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22 June 2018
I’ve been reading Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. It’s taken me a long time to get around to it, but I’m glad I did. It’s terrific — plain, compelling, perspective-shifting.
“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
Excerpt From: Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States.
And I’ve also been dipping into Knausgård’s My Struggle. I can’t say I’m enjoying it, but there are gems here and there:
“Memory is not a reliable quantity in life. And it isn’t for the simple reason that memory doesn’t prioritize the truth. It is never the demand for truth that determines whether memory recalls an action accurately or not. It is self-interest that does. Memory is pragmatic, it is sly and artful, but not in any hostile or malicious way; on the contrary, it does everything it can to keep its host satisfied. Something pushes a memory into the great void of oblivion, something distorts it beyond recognition, something misunderstands it totally, something, and this something is as good as nothing, recalls it with sharpness, clarity, and accuracy. That which is remembered accurately is never given to you to determine.”
Excerpt From: Karl Ove Knausgård. My Struggle: Book 3.
Knausgård also remarks on writing, painting and music, though I am not sure he has got this the right way around:
“[…] it was impossible not to be reminded of how much of what surrounded us was dead, how little of it all was actually alive and how much space the living occupied inside us. This was why I would have loved to be able to paint, would have loved to have the talent, for it was only through painting this could be expressed. Stendhal wrote that music was the highest form of art and that all the other forms really wanted to be music. This was of course a Platonic idea, all the other art forms depict something else, music is the only one which is something in itself, it is absolutely incomparable. But I wanted to be closer to reality, by which I meant physical, concrete reality, and for me the visual always came first, also when I was writing and reading, it was what was behind letters that interested me. When I was outdoors, walking, like now, what I saw gave me nothing. Snow was snow, trees were trees. It was only when I saw a picture of snow or of trees that they were endowed with meaning. ”
Excerpt From: Karl Ove Knausgård. My Struggle: Book 2, A Man In Love.
Writers must experience writing in different ways, I suppose. For me, writing has usually been a way of ‘falling into’ meaning, a sink hole I fall into while metaphorically ambling through the writing process. Does music really avoid ‘representation’, or is it just that the thing to which it points is a different aspect of what’s real? … Something to be worked out, later.
This work takes its title from the 1925 essay by Sigmund Freud, ‘A note upon the mystic writing-pad’, in which he posits that the system of perception and consciousness appears to be strikingly similar to a graphic arts toy called a ‘mystic writing-pad’. The ongoing work exploits this metaphorical understanding of consciousness in a still-growing series of ‘drawings-as-writing’ or ‘writing-as-drawing’. The images reproduce key texts of personal writing, relevant influential authors and ‘voices’ from the past… diaries, biographical essays, Freud, James Baldwin and others. This work uses writing and imagery to interrogate ideas of a fictionalised self that is subject to the influence of culture. These are the first nine frames/images presented as a large drawing …
In the 1980s, at Meanjin, a literary magazine founded by Clem Christesen in the 1940s, Stephen worked with the editor Jim Davidson—typing letters, sorting envelopes into postcode order, making tea, and playing Scrabble with A. A. Phillips (who coined the much-quoted phrase ‘cultural cringe’). Much of Stephen’s writing in the 1980s and 1990s was published by the editor Barrett Reid ( »» 2 MB PDF). Stephen worked as an editor with Barrett at the Heide farmhouse in Heidelberg (well before it was turned into a gift shop and while there were still possums living in the ceiling).