What is the experience of reading an author?
This is a difficult, completely subjective question, but one that is missing from reviews of books. However, I think it is both an untapped subject and a very difficult one.
I don’t have answers to this question. But to use Melville’s Moby Dick as an example, the experience of reading that fantastic tome is completely different, even opposite, to that of reading a summary, a critique, or watching a film, comic book, or operatic adaptation.
What happens when we actually *read* Moby Dick? What happens to us? What does it feel like?
What does it feel like to discover the main characters and then lose them, sometimes whole chapters at a time, as Melville digresses into arcane subjects? Or to zone out during several passages and snap back into focus? Is that part of the experience?
This is why most reviews of books talk plot and nothing else, but as another writer put it, nobody goes to movies for the plot.
I started thinking about this, actually, while I was reading Chuck Klosterman’s recent collection of essays X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century. For one thing, reading Klosterman write about writing puts you at both a distance to what you’re reading and more involved in what he’s writing. And his interviews are just as much about what it is to interview somebody–how questions bubble up through the subconscious; how what is planned measures up to what happens–as they are about their subject.
Anyway, this is just a note about something that I might write more about later.
^^^That is a terrible sentence^^^
By October I’d had enough. I wasn’t sleeping. Or if I was, it was fitful. This narcissist, this black hole of empathy and decency, this drivel-spewing idiot had taken over way too much real estate in my head. I’m talking about the *president, of course, and his blundering towards that which must not be named, the big one, the NW, the Final Countdown.
Now, we may not be safe from any of that yet, but around October, I started to see that nobody else was freaking out like I was inside. Seriously, I could be tootling along merrily during the day and then at the end the night see the headlines and then spend pulse-pounding hours lying in bed thinking the unthinkable. This was ridiculous. Not only that, but I hated hated hated this person for making me feel this way.
So I made a decision. I woke up the next morning and decided to erase the news.
Yes, this is the height of solipsism, but it was the remedy I needed. I went to my RSS feed (I used Feedbin, if you care) and unsubscribed to every single political blog I was on. I abandoned Twitter (if you see me on there, it’s through a IFTTT routine). Any email list I was on detailing the latest outrage–I hit the unsubscribe button. (Most of these emails use outrage and scare tactics to gather funds, of course.) And I look askance when I bop onto Facebook, heading straight to my page in order to avoid its “Trending” column.
I used to think it was important to be plugged into the now, to the current, to the debate. But now in the CheetoFascist Era, this is not the case. This foul man had made me rethink my entire ideology of engagement.
Does it matter if I read the news?
I liked to think I was politically engaged. But apart from the occasional march (like in January, which was fun), I don’t engage. I don’t take part. I don’t write letters to my representatives. I do what the majority of people do, which is slacktivism–signing online petitions. I vote, when we get to do so. And I get angry. A lot.
But I’m not a political writer. I’m not an advisor. I’m not a speaker or an agitator.
I’m *supposed* to be an artist, a filmmaker, a teacher, and, yes, a writer, but not of politics.
For my sanity, I pressed the eject button.
A day after I felt ten times better. I slept better. I was relaxed. The anxiety left.
Should you do this? To quote the web: Your Mileage May Vary.
I still check in on YouTube, where I can see the late night hosts dissect the latest idiocy from a safe time distance. (I still try to keep myself away from gazing on his hideous visage). I still listen to Chapo Trap House, because they seem to keep away from the daily-outrage-stream and dig in to the historical mulch below.
Look, I spent way too much of the Bush and Obama years reading blogs, articles, essays, sometimes even whole books (usually Chomsky) about our current state. My own impact on events? A perfectly round zero. Maybe ignorance is bliss.
And please mention
That my situation is also the result of white male privilege. Others are living thru this much more intensely. The events of this time are written on their skin and psyche. I can pretend to “opt out” for a while, others can’t.
In (temporary) conclusion
I’m telling friends “I’m on a news diet.” I’m happier…and one of the reasons you’re reading this now!
The new mantra, when I call a particular friend to check in on the world: “Is he in jail? Has he resigned? Is he dead?”
More enjoyable fractured realism from Hong. Despite being called “Oki’s Movie,” the film is made up of four “films” or chapters, the last of which bears the above title. Right there things get complicated. Are we watching the final thesis film of student Oki based on the films we saw before, or a film made by another student in the program (her lover Jingu). And that’s not even considering the opening film that seems to take place after the following three.
While sorting all this out we have a love triangle between Jingu, Oki, and their professor Hong, plenty of smoking and drinking, furtive lovemaking, arguing, weirdly antagonistic relationships, and hilariously ironic usage of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance over shots of garbage piles, broken planters, and rundown apartment hallways.
Hong Sangsoo supports the argument that artists should keep mining the same obsessions over and over again, because repetition is a form of change. However, he might be the exception to the rule.
I was in the Funk Zone this afternoon for the soft opening of the LaPlace Wine Bar & Shop (man, they went all out with the hors d’oeuvres…I should’ve snuck home a full filet of lox for the morning), but on leaving I decided to stop by the Arts Fund and make chit chat and check out the current exhibit.
While I was about to leave a family rolled up, peeked in, and a boy about six stepped in to ask if this was a gallery.
Why yes it is, the gallery sitter replied. Do you like art?
I *am* an artist, the kid said.
Oh really? she said.
Yes, he said. Did you just open?
The sitter was torn between saying, no, we’ve been here for many decades, but instead said, the show just opened this month. Do you like it?
Yes! He continued. Was this your grand opening?
By this time I’m thinking this kid is wondrously precocious.
As I left, the kid did too–I think the parents were dragging him along to the wine bar opening–but then he doubled back.
I have some of my art in the car, do you want to see some?
Way to hustle, kid. Way to hustle.
This six year old spoke with more confidence about being an artist than the artists I hang out with, some who shuffle their feet in the dirt while admitting their profession.
Takeaway: Be more like this kid and less like the people who are gonna make him embarrassed later in life. Having said that, I certainly didn’t have that confidence when I was six, I was very shy. Is it just genetic luck?
(And no, I didn’t stay around to see his art. I’m sure it was fabulous.)
(Above painting: Portrait of Shorty by Jamie Wyeth when he was a wee lad of 17)
I’m going back to Flickr (Man, I don’t…think so?)
Twitter is an open sewage pipe of hate. Facebook is full of Russian bots and fake news. No wonder we all pine for the days of the early internet…even the post- 9/11 version. Well, I discovered a site that is exactly that, it’s one I didn’t give up, and it’s something you may have heard of: Flickr.
I don’t know if anyone else thinks this, but Flickr is cool again. At least for me. I came back to it when I noticed that Instagram dropped a Flickr upload option. I guess their UPIs or whatever they call them stopped working, one of those under the hood changes that happens without anyone telling you. Like if you drove all the way to Palm Springs and didn’t get notification that, whoops, yeah, your car manufacturer had a disagreement with the coolant hose manufacturer and dropped all U-rings compliance, the ones connecting air to your face.
It turned out I had to rewire a IFTTT routine and then, boom, my Instagram uploads were once again going to Flickr.
But once on Flickr in order to confirm my upload, I began to wonder, why did I give this site up as an afterthought? And isn’t this what a lot of us have been looking for?
I mean, look at the benefits:
- Very easy to make albums and join groups.
- Exceedingly easy to navigate your past photos (esp. if you made albums)
- NO FUCKING ADS
- No social networking, although comments were always a part of Flickr
- NO FUCKING ADS
- You can completely ignore everybody on Flickr and just use the site as storage cataloguing.
- And…just in case you missed it: NO FUCKING ADS
I stopped using Flickr as much around 2013, when it was slow to join the smartphone revolution, and uploading pics from the iPhone *as it happened* was preferable to taking photos on my various cameras, uploading them to Abode Bridge, sorting, processing, using Bridge’s interface to upload to Flickr. I was getting overwhelmed.
But now, I’m rebooting everything (and trying to sort out this blog).
This is all part of an effort by me–but I’ve noticed others doing this too–to move back to a pre-streaming, pre-social media, pre-Facebook era. That means more blogging, more owning of my own material. Less monetizing. So we’ll see. You can’t put the horse back in the barn, but I don’t have to chase after the horse.