Monday, October 15, 2007

The Written Word

I like what Paul Auster says:

"It is the only place in the world, I believe, that two absolute strangers can meet on the deepest level. It's something that reinforces our common humanity. That's the power of writing. You don't feel that in a movie. You don't quite feel it when you look at a painting, although that can be close, but the articulated word and articulated thoughts communicated from one person to another is the province of Literature writing."

And where, I wonder, does The Blog stand in relation to this? I know I am talking to people - even if there were no comments I would know that because I can see from the stats that they look in, and though some flit in and out again, there are those who stay and read. But it isn't the same as the "I and thou" connection I experience when writing in my notebook, even though there is no guarantee of anyone actually reading the words. My stepfather, before he went mad and cut himself off from the world, wrote in the journal that he shared with me:

"Who is the stranger who lives with me?" He was a writer. It is my opinion, though I can't be sure, that the stranger was the "thou" he had become separated from.


Anna MR said...

Hei Signs - lovely thoughts, both from you and Paul A. I would both agree and disagree (with the Auster thought), to some extent - I think many other art forms offer a forum where something, a communication on the deepest level can be experienced (the performing arts are close to my heart; music would be another obvious example). However, as I see it, literature has two obvious advantages over others in this: its absolute repeatability (no matter how blindingly wonderful an Isadora Duncan or a Mary Wigman dance have been, I wasn't around then and cannot experience it now. The very immediacy, the uniqueness-in-the-now which are at the core of the wonder of live theatre performances are also, in a way, their shortcoming. The experience is gone from the world when the show is done, and we can only read the - text. Yes). Also, although we will all interpret the same piece of literature to mean slightly different things, the fact it is word-based will maybe still steer our interpretations towards something similar, possibly more than in the case of, say, a piece of music. On the other hand, being tied to words tends, for me, to intellectualise an experience and thus create a certain distance between myself and it. From that point of view, then, a piece of music might be a more immediate and deeper communicator between the composer and the listener.

Who knows. I went all wanky with the sheer effort at being thoughtful. And yes, where does The Blog stand in relation to this? I know I mocked myself quite harshly in one of my first blogposting efforts for my ludicrous hope of finding someone who would really hear me. Now, some year and a half later, it doesn't seem so ludicrous a hope. Communication is possible, which is quite a paradigm shift, for me. And yes, it has come about through the written word.

Interesting, Signs. Very good. I am going to go and hide now, I think. Not before I've left you some mwah's, though.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Anna,

I agree with what you say about other art forms - but I do think Auster has a point about the one-to-one nature of the experience in literature. I know that many people say poetry doesn't fully live until it is spoken aloud and I, as you know, run a poetry cafe so that it can be spoken and heard. But there is a particular connection I feel to certain poets when it's just me in relationship with the inner voice I experience as I read on the page. It's not more powerful, just qualitatively different.

It's exhausted me just saying that, and I wasn't even being very deep. I have been out "workshopping" at the top of a pub.

I'm off to look for you - know where you're hiding, mwahahar!

luseh how posh people pronounce Lucy, innit?

Rising Rainbow said...

I think that words can be very powerful. Unfortunately not enough people know how to use them effectively.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Rising Rainbow - yes, but I'm not sure that people necessarily have to be "taught" how to use words. I think there needs to be a renewed (or new) consciousness of the potential power of words - and what the consequences are when words and language are de-natured and lose their vitality - become cliche merely.

cusp said...

Interesting idea but I'm not sure it's true only of writing One of the joys of, say, music or visual art is the fact that they transcend language --- in the sense that we come from different countries and speak different languages.

If something is translated from one language to another I don't believe that the nuances of the orignal can ever really be transposed to the translation (ever tried having a relationship with someone who is not originally from your own country ? --- even when they are excellent e.g. english speakers the nuances of the language don't come across)

Visual arts and music hit straight at the emotions and the soul without the cumbersome acroutrements of grammar, metre etc. etc.

Anna MR said...

Ha. Yes, Cusp (hello, pleased to meet you), I for one would never consider a relationship with someone who didn't speak English proper like. But seriously - neither of my (ex-)husbands spoke my native tongue. The first one didn't even make any effort. Whether this was a contributing factor to the relationship(s) not working is an interesting thought exercise (I think my English is sufficiently good to have caught their nuances (and there really isn't all that much nuance in "stupid fucking cow" to be caught, is there - again, love and greetings to Ex 1), at least in straightforward language-comprehension. I think we people can fail to catch each other's nuances for other reasons, too, and I may well have failed in catching theirs in one of the many other ways, but, for the aforementioned reason, they couldn't get me in my native). Personally, I don't think this made a difference in my case(s), but I do know what you mean. I sometimes look at couples with a middling-to-serious language barrier between them and think how in God's sweet name are you two ever going to communicate with each other once the sex runs out (which, invariably, it does - or at least waxes and wanes), Cusp, so I concede a very good point.

Anyway and also - I agree with both points raised (hello, Princeling, you don't mind me waffling on about my failed relationships to poor unprepared Cusp, do you? Hope not, because it's done now, oh my). Non-language based art forms can hit one where language doesn't (yet) exist, if you like, but the words of another person, be they dead or alive, form the basis of a very real-feeling one-to-one relationship. I am aware of (but sadly haven't read) a comparative literature dude's piece (possibly a thesis work, I can't remember) on the experience of friendship across time with authors one has found meaningful and important. This, in a way, is the thing - maybe - with blogging, too. Yes? No? Maybe?

Signs, honey, I am verbose to the extreme today. Bar me, but not before I tell you ttwhug - ta-ta, with hug. Obviously. Mwah, too.

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

I love Paul Auster's books. But the claim for literature that,

"It is the only place in the world, I believe, that two absolute strangers can meet on the deepest level.That's the power of writing."

deserves at least a challenge (in this context). Perhaps that's for another time.

You're asking a question based on a premise that there is a direct relationship between a book and its reader and, by extension, its writer. You're then asking if the relationship between a book and its reader is the same or different from the relationship between a blogger and her/his reader. Good luck with that one Signs my love.

The truth is that no one knows what they love until they either write it or read it or (preferably) both.

You know what pisses me off the most? In a time when we are free to think and write what we like, so many of us are more concerned with finding the form that most strictly conforms to market forces.

We are a truly sad race and deserve extinction.



cusp said...

Well Anna Mr (sorry Signs -- using your comment space to converse with other blogtravellers) I have to agree that if you are called a 'stupid fucking cow' you would probably get the gist of that fragrant retort whether or not you understood the actual words.

My partner's parents came from different countries, married 40 years happily and I too had a very happy relationship in my distant youth with a Frenchieperson who had a PhD in English Lit and was fluent. All the same, when push came to shove (not literally --- it wasn't that kind of relationship) there were misunderstandings based around language. Some led to real blow-ups.

As for a comparison between the reader of a book and the reader of a blog, well, the reader of a book can in some ways only have an inner response and has no real way of responding directly to the creator of what s/he has read.

The idea of the blog, in a way, is of an online diary; that other people could know what you were doing and thinking. However, once the option of directly commenting on posts was opened up the idea of blogging was taken to another level because you DO have an abaility to directly respond to the creator of what you've read. Indeed, the creator is hoping, expecting in most cases, that readers will respond. So, maybe you cannot really compare interacting with a book to interacting with a blog because they're different animals: not as duck to hippo but certainly as duck to, say, blackbird...if you catch my drift.

Sorry again Signs. Anna Mr's verbosity is contagious. It's your fault, though, because you've opened up a real can of words here.....

Reading the Signs said...

Pants, Pants (sorry Anna and Cusp, be with you directly) - you give me too much credit: I do not ask question based on premis, I come across something that resonates, that feels to me as though it has a truth to it, and then I wonder about it. That is how the brain of Signs works, or malfunctions, these days. The relationship between book and reader and blog and reader is of course different in so many ways. I was exploring what I though was a paradox. Paul Auster was putting down something about his own experience and belief - no problem in putting something with a different perspective that would challenge how he sees things. Except that he probably doesn't read this blog. But I do - er, obviously, and a couple of others at least.

Before we bring in the Daleks - there are those on the margins who will continue to write what they write and care nothing for the accountants.
"The poet is in times of dictatorship a democrat, in times of democracy an aristocrat, in times of religion a free thinker and in times of atheism religious." I can't for the life of me remember who said that. But it resonates and makes me wonder. Even if it isn't necessarily the whole truth.

Cusp and Anna - mwah, darlings. And laters!!

Reading the Signs said...

Cuspchen, "can of words" is good, oh yes. If we're speaking about joy then yes, the arts that "transcend language" have the power to connect us to that and so much else. Music is, I think, the first language of the soul. It is a particular kind of intimacy that I think Paul Auster was speaking about.

But where is Paul - huh? Dammit all, why can't he lift his head from the book he is no doubt writing at this very moment and come and leave a comment here?

Looking at you, mr. Annaling, not that you are answerable for Paul's actions, but really - you'd think that it's the least he could do, seeing as I've done him the honour of quoting him. I know you're agreeing with me, so you don't have to say anything.

I think what you are talking about - though I may be losing the thread a little - is the mind of the author of any work of art, and the feeling one sometimes gets, whether in performance art or something else, that one is encountering that, and what is this but a meeting "on the deepest level?" So maybe Paul is talking bollocks. Paul? Explain yourself. But, but, I still think he has a point. Only with a book in hand do I feel the intimacy of an I and thou connection to a particular voice, as well as mind.

And Darling - not only is it ok to waffle on about failed relationships, it is your duty to do this kind of thing here. For have I not already said (and I hate to quote myself, sounds so pompous, but oh well) - "where all systems fail poetry begins"? Or falls flat on its face, admittedly. And being espoused to a person whose background and basic language shares much in common with mine has been a great enabling factor in the progress of an ongoing relationship.

I don't know about the blog being an online diary (Cusp). The thing about blog is that it can be almost anything and, being in its infancy, still has the potential to be something quite anarchic.

Rambling now. Sorry. But at least it gives you permission to do the same.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I think most of the art forms can be powerful connectors, I think it depends on which art form one relates to best and which art form speaks to one at any given point in time. I often find that certain paintings speak to me in ways that words never can, but then again, there are some words that touch me like a painting can't. Then there are days when I listen to piece of music which whispers to my core. I think it all depends on the message and the moment.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Vanilla,

For me it has been consistently so: the sense of intimacy I experience through the written word, I mean. But yes, I accept this not the case for everyone. I have never "got" art in the same way as literature.

Anna MR said...

Signs - "I know you're agreeing with me, so you don't have to say anything." Wtf? You would silence me, Signs? You would silence me? I mean, I know this is your blog and I just asked you to bar me, but really, that does seem a bit rich - particularly given that a paragraph or too later, you say "And Darling - not only is it ok to waffle on ... it is your duty to do this kind of thing here." Now make your mind up already, will you, Pirate Prince? How am I supposed to know what you want, hmm?

Nah, but seriously. I know what I want, and that's all that matters, and I want to waffle. (I also know you love my waffles, really.) Besides, I have an important point to make about Paul, so even though you just (rudely) told me to shut my waffling mouth about him, I will just come out, against censorship that I am (see the wee Amnesty badge, bottom of my blog margin), and say, yes, absolutely. Given your quoting him, and mine, too - I have even bestowed upon him the honour of appearing in one of my labels - my labels, Signs (and Paul, you mouth-breathing secret reader of blogs) - you really would think he'd come clean and explain himself. But nooo. That's fame for you, it corrupts one (trust me, I know - shhh), making one suddenly way too proud to come and explain one's messy thoughts in a coherent, understandable manner on the blogs of the very people who have given him that fame.

Poor show, Paul.

Signs, you're forgiven for trying to silence me, because I like you. Mwah.

(loono - no, really. Okay, word ver fairies - I know you know it's me.)

Reading the Signs said...

Now listen here, princiloon , it's Paul that's causing all this trouble really, isn't it? And who is responsible for this? Well you are, obviously, for mentioning him on your blog in the first place (in them days, remember?) and putting me in mind of him when I had not thought of him for ever so long. And TPE should obviously also shoulder a bit of responsibility. Why? For not being here, of course. Where is he? Probably in a bar talking about us with Paul at this very moment, that's where. Still - there's only one thing worse than being talked about, loono, and I'm sure I don't have to spell out what that is.

But whatever: I feel we are getting to grips with things, I do, really. It's great being an intellectual. And I know you're agreeing with me so you don't have to say anything, but you're a bit of a mashed potato if you don't. So there.

Paul A. said...

Madame Signs,

I have been following your intellectual debate here with a sense of wonder and gratitude, and, not wishing to cut the wings of the arising arguments, have until now kept quiet about my meanings. It now seems, though, that I am being perceived as haughty, not to say, negligent of my fellow writers and intellectuals, and, therefore, would like to quote myself to you here, as, really, what better source than a man's work to best explain that same thing, his work, because everything is what it is, and it only means what it is.

"He wants to say. That is to say, he means. As in the French, "vouloir dire", which means, literally, to want to say, but which means, in fact, to mean. He means to say what he wants. He wants to say what he means. He says what he wants to mean. He means what he says." The Book of Memory. Book Eleven.

I am being drawn in two directions, as I have left a most fascinating new acquaintance, a Scottish intellectual, it would appear, although there is something of the quintessentially English about him too, with a touch of Irish wind-sweptedness, mid-conversation, in a bar, to come and speak with you here. But, Madame Signs, I hope to continue this conversation with you and your beautiful guests at some point.

In closing, may I just take the liberty of commending you for your wise thoughts and writing, which, both, are beautiful to the extreme. Being the shy and reticent man that I am, I have, until now, failed to comment here on your blog, but please allow me to assure you I follow your work very closely, and have been doing so for the longest time.

Your avid reader and fan,

Paul A.
New York, NY

Reading the Signs said...

Paul! How absolutely spiffing of you to look in. And of course I guessed that you must be looking in on my blog from time to time because we are in many respects kindred spirits, you and I. Would you believe that one of my secret fantasies is disappearing into deepest and darkest suburb of a place just on the outskirts of London, which is as close to nowhere as you will ever find, closer even than limbo and not nearly so interesting. All it has is an Iceland and a Burger Kind and these kind of prison block flats where people live - and a few folorn 1930s house. You could disappear into one of those and no-one would ever find you again. Self-annihilation, Paul, arencha seduced by it? But you don't need to answer because I know you are agreeing with me. And I would never call you a mashed potato.

I think I know that individual you refer to. Do not be surprised if, on your return to the bar, he has disappeared without trace for he is as the wind and bloweth where he list - but I don't mean anything rude by that. On the other hand, you may find a rather extraordinary presence has taken his place, a personage from Iceland who is able to project herself ethereally to wherever she chooses. She has attended some of my poetry cafes in this manner. If you see her, please commend me to her and buy her a drink.

And Paul - carry on the good work. Keep nihilising - don't let the philistines put you off.

Reading the Signs said...

I meant Burger King, Paul - there is no such place as Burger Kind, though the kids that go there could at a pinch be described as such.

And I've spelled forlorn wrong. I've got a lot on my mind, Paul, you know how it is.

Paul A. said...

Madame Signs,

With the quality of your writing, typos are irrelevant. Deeply moved by your "hands" post. You have both acuteness of observation and brilliance of expression. I will not go up there and make a spectacle of myself, I will just congratulate you quietly down here in the privacy of an older post.

If I was a fan of your writing before now, I can now be described as an afficionado.


Reading the Signs said...

I am honoured, Paul. Quite understand you wanting to keep a low profile. When I'm as famous as you are I doubt I'd want to stick my head above the parapet, so to speak. But for now I seem to be more or less resigned to making a spectacle of myself. I suspect my more "serious" posts can make some people a bit wary of saying something in case it is the wrong thing. I hope that's not the case. The words are most always appreciated.

canufx (Paul, I can only apologise for the capriciousness of my word ver leprechauns - they are a damn nuisance, as my friend Lady Iceland will testify).

Anna MR said...

Signs my dear, (like Paul above,) I was very moved by your post. I think you're right in people finding it a bit difficult to say something after a "serious" post - I am down here because although I don't find it difficult as such (at the moment) to be at the top post either, it is rather comfy here and, well, I haven't any words of wisdom to add to what other folks have said before me. It is a beautifully written and felt post, and certainly one which will resonate within many readers. My mother's father's hands were almost exactly like hers were when I was a child (he died before I was born, but I have this from photos), mine are very like hers, my eldest son's like mine - in the way of shape as well as wrinkliness. Reading your post was - startling, that's the word that comes to mind.

And, guess what - the word ver leprechauns have sent me sqxyfxg - which to me is clearly related to the one you just quoted, and one open to rather capricious interpretations, too. So carnivalism rules, even (and possibly particularly) amidst the poignant.

Mwah and mwah, Signs, you are a star.

Reading the Signs said...

What to say but thank you, dear Anna. And you may make yourself comfortable as you please.

wyeevck - ok WVLs, very funny, and I'm putting my fingers in my ears and saying "la la la".

Anna MR said...

Hei Signs, hope all is well. Missing you in the land of blog. Mwah and mwah, it's not the same without you. (kiwdfti, say the leprechauns - come back and tell me what that is)

Anna MR said...

Hei Signs, thank you for your prompt explanation of kiwdfti and apologies I haven't been back to expand on the treasure-trove of bollocks you came bearing. I will do so soon enough, just not today, okay, dearest Princeling? In the meantime, we have been blessed with swoss. As in 'Swoss awl tha about, then?

Reading the Signs said...

Right you are then, Ms Mr - staying over here as it's almost (but not quite) impossible to get back to old post comments over at your place now that it's been all newly spangled up. Quite a challenge it was to get past Daydream Believer. Ar, but I did!

Anna MR said...

Your Daydream-Believer-overtaking achievement was duly noted and admired. How, sweet Signs, did you manage it? Just, you know, out of interest.

Loved your new post, by the way. xx