Friday, March 18, 2005

Spaceship Reading: The Die

Winter 2004/2005

A thought-provoking issue. Most interesting to me was the Editor's discussion of the idea, "Each one of us is responsible for making our lives meaningful." Questions are raised. Walter Kaufman asks artists to "find meaning in themselves." But how does this square with Editor Joe Smith's conclusion that "having a meaningful life requires action"?

To me, there's a distinct difference between the inward-centered writer trying to find "insight"-- navel-gazing about himself-- and the outward-looking writer engaged actively with the world. This isn't a political question, but a philosophical one.

I came to the conclusion in my own life that to have meaning I had to take at least a stab at changing the world-- to cease being a bar-dwelling island unto myself, by uniting with other writers. Thoreau was admirable, but wrong.

About another point in the issue, I disagree with the idea that we need more bureaucracies with increased standards mandating that students be forced to "write well." Nothing to my mind could more turn off young people and kill this natural form of expression. (Though it might prepare them better for the conglomerate job market!) Rigid doctrine stifles independent thought. My opinion is informed by my research of the real Shakespeare. The greatest writer the planet has produced! Yet he made up his spelling, his vocabulary, and even his grammar as he went along. Language to him was a living thing-- not dead, catalogued, and codified. His mind wasn't encompassed by rules, standards, and doctrines. He was instead a shouting actor from a small town suddenly blessed with a platform for uninhibited expression. Shakespeare took full advantage of it, WITHOUT the aid of National Commissions, committees, bureaucratic reports, and enforced standards. The trick is to treat literature not as medicine, but fun!

The Die is recommended. Free by writing a note to Joe Smith, Red Roach Press, PO Box 764, College Park MD 20740.


Anonymous said...

If you think writing should change the world (or writers should try), does that mean you think that the actual stuff they write should be geared toward world changing ideas?
Or do you mean that the act of good writing and writing alongside others who agree with you about what makes it good itself will change the world?
Does writing need to make a "point", in your view, is what I'm asking?

King Wenclas said...

I don't think all writing should make a point-- only that some of it should. (My impromptu novel about to be posted I'm doing without much thought for my own amusement.)
Speaking solely for myself, the reason I first wanted to write is to have some small influence on things. Language-- writing-- is a powerful tool.

- Leopold said...

I agree with King here. Not all writing should have a point. Although it should always have SOMETHING that clinches it - a new way of thinking, a different approach to a character. The basic elements of a book should be a) entertainment for the reader and b) something new to say or a different way of looking at things.

Stories with no point are fine - pulp fiction has its appeal and place. But the best fiction is that which entertains AND has something to say. This is without exception. That doesn't have to be political. A good example is Mark Haddon's recent 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time'. It's not political and at its heart is a mystery story about an outsider trying to fit. But the entire book is seen through the eyes of an autistic child and that's the THING that elevates it beyond hum-drum pulp.

I also think authors need to take care not to be politically rigid, or constantly political. If they wanted to do that, they should be writing non-fiction. The trick is to find where philosophical analysis of our world, commentary and, most importantly, entertainment meet.