Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

Banquet of Shame

Thanks to the folks who've written me re: the New Orleans entry...yeah, I know. I should write a book or something. To that end, I've signed up for some online thingy, class, etc., to try to get jump started in time for NaNoWriMo, and while the subject may not be New Orleans, I do hope to have my 50,000 words by the end of November, to go under the first edit shortly after. But first I gotta get this next Trip under control, and it's proving to be tougher than I'd expected. I'd give details, but I already feel guilty about not tending to physical descriptions of where I am, so I'll save it, try to get a bigger entry re: Gangneung on here before next Monday, etc. Good to have some goals.

However, I did want to post this story, which is clearly enough aligned with the general slant and direction this blog has taken to date: Sharon Olds details why she is unable to accept Laura Bush's kind invitation to present at the National Book Festival.

Obviously, I sympathize, though I seem to be at a point where I don't quite see what difference it could possibly make. Though, I suppose, it might make more difference than swallowing your principles and going...or just issuing a simple no. Dunno. I think we're all so spin-weary, and even if someone went out there and presented the world with a gesture that was thoroughly from their own center, and, assuming there is such a beast, thoroughly free from any ulterior motive, it wouldn't matter, because there'd be some horse's arse waiting and ready to explain why the gesture was in fact a callow media ploy. To the extent that nobody seems to have any idea about the truth of any matter. I'm quite certain Olds has done this solely for the benefit of her own career. Playing politics, as usual, and making use of dead bodies to increase her notoriety. And all that. Or, at least that's quite likely one of the stories we'll be hearing soon.

How does one move in such a world? I mean, it was probably always like this, and it's a literary trick of light that makes it seem, at moments, that it might have been better at some point before (probably our own personal narratives, and a sense of ease at an earlier date, that feeds into all that), but really, was it always this bad? The very possibility that one might utter a sincere word, ever, seems laughable in the context of our times. And of course, anyone who insists that they are being sincere is most subject to suspicions to the contrary. Better to just shut up about your own motives, I suppose, and just do what you need to do. But as a writer, when the very tools and material of your blood's work consist of linguistic tricks, and are thus even more likely to be viewed as suspicious, how does one go about making progress?

Dunno. And while I can usually just suspend judgment on that long enough to bang out an assignment, I also get the sense that it is precisely that question that finds me doing less than I'd like to.

Ay. Go read it. --tchitch

Comments:
Hmm. Interesting. Not sure that ulterior motives and sincerity are necessarily mutually exclusive, though. In fact, I doubt that even the simplest among us act from simple motives, with rare exception.

But, yeah - it's getting pretty hard to find any gestures out there with the fresh taste of genuineness. They just don't make 'em like they used to.

---

Good luck with the NaNoWriMo project!
 
I did NaNoWriMo a few years ago: it was a good exercise for me.

Break a leg.
 
NaNoWriMo--yeah, I'm pretty sure there's at least two novel length stories in me, though whether they're any good or not remains to be seen. I do think it an excellent opportunity to just throw words out there, and clean the mess up later, hopefully into something good. Did you hit the goal, Tone? And have you done anything else with it?

Re: ulterior motives/sincerity: well, perhaps I have the wrong words, but in any case, sincerity would suggest that the motives are clearly stated, which would negate their being ulterior. I don't know that anything's actually changed but our ability to actually conceive of anyone acting in such a manner...the ability to understand someone's actions as sincere seems to have gone the way of the Tooth Fairy for most. But I can't help thinking, and this in light of some of the very nasty things that get said about, for example, Cindy Sheehan, that there are those gestures that are in their essence sincere, even if they do ultimately benefit the person making them in some manner. Hell, if we were to rashly suppose that virtue brought with it it's own rewards, all gestures of sincerity would ultimately benefit the person making them. I'm thinking that although this may be about people being less sincere, it may also be about our willingness, or even predisposition, to focus not on what's being said, but what possible benefit might be derived from someone's saying it.

In the meantime, one assumes that most people would actually like to speak their heart, but knowing what the response is likely to be, might not be willing to do so. In other words, I'm positing a feedback loop that's taken us in the wrong direction, here. Of course, it's just possible (and this is the quandry, for me) that none of this has anything to do with our particular times, but is instead a fundamental of the human condition. On reflection, the latter seems likely. I'm just rather at odds with the events of our times.

I'm guessing that I've lost a little sight of the bravery that goes behind being a really good writer, and am looking to tap back into that. Still, it certainly pays more to be cynical than it does to be innocent. At least when the pay is measured in dollars.

Dunno. Thinking.
 
Payment and reward, I think, aren't exactly the issue when it comes to virtue or just the question of authenticity of actions vs. motive. True, at the atomic level, it's impossible to take any given statement or action and judge its authenticity or what it might say about the motive of the actor. But taken as a piece of the whole of that actor's life or body of work, authenticity becomes easier to judge. Had Ms. Sheehan made a single comment in a call into Larry King, we could write her off as a crank trying to get attention. But if you look over the whole of her public actions, can we doubt her intentions? Or take someone with a broader career, such as Hunter Thompson. Do what degree can we say know who was based on everything he did versus what we might glean from a single reading of FALILV? Live an authentic life and write as you live, and the message becomes more precise and reliable. Dollars? Well, I think we all knew the answer to that one going in.
 
Paul: Thanks for that. A timely reminder of the difficulties faced in accurately assessing one's own times from within. Yeah, I think you probably got it there (even with that last, convoluted sentence...heh.)

Nothin' to do but keep on not getting tired of it. After all, the alternative sucks even worse.
 
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