Sunday, February 19, 2006


JH: "Literature and the arts seem to be dreams of a more limited collective" is an excellent point. Literature draws from a store (itself), and actual writing - the words, the arrangement of these words, provide depths beyond that store. What history lends provides more depths (depths may be a shimmering of the surface, and nothing deep below). For instance, in "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote", Borges excepts from Cervantes' "Don Quixote" the following words "... truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and advisor to the present, and the future's counselor" and comments that in the 17th century "this enumeration is a mere rhetorical praise of history." - however when Menard writes the same words "the idea is astounding. Menard, a contemporary of William James, does not define history as an inquiry into reality but as its origin. Historical truth, for him, is not what has happened; it is what we judge to have happened. The final phrases - 'exemplar and advisor to the present, and the future's counselor' - are brazenly pragmatic." Literature is a limited collective, yes, but limits mean doubling, whether the doubling comes from a new age (see also Borges' "Kafka and His Precursors"), a new reader / commentator, or the words themselves. The author, who soon becomes yet another work, stands almost immediately outside the work once it's created. So, is literature self-sufficient or does it rely completely on the reader? Is the reader Time? Literature minus time (and how could this ever happen? - this question is not to suggest impossibility, but to plead for hypotheses) is nothing? If literature does not have a reader, is it an artwork (something to look at, like a painting, with an idea that it is more than an object) or just an object? And a reader can be brought to read something that is not literature - sermons in stones, the Book of Nature. So the reader does not need literature, and literature is but a limit, as concentration, focus, for the reader? The Book of Nature is a book behind nature, and a book is nature behind a book? The reader then, being a part of nature, is a text, and the act of reading is comparative literature? If literature is a human invention (impossible, I think, to be proved until we can conclusively find out where inspiration, literary and technical, comes from) it may be a mirror to watch, via the limit of concentration, ourselves -- but something has definitely settled to the bottom (or more shimmers at the top) of literature, making it something distinct from the human. Speaking of artwork, could you write more about your visual pieces?

AHB: Fun reading your words, your ranging into such territories. Literature, or Art generally, just happens, in a sense. It is a human thing, and is understood as Art. And people will say what Art is, whether Jackson Pollock's work is or... I saw this book, I don't recall title or author (does it really exist?), the subject of which is paintings by cats. Literally. More than a few people have provided paint and paper or some manner of support for their cats who, in heir inquisitive nature, dip paws into the paint and transfer the paint to the support. Lots of striking pictures, art or not. And people decide if that is art, or whether cooking is, or such and such. I'd only say that art transfigures, however subtly. The point is that some consciousness occurs, in people, and it seems to be the consciousness of the artwork as well. As to my artwork, it is play. I use paints, ink, watercolour pencils, collage, most often several media at once. It is a quietness as compared to writing. What I note as I work, a near desperation to save the piece. I make some tentative marks then switch media to amend and rescue what I did. It is rescue because I am conscious of my lack of training in the arts. Which is a stupid thing to worry but I do. Along with that desperation is a simple urge to enjoy colour and form. And maybe because I've been writing so long, I've developed blocks or rigidities, which I don't have in the visual arts (not yet). So art is good that way. Have I made anything clear? I hate sounding like a prefab form of artist when these self-discoveries (common to all, of course) are so poignant.


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