Thursday, May 18, 2006

Northender's Serial Banff Chronicle

I'm afraid of people today. It's glorious because I don't normally give myself permission to feel this way. I've spent the whole day in my room, except one hour with the voice and performance coach (more on that later) and a jog through town, followed with a steam bath. It's not that I've been mistreated or anything--everybody out here is great. But I'm exhausted because I've been wearing my "game face" pretty much straight for almost three weeks.

I agreed to help sell books at the Writing Studio reading this evening, which I regret because I'd rather just skip the whole thing. Can you believe it? Still, it should be a trip to experiment with my newly-sanctioned desire for solitude. We'll see if I can resist the free booze that follows.

May 19, 02:22

I just started watching "My Own Private Idaho". Does America really think that they've got a monopoly on the "great empty landscape?" Horseshit. We really need to be proud of our goddamn landscapes. The great problem with Canada is that we're so charged to out-do the States that we focus on the big cities and--yes, just admit it--British Columbia. Americans get all kinds of currency from the endless road into the horizon, and yet if buddy tells you he's from Saskatchewan you nod in sympathy. Fuck that shit.

May 19, 18:02

In our fiction meeting today we discussed whether or not "great literature" is imbued with something intangible yet permanent, like a soul. Is this an aspect of a great book?

I believe that there is such a thing as quality in writing, but at the same time I'm sensitive to the fact that writing, great or not great, is hardly accessible to everyone. In other words, books that are often labeled as brilliant or classic do not communicate easily with people who lack experience, and, I might as well just say it, practice, reading long complicated texts. For example: my mother is an intelligent woman and voracious reader but she refuses to read texts that do not use punctuation to indicate dialogue. Does this mean that she cannot "read" a brilliant text that eschews dialogue markers? Does this mean she's "wrong" if the book makes her crazy?

Whether or not a text qualifies as great literature seems to be a privileged discussion, and the presumption that follows is that if The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is deemed to be brilliant, then this brilliance should be obvious to anyone who reads it. And I know this is not the case. If a person reads Billy the Kid and says, "I don't get it," then doesn't this suggest that detecting quality writing is a skill? Learned and therefore has rules? Why didn't Billy the Kid's "soul" just leap out and grab this reader?

A text cannot have a soul--it's an object. I'm with Abraham on this one. The reader, however, does have a soul. When a text excites or moves a reader, communicates clearly on several different registers at once with the reader (emotional, spiritual, psychological, etc), it seems like a moment of connection with the text. It is a moment where the reader recognizes themself while reading the text. But this happens inside the reader.

This moment of connection, of recognition, depends on all of the complex registers upon which an individual sounds: prior reading experience, nature of education, familiarity with the topics and themes of the text, childhood, what they had for lunch, etc. When a book connects with a large number of people, it's not possible that they're all having the exact same experience and/or reaction.

So what does this mean? Perhaps a good book, good literature, is constructed such that it causes many connections with the souls of many readers. If the reader has to do some work, has to stretch a little to understand the subtleties that are written into the text, has epiphanies, on many different levels over the course of the text, then maybe they'll come to think of this text as great. A text that can produce this reaction in large numbers of people will be received as brilliant. But there is no "nugget" inside the book that is identical for every reader, no matter how many conversations in common they might share about favourite moments.

6 Comments:

Blogger sandy said...

Ahem. I want to hear more about the voice coach.

Chris says he "digs your shit".

(that deleted post was me)

4:22 AM  
Blogger Manitoba Erratic said...

Thanks Chris!

I dig your shit too!

6:16 PM  
Blogger a.raw said...

yeah, voice coach!!

7:07 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Ball said...

what i really want to know is this:

will you be N-E until you D-I-E? and if so, could you write a rap song about this, and post the lyrics to your blog?

12:47 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Ball said...

also -- have you ever heard john smith's rap album about the north end -- pinky's laundromat?

12:48 PM  
Blogger Develo said...

Fuck that shit...Pabst Blue Ribbon!

1:14 PM  

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