questions should occur to anyone that reads about magic. If magic were a really useful thing, would we not learn about in school?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Donald Tyson's Sexual Alchemy


I suspect people dabble in magic to horrify the orthodoxy. Christians seem upset by mentions of witchcraft, fearing it comes from the Devil. The Islamists behead people for witchery, along with a thousand other supposed crimes. The Jews, who knows? They invented the Kaballah back in the day. But most modern Jews are probably amused by witchcraft and don't take it seriously. There really is not a clear Jewish position on magic.

I think witchcraft comes from foolishness, not the Devil. I don't believe in the Devil, but if he does exist, then he is a rather weak and unimpressive bogey. I quit believing in the Devil around the age of thirteen. It is an easy matter to establish whether the Devil or any other entity has real power and authority in the world. Invoke the thing by name, and if it does not appear, insult it. Nothing happen? Fine, then you know the thing is the fantasy of shaman from long ago.

I've been browsing Donald Tyson's book on sexual alchemy, in which he discusses how to attract and recruit a spirit lover, presumably, one that has no material existence in the world as we know it. One never really knows what is meant by the word "spirit" or "spiritual" when it is bandied about by those who really believe. I am not sure Tyson knows what is meant by the word "spirit," either. He seems unperturbed by pesky logic.

Tyson lays out an intricate system for harnessing magic. He is rather vague on material results, but who cares about the material world, anyway? He does not promise material results--a wise and prudent move on his part as a writer, because in my opinion, there will be none. Instead, he talks about communing with spiritual entities and traveling through the astral plane, which is a more achievable goal for the self-deluded. For me, airplanes are more effective than the astral plane. Magic seems like a mind-trip people indulge for pleasure and amusement. If it were effective, then we would all use it, not only lonely dabblers in the dark. It is not prejudice or close-mindedness that keeps us from magic. Magic does not work. Even if magic worked a little bit, people would use it. People use software all the time that doesn't work that great. We don't expect miracles, but need to see a little bit of benefit in this world, not the imaginary world.

As for Tyson, I can't help but feel like he is in magic for profit. People want to achieve power beyond the human capability, so they buy his books, because he promises that the process is easy and just requires certain rituals and a lot of patience, I assume a lifetime of patience, because nothing will happen in a whole lifetime spent dabbling in magic. He explains a complicated system, which fills up hundreds of pages to the end of his book, and then counsels patience. Clever, no? He regurgitates a mixed salad of superstition from the ages: astrology, mythology, the Kaballah, and who knows what else, flaunting his knowledge to establish himself as an authority on magic. I suppose this is pointed at other magicians, who might dismiss Tyson if he didn't know all of the lore they knew, but might accept him if he reveals things they did not know. If someone believes all of that and takes it seriously, then by the time they reach his book's end, they will have invested a lot of time learning and constructing their own reality with his ideas. I think magic only works when people believe in it. Thus, it is the same as any other delusion, such as religion. I do not think that Tyson can achieve power or knowledge over me or anyone else by using only magic. If only the world were that simple, then life would be easy indeed. The Tysons of the world are these romantics that hope human beings are more powerful, and human life more meaningful, than it really is. In reality, we are numbers generated by other numbers, and math is at the heart of the cosmos and explains everything. Magic appeals to those befuddled by arid, difficult math, like Tyson, because it is easier and more accessible.

Magical practice can transform the self, like any other exercise that people do, but whether for good or ill depends upon the nature of the practice. I do think there are odd things in life that beg explanation. We do not understand them yet, but magic is not an optimal hypothesis. Old gods and demons are not the answer. The lore of the ancients can be discarded. Direct experience and experimentation is the way. That which is called a goddess, what is it really but a facet of ourselves, and why should we not call it by another name?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Donald Tyson


Donald Tyson has written two books based upon the mythology invented by the old, dead pioneer of horror, H.P. Lovecraft. Given the derivative nature of Tyson's work, one might assume it pales before the stories of the original creator, Lovecraft. Yes and no. Lovecraft is good, sometimes very good, but uneven. There are flaws in Lovecraft's writing that put me off. I really enjoy Tyson's Necronomicon and Alhazred. Tyson's style is crisper. He is an economical writer that does not waste my time telling me that the horrible horror was horribly horrible. Lovecraft blathers with a hundred words to convey an idea that Tyson can convey with twenty. Tyson is sparse even to a fault. I sometimes have to go back and re-read paragraphs to remind myself of what he assumes I already know. He does not paint pictures with very much detail, but is more of a sketch-artist. He also takes a lot of shortcuts as a writer and cheats when it suits him. In that respect, he reminds me of my own style. I find his stories endlessly fascinating and better for being built upon the solid, well-thought out foundation of Lovecraft's universe. There's no harm using a popular author's creations if they are excellent.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lovecraft Bubblegum


I want to scrape the bubblegum off my shoe after reading Lovecraft. I'd describe him using a word he frequently deploys, queer. His main characters are always naive, feeble, pretentious intellectuals, and by a story's end, are screaming or fainting at the terrible, horrible horrors of the terrible terror, or whatever. And he really does describe his horrors using the word "horror" or "horrible", and his terrors are "terrors" that are "terrible." Lovecraft is not for subtlety. When Lovecraft struggles with the science of his time, the result is embarrassing. The planet Pluto, uh-huh, the Einstein space-continuum, uh-huh, the vibration rate of electrons, uh-huh. His aliens and gods are all meanies out to get the human race, leaving unexplained why titans would concern themselves with the affairs of fleas.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Lovecraft


Lovecraft betrayed his secrets with his writing, which mixes autobiography with the supernatural in a sublime way. I do not find his gods appealing, but I am not meant to. His gods are evil, after all, creations of a mind fascinated by evil, but an evil of an altogether higher magnitude than the usual. His gods are transcendental, not of this world and not intended for mankind.

The dark light is not without attraction, though it does not nourish.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Writing

Most dead writers, resurrected into the modern age, would choose not to write, for the obvious reasons. I feel excused, therefore, for not devoting my hours to stories that I could craft. There's no reward, only time-wasting and potential derision. The best thing for a writer born into this world is to publish under a pseudonym. Those stories that just can't be kept down can be regurgitated in harmless anonymity. No one will pay any attention, and the verbose vomit won't excite any criticism, but gather dust in a cyber-dustbin, read by few or none.

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Stick Figures

The trouble with my writing is the same as with an amateur artist. I write in stick figures. My characters aren't fleshed out, not really, not on the page at least, though they are in my mind. When I read my story, all kinds of images float through my mind, but they have not all been translated into words like they should be. Instead, the characters look like stick figures, just rough outlines. There is too little description, too little detail, and far too much dialogue. Indeed, my stories read like plays. But who really wants to read a play? Not I. I would rather read a story. I need to convert my plays into proper stories, I think. Perhaps it is simply a matter of filling up the bones with flesh.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ban on Books?

I usually think of the UK as enlightened in most matters not pertaining to marijuana, so I was surprised to learn that the meatheads running the prisons over there banned books. Finally, a judge has ruled that the ban is unlawful. The wardens say they are worried about books being used for drug smuggling. Drugs, schmugs. A couple joints getting through is no reason to deny books to everybody in the joint. It's not like a joint is going to blow up the joint. In fact, a little marijuana once in a while should be distributed to prisoners as a reward for good behavior. Learning to love reading really is just the thing to rehabilitate a criminal into a normal human being. Besides, honestly who the hell else is going to buy any books in this video-besotted age? At least keep the prison market open for the starving authors.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Writing

I do think I've written some half-way decent short stories in my day. My ambition in life has always been to compile a pretty large volume of stories and essays and publish somewhere where I can feel fairly confident that the work will persist after my demise. Money or power as an end unto itself has never interested me; I just want enough money to be reasonably comfortable in lower-middle class or rather upper lower-class squalor, and as for power, I want the power that comes with freedom from debt and freedom in the sense of liberty.

I would hate for all my work to be destroyed and no one ever see it again. I think that if I bother to write about something, then perhaps it is important after all, perhaps I am even moved by something like the zeitgeist, because I have noticed that things I am very passionate about, such as marijuana and gay rights, have gained ascendency even in my own lifetime. And although I am nominally atheist I do not rule out the hypothesis that maybe an intelligence greater than my own moves me. We humans are such simple beings, you know, that it should not be terribly difficult to play us like violins, I would think, if one were a reasonably respectable alien form of life, dwelling not necessarily out of reach. Who really knows what unusual forms an alien can take, and whether they really need a form at all? Anything seems possible with Quantum Physics.

I like writing just because there is a certain delight to be had in creating something, particularly something that imitates life. Really, being a writer is the closest a mere mortal can come to being a god. I like transcending my own existence, my own biological and self-imposed limitations and creating a new universe with new rules and new people that seem, oh so real to me sometimes, and more compelling in some ways even. I guess I like to be There, on vacation, like, rather than Here all the time. Here is great, don't get me wrong. But There is nice, too.

Tolkien is probably the writer I admire most, because the universe he created was so utterly compelling and absorbing. In fact, with the Simarillion, he created a theology rather superior to the one he professed. He was wise to keep it out of his main work. In the Lord of the Rings, much is left unmentioned, such as, who is Gandalf really and who is Sauron? Where do the Elves go at the end? Well, all of the backstory is revealed in the Simarillion. In fact, I think Tolkien made a plausible extension of the Christian mythology.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ambition

My ambition is to write a good novel, a real page-turner that readers love to read again and again. I have ideas all the time, but seldom the time, energy or confidence to go through with them. To me, what Tolkien accomplished was magic of the highest order. It is the art form I appreciate most of all, the painting of wondrous pictures that do not mirror reality, but surpass it. Words are my paint, only because I'm untrained and untried and probably unskilled in any other format. I realize words are out of fashion, too, but that's just too bad. I can't all of a sudden change direction and become a painter because everyone is goo-goo over graphics nowadays.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Reflections on Patrick O'Brian

I was struck today by how Patrick O'Brian focuses upon things in his writing--things, not people. Stephen Maturin dwells more upon his drugs--laudanum and coca leaf--and his hobbies--insects, reptiles, mammals, and plants--than his wife, the love of his life. Captain Jack Aubrey is much the same, more concerned with his ship than with anyone else, even his wife and children. I guess that is why I feel O'Brian is essentially a masculine writer, because he puts things above people, whereas a feminine writer like Jane Austen is more concerned with people and their relationships with one another and much less with things. O'Brian, like his characters, has an in-depth mastery of things, ships and animals and plants, but I feel his characters' relationships are a bit sketchy, not quite compelling enough. Almost all the characters are cardboard except for the two main ones, Aubrey and Maturin. At the moment, I'm reading O'Brian's "The Wine-Dark Sea," and I have found my attention stray as Stephen Maturin rides a llama along the Peruvian Highlands chewing on coca leaf and suffering frostbite. I've put the book down about a dozen times, which tells me that it isn't as compelling as other O'Brian novels, that it lacks a certain force. Definitely the earlier Aubrey/Maturin novels are the better ones.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tolkien's Inspiration for The Silmarillion

Tolkien found inspiration for The Silmarillion in the Bible, mythology, legend and lore, but also in the Dialogues of Plato, where Socrates discusses the soul at great length, comparing it to harmony, which to this Tolkien reader brings to mind the harmony created by Eru (the One God in Tolkien's theology) and his Ainur (archangels) before the making of the world. In The Silmarillion, Tolkien writes of this harmony forming both Middle Earth and foretelling the deeds thereupon, which is why prophecies are always fulfilled. The discordant notes introduced by the lone dissenting Ainur, Melkor (Tolkien's spin on Satan) do not succeed in destroying the harmony, but only alter the musical composition to create even more powerful music in the end.

In contrast to the silence of the Bible, Tolkien tackles head-on the one really essential question for a monotheist, "Why is there evil in the world?" The reason is art and beauty. That may not be a satisfying answer to most human beings, but why should a god view the world in the same way as a human being? Eru merely wants to create great music, perhaps due to pride, vanity or a delight in beauty. Tolkien explains evil as the black that offers contrast and greater poignancy to the white. The great god, Eru, is an artist first and a moralist second. Eru is concerned with creating great music, great art. He values beauty above righteousness or possibly equates the two. In Tolkien's works, the beautiful are good, and the evil are ugly, with few exceptions, one of them being Sauron when he lived among men. Eru is forever concerned about the endurance of his creation, Middle Earth, and its beauty and power. He is not as concerned with the fate of individuals or even of nations, although a handful of heroes have managed to catch his attention, or rather the attention of his lieutenants, on very rare occasions.

When reading the Old Testament, "Yahweh" seems to me a neglectful, vengeful father-figure, who allows temptations to arise and does nothing to reduce their influence. Nevertheless, he expects rather arbitrary rules to be obeyed precisely at all times, and when they aren't, exacts group punishment on all, the good, the bad and the innocent alike, and his punishments are cruel, like a tyrant's. In "The Silmarillion," Eru has far fewer rules, and no expectation of worship or devotion, not being a vain god. Therefore, I like Eru better than the classical god. However, with both Eru and Yahweh, one gets the sense of mankind being mere playthings, toys from which the greater being derives amusement or a sense of purpose. Men and elves are called "The Children of Eru," yet they are treated less like children than like toys. One protects children, but toys may be discarded or allowed to be damaged or destroyed at a whim, and Eru extends little protection from either Melkor or the ravages of nature and time. Yahweh, for his part, does not protect mankind from Satan, a shadowy figure that appears seldom in the Bible, I believe only in Genesis, when tempting Jesus in the desert, and in Revelations.

As a theology, "The Silmarillion" is far more satisfying than those derived from the Bible. I liked how Tolkien fleshed out the precise relationship between the central god and his opponent and explained most of what happens to people after they die. People have a strong desire to know what happens after death, but the Bible is silent on that issue other than to say one will be with God, whatever that means, and that could mean anything at all, and the nature of God is not clear either. The nature of Eru and his personality is much clearer and likeable, a more modern-thinking god, where Yahweh was a bloody tyrant that bashed people over the head when they did not agree with him. In "The Silmarillion," the archangels are all named and described, and the reasons for Melkor's dispute with them is better understood. The Bible leaves much room for speculation due to its ambiguities, with disastrous consequences for the Church, which attempted for centuries to eliminate "heresies" by violence. In Middle Earth, there is no room for any other religion, because Eru has made himself known through his lieutenants by direct intervention. There are living beings that have seen and dined with the archangels, and miracles happen in Middle Earth. The existence of Eru is never in dispute. Would that modern religions could make a similar claim! I think the absence of God and of miracles argues against the existence of either.

The most compelling connection between Plato's Dialogues and The Silmarillion can be found in Phaedo, my favorite portion of the Dialogues, where Socrates tells a charming tale to Simmias of the Earth, its geography, and of a special land where men live much longer than ordinary and possess supernatural powers of perception and endurance, and where gems are far more beautiful, and where the gods dwell in temples and let their wishes be known to men.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Patrick O'Brian & Gore Vidal

I was amused to find a reference to Gore Vidal in O'Brian's "The Wine-Dark Sea" on p.157. A midshipman or petty officer named Vidal is described as chapelist, democratic or even republican in his views, in other words a left-winger, that is, for early 19th century England. There the resemblance begins and, perhaps, ends. This Vidal conspires to free an imprisoned Frenchman by the name of Dutourd, who seems to be a pacifist that wants to start a democratic, money-optional commune on a deserted island. The reference may pass unnoticed by anyone that hasn't read Gore Vidal. At first I wondered whether O'Brian intended a mild rebuke of Gore Vidal's political views, but upon reflection I think the author just meant to tip his cap to a fellow historical novelist. I can't assume that O'Brian's views were that much different than Gore Vidal's, other than on the subject of homosexuality, where O'Brian had difficulty.

Gore Vidal's literary criticism is remarkable in its profound silence upon O'Brian. I only found one sentence indicating Gore Vidal was even aware of O'Brian. I think Gore may have found O'Brian too abundant with minute facts and technical details, too objective, and lacking that strong point of view which Gore always invested in his own work. Gore had a profound distaste for war and did not like to read or write portrayals of war. By contrast, O'Brian's books drip with blood and gore.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Gore No Fount of Wisdom

After watching a documentary on Gore Vidal last night, I was reminded of my late hero's unwise traffic with Timothy McVeigh. I think Gore was a whore for attention and lacked discretion in distinguishing good attention from bad attention. I think Gore gained nothing by that traffic and gave his ideological opponents a gift that keeps on giving. Perhaps Gore had grown decrepit in his old age and lost some of his judgement or perhaps his decisions were all in character. Killing a bunch of people should not be a means to get attention for a cause, or else civilization is truly dead. The terrorist committed an act of war, and there is not much to discuss about war. War is answered by war, violence begets violence and so on.

Viewing clips of Gore through the years, I agree with others in finding him foremost an entertainer, secondly a critic, and only last a philosopher. Many things that he said do ring true, but he exaggerated for dramatic effect, as writers like to do to stave off their nemesis, the reader's boredom. I think Gore could have chosen his battles more carefully, but then would Gore have still been Gore, and would anyone have ever heard of him at all? Perhaps he reckoned on accruing occasional setbacks in seeking the greater goal of achieving notoriety and success as an entertainer. I would not make the mistake of asserting that Gore was wise however. Clever, yes, very, and cunning as well. Perhaps he was wise in the sense that his personal life seemed surprisingly neat and solid. He never wanted for money, and his relationship with his partner endured to his death. He seemed quite content and lived to a ripe old age, enjoying the admiration of a legion of fans right to the end. In reading Gore, I think it is important to perceive that he exaggerates and sometimes takes extreme positions that seem far out on a limb because he is a performer, an entertainer that is doing his best to engage an audience that he may indeed hold in some secret contempt.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Patrick O'Brian Not Good with Gays

I'm on the sixteenth novel in Patrick O'Brian's twenty-book series concerning the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin. This is my second reading, and I've come to understand the work and the author better, I think. First of all, O'Brian is a very masculine writer. He dwells upon the technology of sailing with particular knowledge and insight. I could imagine him sailing a ship. Also, he minimizes the role of conversation. There isn't much talking in an O'Brian novel--his characters are almost all men, and his men tend to be terse and concise, a manly trait. The humor tends to remind me of The Three Stooges or at any rate, movies and television shows from his era. I really like the way that O'Brian paces his novel, having an instinctive grasp for what the reader wants to read. His style is unadorned, very readable, flowing into the mind without obstruction, and thick with period detail that gives the reader the distinct impression of experiencing the early 19th century. He tends to be impressionist, skipping episodes he finds boring or commonplace and reserving his attention for what he thinks the reader wants to know.

With his arsenal of factual knowledge, O'Brian seems a stickler for realism for the most part. The only times I've doubted his judgment has been when he used deux ex machina to pull one of his heroes out of the fire--for instance, when Stephen Maturin inherited a vast, unexpected sum of money making him wealthy enough to buy a frigate and much more. I dislike O'Brian's treatment of homosexuality, but it was relatively moderate for his generation. Unfortunately, O'Brian fell into the trap then common among novelists of making his villains, traitors in the British Admiralty, gay. This was very common in movies, television and fiction back in the 20th century, on up to 1990. Villains tended to be lesbian or gay, fitting right into common prejudices. I think O'Brian's case may be less forgiveable, because by his own admission, part of his success owed to his acceptance by his predecessor in historical novels, Mary Renault, who had a lesbian relationship for most of her adult life. She wrote glowing reviews and offered praise for his novels, and indeed one of the reasons I began reading O'Brian was because of Renault's recommendation. So I think he owed it to Mary to treat gays a little bit better than making them into villains. His treatment of women was scarcely better--none of the women in O'Brian's novels are very intelligent or capable of understanding anything of what the two heroes do. I think Diane would have been a good partner for Stephen Maturin's intelligence work, but he excluded her, I think because O'Brian didn't feel competent portraying the voices and deeds of women, just as he had precious little competence in portraying gays.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Florida Showing its Bare Butt to World (Again)

Florida can't seem to stop making a behind out of itself. The 2001 election was bad enough, but now the Zimmerman case just takes the cake. I don't know what to think about the case anymore, now that there are allegations of a cover-up in the state attorney's office. I tried wading through the six-page monstrosity penned by the Managing Director, but it was such a convoluted tale dripping with venom and pomposity, and my interest in the matter is so limited, that I confess I resorted to skimming before giving up. I really don't know who is in the right of the matter, not judging by the letter alone, which was boring, poorly written, difficult to understand, and angry. The art of letter-writing is in a sad state, I'm afraid.

If the whistleblower to whom the letter is addressed really got away with so many wicked deeds, then one wonders who is at fault for hiring him in the first place, and who is to blame for retaining him for such a long period of time, and who is to blame for permitting this damage to occur. The full-of-herself Managing Director fails to comprehend that the motives of a whistleblower are immaterial; his veracity is the only salient point. Truth and justice are of greater moment than petty personnel matters. The letter seems like a big shot venting their spleen for their own personal satisfaction, which is rather naive, because the letter has been entered into history and may be read by academics ten thousand years from now, if our civilization survives in some shape or form. I would shudder to think of such a relic representing me. I am sure it will provide fodder for many in the media and beyond.

Perhaps the Managing Director might have been genuinely provoked, perhaps she is in the right of things indeed, or perhaps the provocations are in her imagination, who am I to know? As the writer noted, none of us are qualified to have any opinions on anything because we don't have a law degree. We should just shut-up and let attorneys spoon-feed us and change our diapers and beat us when we get uppity. That sort of arrogance rubbed me the wrong way and turned me against the writer. Listen, if we the people cannot interpret the law, then the law is wrong, not the people. I don't like the professional arrogance of those who stand upon their expensive degrees as though their money grants them more intelligence than others.

She would have been better off writing a short dismissal notice of no more than two paragraphs or perhaps delivering the news in person. I may not be a big shot Director, but I at least know the value of conciseness and moreover the value of silence when circumstances demand it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Brain is Sprained

On a consistent basis, I drop a word, usually a preposition, conjunction or noun. I have to read my blog posts over and over again, about five times on average, before I detect the missing word. I used to produce near-perfect copy. I think it is a sign of decay that will only get worse as time goes on. However, I find consolation in mainstream media sites, such as CNN and MSNBC, which display the same human frailty.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Patrick O'Brian Smart Pill

I think reading Patrick O'Brian on a daily basis boasts intelligence. I'm not sure how, but some of his brains rub off on the reader. He teaches good lessons, good habits, good ways of thinking, I suppose. Wisdom is in his work, and that's why I like him.

I'm sure it would be awfully tempting to write slash fiction depicting romantic intrigue between Stephen Maturin, Jack Aubrey, Preserved Killick, Tom Pullings, and possibly the parson, Martin. I'd do so, but I'm stopped before I begin because I know there must have been a hundred attempts before me. I missed the boat, I'm afraid. No Surprise there. O'Brian is so popular and so good that it stands to reason that dozens of his fans will write slash versions of his stories. Perhaps one day I must read some.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Commune with the Dead

When reading Patrick O'Brian, one communes with the dead. The author has been dead for thirteen years now, and all the characters in his novel (some based upon real people and all based upon real history) are dead. I find it very pleasant to enter his world of the imagination, which remains very much alive, even though his body is not. I wonder which is the more real, the imagined reality or the reality we live in. Of course, the imagined reality of a great writer has far more endurance than a frail human body and pleases many more people. Almost all the writers I like are dead or, I'm afraid, soon will be, not that I feel it is a prerequisite of any kind, but each generation reads the work of the preceding generations, because a writer requires a long time to earn popularity and get established among publishers.

Cannabis also allows the shaman to open the door between living and dead and commune with various entities, but I think that great books provide a guided tour, a more interesting journey in many ways, the experience less physical and more cerebral. I have always felt that I would be completely satisfied reading select books by my favorite writers. If I lost the use of any of my limbs, like some of the innocent victims of the Boston bomber, it would not ruin my life unless I were unable to turn pages. I would adapt as long as I could continue reading, perform the basic necessities of life and communicate with others. The health problems that really worry me are ungovernable infection, such as antibiotic-resistant pneumonia, cancer, stones, heart disease, or the worst of all, mental dysfunction such as senility.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Read O'Brian and Despair

As for writing a novel, I'd better put a cork on that. I finished Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander yesterday and observed I'd never write as well as he does, not even if I tried for a thousand years.

One thing about O'Brian is he's an artist, not your ordinary sort of writer. That is, he draws scenes, and the words serve as his paintbrush. As artists go, he's an impressionist. The reader must work to shake out what's going on. O'Brian won't pat your hand and say, "Now, now, we're getting up, dear old Sir, so please put your slippers on," none of that, he zips from point to point without very much in the way of transition. The reader's brain must work overtime, sometimes rereading to puzzle out what is going on in the story. One adjusts to this challenging style, because it has the advantage of compactness. O'Brian draws a scene in ten pages that would take another writer fifty, while imparting more nuance. He does not waste the reader's time and is never boring.

Of course O'Brian's a classic nerd, having devoured every single fact and legend concerning the British Navy of the 1700s-1800s, and he flaunts his knowledge until the reader is cowed into accepting the writer's indisputable authority. I don't know one sail from another, it's all Greek to me. I just marvel. I suppose that the gentleman must have spent a good chunk of his life reading naval histories and stories. I don't even like sailing, but I like Patrick O'Brian's novels about sailing. That's the mark of a great author, that he can hook landlubbers like me with his naval stories. I rank O'Brian up there with the best of the best, and I can only wonder why Gore Vidal never reviewed his books, but Vidal preferred dead authors to living competitors and probably found O'Brian reactionary, although I think O'Brian's personal views may be found in the speech of his character Stephen Maturin, who was liberal enough for me.

When I think of the times I wanted to write a historical novel, I blush in shame, because I know good and well my knowledge of times past is not one-tenth O'Brian's. My effort would turn out just like the ones of those historical novelists I read in the library and put down in contempt.

So read O'Brian and despair, ye budding writers!Post a Comment
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions