I've been taking a break from blogging to try to work on several college essays. One in particular, focuses on the use of language in Harold Pinter's plays. I'm not particularly interested in Pinter's work but hopefully I'll get to learn something new about how language is used in the theatrical platform.
In his Nobel Lecture, Pinter elaborates on the disconnection of meaning behind drama:
Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.
Pinter is not difficult to read as he doesn't seem to enjoy demonstrating his erudite knowledge, unlike the pompous but entertaining Tom Stoppard. However, when one reads his plays, one encounters an irresistable urge to understand the purpose of each individual's conversation. It's somehow reassuring to know that every sentence goes somewhere, refers to something and is not just ambigious chatter that fills the silence inbetween.
More to come on Pinter.
Technorati Tags: Pinter, Theatre, Drama, Plays
The Beat has a fascinating interview with Alan Moore, the legendary English writer who wrote canonical graphic novels such as the Watchmen, V for Vendetta (yes, the movie starring Natalie Portman) and From Hell, a brillant, complex and polyphonic semi-biography of Jack the Ripper. Moore's writing completely revolutionized the comics industry and his poetic, lyrical style brought an incredible density to characters such as Swamp Thing, a figure erstwhile considered to be too emotionally vacant to depict in a meaningful way.
In this interview, he expresses his general disgust for the American comics and film industry:
I'm perhaps overstating my case here a bit, but I think I lent an awful lot of literary and intellectual credibility to the American comics business and to the comics business in general when I entered it. I don't feel the same way about comics any more, I really don’t. I never loved the comic industry. I used to love the comics medium. I still do love the comics medium in its pure platonic, essential form, but the comics medium as it stands seems to me to have been allowed to become a cucumber patch for producing new movie franchise.
Technorati Tags: Literature, Comics, Moore, Vendetta
Kurt Vonnegut, by Jeff Nicholson.
Kurt Vonnegut's Bagombo Snuff Box, a collection of his first magazine stories from the 1950s is a book I've been planning to read. From the snippets I've read online at Maurice Institute Library, the book seems pretty enjoyable. Judging from Vonnegut's principles of creative writing, the stories are going to be the equivalent of a Hollywood blockblaster.
In the introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box, Vonnegut describes his contentment with writing stories that satisfied ‘uncritical readers of magazines’:
I was in such good company with a prospectus like that. Hemingway had written for Esquire, F. Scott Fitzgerald for The Saturday Evening Post, William Faulkner for Collier’s, John Steinbeck for The Woman’s Home Companion! Say what you want about me, I never wrote a magazine called The Woman’s Home Companion, but there was a time when I would have been most happy to. And I add this thought: Just because a woman is stuck alone at home, with her husband at work and her kids at school, that doesn’t mean she is an imbecile.
Technorati Tags: Vonnegut, Magazine, Writing, Literature
Eugene Ionesco's grave in Montparnesse Cemetary, Paris.
The inscription on the tomb reads: Prier le Je Ne Sais Qui J'espere Jesus-Christ which translates to Pray to the I don't-know-who: Jesus Christ, I hope.
An absurd gesture, a reflective gesture, an anti-pièce technique, a semblance of the mockery of reason in Ionesco's plays. The rest of the 20th century literati, known for a similar existential preoccupation have been remarkly silent: Beckett, Sartre, Camus and Genet all do not have any specific inscription on their graves.
I recently read an interesting passage in Epigraphy of Death: Studies in the History and Society of Greece and Rome. While examining the construction of identity in the military tombstones of Roman Mainze, Valerie Hope writes:
Epitaphs are set up to be read. They communicate to the living information about the dead. Yet to read a gravestone is to read more than the words of the inscription. The object as a whole communicates; its size, decor and location, as well as the epitaph, all summon the attention of the onlooker and together seek to tell a story, however simple. The tombstone evokes the memory of the dead but is set up by the living for the instruction of the living.
What does Ionesco intend, with this final parting repartee?
Technorati Tags: Ionesco, Beckett, Sartre, Epitaphs, Montparnesse
Donald Barthelme. In my opinion, the best short story writer ever. Every single one of his strange rendevous with prose should be made into a movie and played endlessly, looped through a projecter on the impassive face of brick wall of an abandoned building. Midnight to dawn. Let the zombies watch. Let them enjoy it while eating breakfast with careful fringe tucked behind their ears.
The epiphany was never done better, except in Bartheleme's stories. Words created through the terrific pride of a blind trapeze act. Stories develop from a whirlpool narrative that is hidden from view, centrifugal symptoms of which are perceived from the surreal incidents that occur. A long division from numbers that range to infinity and come up right in your face, in the form of a camera obscura or an exploding banana. He looks like my father, with that kind twinkle in his eye.
"Writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing, a forcing of what and how.... The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made. Without the scanning process engendered by not-knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention.... The not-knowing is not simple, because it's hedged about with prohibitions, roads that may not be taken. The more serious the artist, the more problems he takes into account and the more considerations limit his possible initiatives."
--Barthelme, from the essay "Not-Knowing"
Don't even bother going to read his stories here.
Pingmag has recently published an interesting series of Tiny Tokyo pictures inspired by Olivo Barbieri’s aerial photographs, which coolly transformed famous landmarks and cities into miniature models. While Barbieri had the good fortune to use a helicopter and an expensive tilt shift lens, these Tokyo images were easily achieved through the use of high rise buildings and basic photoshop effects.
In the Metropolis article, Barbieri explains the rationale behind his unique aerial pictures:
“I was a little bit tired of the idea of photography allowing you to see everything,” Barbieri says. “After 9/11 the world had become a little bit blurred because things that seemed impossible happened. My desire was to look at the city again.”
Rose Seidler House (1948-1950), a Bauhaus-styled home in Sydney built for his mother.
Renowned architect Harry Seidler has died in his Sydney home, aged 82. Considered to be the earliest exponent of Bauhause and Modernist principles in Australia, Seidler worked and studied with some of the world's best-known Modernist architects including Walter Gropius, Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer and Oscar Niemeyer.
A Sydney Morning Herald article reveals Seidler's steadfast devotion to the Modernist ethic.
We ask Seidler of his inspiration when designing tall buildings. He looks taken aback. “Inspiration?” he says incredulously. “Architecture is not an inspirational business, it's a rational procedure to do sensible and hopefully beautiful things; that's all.” [28 September, 2002, p 4.]
Kafka's fascinating diary entries from 1910 – 1923 can be read online in the form of a daily weblog, courtesy of the Kafka project and translater Paul Kerschen. In order not to feel too bad about peeking into his diary (which, at times is intensely personal), I've decided to imagine that Kafka is just another interesting blogger that I read on a regular basis. A torturous entry in 1910 begins:
When it was becoming unbearable – toward one evening in November – and I ran over the narrow rug of my room as along a racetrack, again took fright at the sight of the illuminated street, and yet again found a new destination in the depths of the room at the back of the mirror, and cry out, just to hear the cry, which is answered by nothing and which also relieves nothing of the cry’s force, so that it rises up without a counterweight and cannot stop even if it falls silent, then the door opened out from the wall, so hastily, since haste was badly needed, and even the cart-horses down on the pavement raised themselves on their spread hind legs like horses turned wild in some battle, their throats surrendered.
According to Kerschen, Kafka published this piece, slightly revised and with a few paragraphs added, under the title "Unglücklichsein" ("Unhappiness") as the final story in his 1913 collection Betrachtung (Meditation).
In one of my favorite entries, Kafka
blogs writes about how he spent a Sunday:
Sunday, 19 July slept, woke, slept, woke, miserable life.
In another short 1910 entry, Kafka talks about Goethe:
Read a bit of Goethe’s diaries. Distance already holds his life firmly in peace, these diaries set fire to it. The clarity of all the events makes them mysterious, just as a park railing gives the eyes rest from viewing the expanse of farther lawns and yet causes us no corresponding admiration.
It seems the same could be said about his very own diary.
Rest well..K. We miss you.
Technorati Tags: Kafka, Diaries, Literature
1960s Picture of Habermas with students. Seems like a really heated discussion.
Sigh..why does this never happen in my classes?
redelephant: Was browsing through Habermasian Reflections, a pretty comprehensive blog on Jurgen Habermas's work when i came upon an article by Thomas Biebricher, which examines Habermas' interpretation of Foucault in the Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Biebricher argues that Habermas fundamentally misunderstands the Foucaultian project of genealogy. A fairly interesting read.
According to the thesis put forward here, Habermas fundamentally misunderstands Foucault's genealogical approach in projecting the methodological maxims of the latter's earlier archaeological approach onto his genealogical writing of history. Hence, Habermas misses the unique character of Foucault's ybrid approach that blends science and literature. The reason for this misreading, as I will suggest, is Habermas's misunderstanding of Foucault's reading of Nietzsche, which is ultimately rooted in Habermas's own interpretation of Nietzschean philosophy and the concept of genealogy in particular.
Milk, 1984 (Transparency in lightbox 1870 x 2290 mm)
redelephant: I like Jeff Wall's pictures. While some photography seeks to capture the ethereal moment, document, suspend and expose it in its entirety, Jeff Wall seems to approach photography as a form of pictorial art, giving it thematic relevance beyond the image's context. Using large-scale photographic tableaux mounted in lightboxes, staged scenes, designed sets and amateur actors, each photograph is carefully shot with a unified composition schematic.
Notice how the left side of Milk seems to emanate a soothing air, from the use of cooling colors such as green and white in the bush and vertical indoor wall.This constrasts starkly with most of the image, which is bathed in rough, heaty brown hues, dripping from the brick grid walls to the man's shoe and wet, dark hair. Tension is remarkly concentrated in two parts of the picture: The man's posture, his clenched forearm with veins showing and the spurting geyser of white from the bottle of milk. There's something going on. The action is apparent but somehow, the careful representation of form makes the picture seem devoid of any context, removing the possibility of developing a definitive interpretation.
redelephant: Just noticed a rather interesting review in Azure of Philip Roth’s 2005 novel, The Plot Against America. Samuel G.Freeman, a lecturer at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism examines Roth’s fictional alternate universe, where Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR in the 1940 presidential election and begins a nation-wide campaign of anti-semiticism. Freedman writes:
Some critics attribute the book’s impact to a concern among Americans, and especially Jews, about the emergence of jihadist terrorism around the world. Others contend that the book serves as a deft and devastating parable of the America led by George W. Bush, who in their view is simultaneously an intolerant boob and a cunning, nascent dictator.While these two arguments have merit, I nonetheless think both miss the essential point. Whether by intent or accident, Roth’s novel speaks to a fundamental part of the American Jewish psyche: Insecurity.
What Roth has actually accomplished--and it is an immense literary achievement, indeed--is to make palpable for American readers the paralysis, anxiety, helplessness, betrayal, and fleeting, ill-fated resistance of European Jewry, particularly German Jewry, during the 1930s and 1940s. By setting all the events in a familiar American context, while holding fast to eternal truths of human nature and Jewish character, Roth has given us, all these decades later and a continent away, an acute answer to the terrible lingering questions of the Holocaust. Why didn’t more Jews flee? Why didn’t more Jews fight? Why didn’t they see the doom descending until it was too late?
redelephant: While we are on the topic of music criticism.. The NY times has just published a review of Simon Reynold’s latest book Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. Reynolds, an Oxford trained historian, is an influential British music critic, who is particularly known for his brainy writings on dance music and for coining the term “post-rock” in an 1994 issue of The Wire.
It’s easier for a critic to attack than to praise, but Reynolds takes more pleasure in expressing passion for the music he loves than in putting down what doesn’t fit his program. The author finds his perfect subject in the one-named Green, the Marxist leader of Scritti Politti. Describing Green’s lyrics, which sound like the stuff of conventional love songs on first listen, Reynolds is overwrought: “On closer inspection, though, they turned out to be pretzels of contradiction, with an aporia (the poststructuralist term for voids in the fabric of meaning) lurking in the center of every twist of language, sweet nothings that could wreck your heart.” ..Naturally, Reynolds keeps it real by dropping in expletives between references to Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida.