THE OBSERVATION OF FAILURE

Failure is the one thing that modern men are almost always willing to excuse and yet are almost never willing to learn from. No wonder it does them so little good.

from The Business, Career, and Work of Man

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THE DANGER from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Part of me greatly adores and admires words, as they are man’s chief means of communication and the primary treasure of his High Word Hoard. Another part of me, an equal part, absolutely distrusts and detests words as they are the means by which far too many men habitually deceive themselves and the rest of the world, and mankind’s primary method of excuse making in order to avoid noble and just action.

(As a writer) I am like a man caught in the grinding maw of some bizarre and fantastic creature who is sometimes angelic, and sometimes demonic, yet always dangerous.

 

THE MONSTER IS – THE HIGHMOOT

The monster is and always will be exactly as big as you allow it to become before you kill it.”

Rhorric of Cappadocia (the Vigilante) to Marsippius Nicea (the Byzantine Commander of the Basilegate) on what is to come.

Or, put another way, the Old Man tells the Young Man how it always really is…

I KNOW YOU ALL – FIRST VERSE (WILL SHAKESPEARE AND JOHN GUNTER)

This happens to be my favorite section of monologue from a play by Shakespeare (any play by Shakespeare), and there are many brilliant ones. This is from the Henry Cycle. (Henry discusses his past nature as scoundrel and the companion of scoundrels and his coming nature as king.)

Since I was a kid, a teenager actually, I have taken what I consider to be great sections of poetry, prose, plays, songs, etc. and rewritten them to see if I could improve upon them in some way (linguistically, poetically, phonetically, in meaning or emphasis, etc.). As an exercise in the improvement of my own poetic capabilities. Or towards the improvement of whatever other capabilities I happened to be attempting to exercise.

To me this is the very paragon of verse from Shakespeare’s plays, for any number of reasons, not least the undercurrents of shaded meaning, the psychologically acute self-analysis, and the prophetic pronouncements of the future. I have rewritten this section many times and in many different ways but did it again late last week as an exercise to keep myself from becoming rusty and out of practice at this type of verse and monologue.

The first section is the Work of Shakespeare. The second section is partially Shakespeare’s, the part in italics (in order to set the theme of the monologue), and the last part is my rewriting of the same. It is not only a rewriting, I’ve also altered the emphasis, slightly and subtly, but it also contains allusions to other subject matter and characters I have written about in my own poetry, such as Orpheus and the Tears of Iron.

I hope you enjoy it. I also hope you try such exercises for yourself to improve your own capabilities.

 

I KNOW YOU ALL – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humor of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mist
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work,
But when they seldom come, they wished for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promisèd,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And, like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend to make offense a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will.

 

I KNOW YOU ALL – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND JOHN GUNTER

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humor of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mist
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.

Of temperance there is none found in me
When overwhelming Wyrd o’ermasters
All the conduct of my prior faculties
Yet when I am come, and baring as I come
The former foil that gilds me dull, yet sharp
In indiscretions manifold who
will vouchsafe all my claims and titles
Young with new maturity, if not I?
In reform well sprang like Orpheus
From the chair of Pluto and his iron tears
My coming crown unworn, my sins unshorn
Shall outline the very shadowed limits
That I so like the scorching sun of noon
Shall burn away when the Dawn of Me
Does unexpected rise from deep within
And clotted clay, the seeming sepulchre
That frontiers all I have ever been
Will be seen to walk beneath the heavens
As if a new king bestrode the mortal world
In glory more like ancient gods than man…

 

ALL GREAT LITERATURE from MEMORABLE LITERARY LINES

All great literature can ultimately be reduced to three basic pronouns: I, you, and us.

THE WELL OF WISDOM…

Most of this advice is quite good.

Advice on Writing from Modernity’s Greatest Writers

by

What sleep and plagiarism have to do with the poetry of experience and the experience of poetry.

I recently stumbled upon a delightful little book called Advice to Writers, “a compendium of quotes, anecdotes, and writerly wisdom from a dazzling array of literary lights,” originally published in 1999. From how to find a good agent to what makes characters compelling, it spans the entire spectrum of the aspirational and the utilitarian, covering grammar, genres, material, money, plot, plagiarism, and, of course, encouragement. Here are some words of wisdom from some of my favorite writers featured:

Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created — nothing.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Don’t ever write a novel unless it hurts like a hot turd coming out.” ~ Charles Bukowski

Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser

A short story must have single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ~ Saul Bellow

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” ~ T. S. Eliot

Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” ~ Stephen King

Good fiction is made of what is real, and reality is difficult to come by.” ~ Ralph Ellison

The problem with fiction, it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.” ~ Tom Wolfe

You cannot write well without data.” ~ George Higgins

Listen, then make up your own mind.” ~ Gay Talese

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Write without pay until somebody offers pay; if nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.” ~ Mark Twain

And then, of course, there’s the importance of knowing what advice to ignore:

THE GENESIS OF THE THING

Very well expressed by Mr. Carroll

Furnishing a new story

Several times recently I was asked what it feels like to begin writing a new book. I struggled for an answer until I remembered something. Two decades ago I was sitting in the completely empty living room of the new apartment we’d rented and in which we still live today. The movers were coming tomorrow to bring the furniture and other stuff. I had come to check things out a day early just in case something needed attention. After making sure all was okay, I sat down in the middle of the living room floor and looked around for a long time. The wooden floors had recently been refinished and the place smelled strongly of wax. The walls were newly painted white. Nothing else was there. What I remembered was how deeply satisfying it was to sit in that empty room, knowing in a day it would fill up with the furniture, objects, and various things of several peoples’ lives. This was going to be home for at least a few years and everyone in my family loved the big new space. Empty now, it was something in between— home but not yet. Ours but not quite. Virginal. Pure, but undoubtedly the apartment all of us wanted.

That is what it is like for me to begin writing a new novel. You’ve chosen a place to live for the next years but it has nothing inside it yet. Only the walls, floors and windows. Because you have specifically chosen this space, now you must furnish it. But you’re really looking forward to the task, no matter how long it takes. The other day I heard an interview with the writer Junot Diaz who said it took eleven years to write his last novel. Eleven years, two years, six months— it doesn’t matter. The writer chooses a specific space to inhabit. Next his task is to fill it with the best, the *only* furniture he knows how to make or find. If he is lucky and does it well, whoever comes to visit when it is finished will hopefully be delighted with the way it has been done and want to stay there a long time.

THE PEERAGE OF GREAT EQUALS

THE PEERAGE OF GREAT EQUALS

I don’t have any idols. Never have, and never will, either real or fictional. I have people I admire, and would like to emulate in some way or another (not emulate in other ways) but not idols. Certainly not like modern people seem to think of idols. In the sense that I’d like to be someone else or that I would ever fawn over anyone else. I never would. I have only ever wanted to be me. And I would never fawn over me, much less any other man. To me that is both low, and ignorant.

And I don’t think of the people I admire and would like to emulate in some way as my rivals, but rather as exemplars of some particular capability or trait. And likely and potential friends with whom I would work well together or some important project or endeavor. To me to instinctively think of other great men as my natural and necessary rivals is both low and arrogant. So in those senses I totally disagree with this sentiment.

However I think that the underlying implication is that you want to work your way up to being a Peer and an Equal (in the sense of your on capabilities) with other great men and women, rather than forever remain a subordinate or inferior (in action and ability). And in that respect I agree with the sentiment expressed below.

I have always believed in the Peerage (and Friendship) of Great Equals. I think that is what this is really trying to convey. Unfortunately modern people are so filled with the petty pop culture modern bullshit of fawning over and being obsequious towards others, sometimes of actually wanting to be and of idolizing others (rather than their abilities and capabilities), or of being jealous of others (a very petty and puny vice indeed), and just instinctively think of other Great Men and Women as natural rivals rather than what they truly are – potential Peers and Friends and as Great Men and Women with whom you could work to achieve even more together than you could separately.

So in that respect the only way far too many modern people seem to reflexively understand other Great Men and Women is as either idols and/or rivals. And thinking of other men as idols is just plain juvenile, whereas thinking of other men as natural and unavoidable rivals is not necessarily Wise at all. These habits and ideals seem more engrained by uncritical and unexamined instinct than by malicious intent. Still, I think them small and counter-productive for the most part.

But I don’t think of other men in that way at all. First of all I think of all men as my equals, neither inferior nor superior. And secondly I think of all men as being my potential peers if they so wish.

I think of it as the Peerage of Great Equals.

And that’s exactly what I mean to be, the Peer and Equal of Other Great Men.

But I will never idolize them, anymore than I wish to be idolized, nor are other men my instinctive rivals. Just as likely they are my as yet unrealized friends and peers.

 

WE BOTH KNOW

“Son, you can spend your whole life bitching and moaning about the problem. Or, you could just abandon the problem in favor of the solution. And we both know which is the wiser course of action, don’t we? But that’s not the real question surrounding your situation, is it? That’s never really the question. The question really is, why in the hell is it taking you so damned long to do anything about the answer?”

ALL WORLDS from THE OTHER WORLD

“If all of the pointless and wholly unnecessary suffering in this life were collected into one vast infernal pool of anguish then it would account for the far greater part of all misery ever endured. And entirely drown the world.”

He looked off into the distance as if expecting to see some fast approaching tide of the very Ocean of Woe he had just conjured with his own words. Or perhaps he was merely remembering some far off flood of it he had never been able to forget.

“Which world?” I asked him.  “This world, or the Other World?”

“All worlds, my friend. Every one of them…

THE WATER OF UNDERSTANDING

I think that to a large extent the man has a real point. If you don’t get out and live life how can you possibly write anything worthwhile about life?

Important observations require that you actually observe important things occurring.

If all you do is spend all of your time taking courses to learn technique then you’re just making observations about observations. All you know is merely academic. You’re just navel-gazing.

Yes, you should definitely learn good, solid techniques. That is part (though only part) of your responsibility in being a good writer. But you should also be out in life observing it as it really is and living it so that you will have something true and real (rather than merely artificial and imagined) to say about it. The modern idea that writing is (or should be) an entirely detached and intellectual pursuit is not only repugnant and irrelevant, it’s also just plain silly and unrealistic.

The larger part of your time ought to be spent in living life and writing on that, not learning writing as a substitute or replacement for never having lived.

Experience is the fountainhead of observation, and observation is the Water of Understanding.

Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge

Horace Engdahl swedish academy nobel prize literature judge
Horace Engdahl, of the Swedish Academy, in Stockholm. Photograph: Fredrik Persson/AP

Western literature is being impoverished by financial support for writers and by creative writing programmes, according to a series of blistering comments from Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl, speaking shortly before the winner of the Nobel prize for literature is awarded.

In an interview with French paper La Croix, Engdahl said that the “professionalisation” of the job of the writer, via grants and financial support, was having a negative effect on literature. “Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions,” he told La Croix. “Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard – but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.”

Engdahl, who together with his fellow members of the 18-strong academy is preparing to select the winner of this year’s Nobel literature award, and announce the choice on Thursday, 9 October, said it was on “our western side that there is a problem, because when reading many writers from Asia and Africa, one finds a certain liberty again”.

“I hope the literary riches which we are seeing arise in Asia and Africa will not be lessened by the assimilation and the westernisation of these authors,” he added later in his interview with Sabine Audrerie.

Engdahl told the French journalist that he “did not know” if it was still possible to find – as Alfred Nobel specified the prize would reward – “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. Today’s winners are usually 60 or more years old, he said, and are thus unaffected by the changes he described in the life of today’s writers. “But I’m concerned about the future of literature because of this ubiquity of the market. It implies the presence of a ‘counter-market’: a protected, profound literature, which knows how to translate emotions and experiences”…

A WRITER IS JUST A WRITER…

I think that is true in part. I never wanted to be a writer, per se. That is I am neither enamored of writing, or of being a writer. That is I never woke up as a kid or as an adult and said to myself, “I want to be a Writer! That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be my whole life...” That’s not me at all. I know a lot of people apparently feel that way, they think it a cool or important profession, in the same way some people think being an actor is some great thing. I do not. Not in and of itself anyway.

I think of it far more as being a very careful observer of important things and then a recorder of those things so that those observations will not have been wasted. That is to say that, to me, neither the writing nor the writer is as important as the far more important things being observed.  Though you want both the writing and the writer to be excellent at their various tasks.

However, the important things being observed need a good and reliable method or technique of being recorded (in this case writing) just as much as they need methods of solid and careful and accurate observation.

In that way I will imitate other writers, by studying their solid and worthwhile recording techniques. Just as in being a detective I have long studied solid methods and techniques of proper observation and analysis of what I have observed.

But I’m not in love with the idea that writing is either a cool profession (it may or may not be an important profession, that just all depends upon both the writer and the writer’s subject matter and observations on that subject matter), or that writing is some sort of special or important activity in and of itself. Because it is not.

I am a writer but a writer is just a writer. The things I write about, if they are of any importance at all, will long outlive me. Because if they are truly important they should…

THE RUIN OF WROTHCHOLIRE a fragmentary extract from THE WRATH OF WROTHCHOLIRE

“What portend you in deceit
Why such pretense of pendent peace
Oaths unmade, and omens deep
Ring howling in my blade!
You by craft and cunning guile
Sought my seething blood
While I by will and self-resolve
Did seek your honest love
The Whore of Heaven – by means unknown
Has made your counsels clear
My murder in the night to come
You hope to commandeer
Token not that you mean well
In Fury he says no,
One of us will drown in blood
To Death you must now go!
I took you in, played faithful host
Broke my bread, gave rest to you
Sheltered hard your outlawed past
By signs and favor did forecast
To all who knew me you my friend
Were brother-blood and constant kin
At table honored you were bade
To make your vows for pled-ged aid
I by right proclaimed them true
But in your heart I knew not you
For now, I darkly find, your
Oaths unmade and omens deep
Are broken hard, their worth unreaped
Doom does howl, my blade unleashed
One of us will die in vain
To Death you must now go!”

SCHLEICHER’S FABLE – IN INDO-EUROPEAN

Being an amateur linguist and philologist this kind of thing fascinates me. Also I have long studied Indo-European root terms and words. As a poet and song-writer, as a writer, as a man who loves languages, and simply for my own enjoyment.

Enjoy this Archaeology article.

Be sure to listen to and read the Fable on the main site. I’ve listened to it three times already.

Fascinating.

Sheep

(iStockphoto)

By the 19th century, linguists knew that all modern Indo-European languages descended from a single tongue. Called Proto-Indo-European, or PIE, it was spoken by a people who lived from roughly 4500 to 2500 B.C., and left no written texts. The question became, what did PIE sound like? In 1868, German linguist August Schleicher used reconstructed Proto-Indo-European vocabulary to create a fable in order to hear some approximation of PIE.

Called “The Sheep and the Horses,” and also known today as Schleicher’s Fable, the short parable tells the story of a shorn sheep who encounters a group of unpleasant horses. As linguists have continued to discover more about PIE (and archaeologists have learned more about the Bronze Age cultures that would have spoken it), this sonic experiment continues and the fable is periodically updated to reflect the most current understanding of how this extinct language would have sounded when it was spoken some six thousand years ago. Since there is considerable disagreement among scholars about PIE, no one version can be considered definitive. Here, University of Kentucky linguist Andrew Byrd recites his version of the fable, as well as a second story, called “The King and the God,” using pronunciation informed by the latest insights into reconstructed PIE…

SO MANY MEN – from DIVINE SOPHIA

So many men think that if only they lived in a good and just world then they too would be by nature and in all things good and just. Not realizing, or not wishing to realize, that it is not the world that so makes the man but the man the world.

THERE IS A ROAD from THE OTHER WORLD

“There is a road far greater than the Weirding Road. For although both Sidh, or even Man if he may find it, can use the Weirding Road to cross between one world and the Other, this miracle is nothing compared the Greater Road. By means of the Weirding Road there is no longer any Great Gulf between Iÿarlðma and Klarvâl, but what is that uneven road and humble passage compared to the transit of the Wyrding Road?

Sidèhl and Men may use the Weirding Road to go where it leads between our worlds as the troubled times will dictate. But upon the Wyrding Road all things move everywhere – it connects all worlds at all times and forevermore.

The Weirding Road was made for us, for Sidh and Man, so that we may come to know each other and together wonder upon those marvelous and numerous things we know not of. Yet the Wyrding Road was made for all, to answer everyone of everything, if they will but seek it out and traverse its infinite paths and eternal length.

The Weirding Road is ours my friend and makes a traveled way between us, but the Wyrding Road is everyone’s and everywhere makes a secret and mysterious way to everything that is or will ever be. The Wyrding Road is God’s own highway and upon this Greater Road we must now go if we are to answer true the charge lain upon us and help to set our worlds once more right and free.

For us our Weirding Road has come to its end. Our Wyrding Road is still open though, yet where it leads I cannot say. But if we take it then we shall also be taken, and to unnamed places we have never known.”

THE UNSPOKEN ANSWER from MEMORABLE LITERARY LINES

Modern man wants everything explained to him. Not understanding that the very best and most perfect explanations are those left unspoken.

THE OMEN

“War does not come often among the Sidhs of Iÿarlðma (Seeds of the World), but when it does it comes large, bloody, deep, and dark. Such a war comes now, and it will either make a ravening and deadly monster of you, or a ruined and desolate monument.”
The Omen of Samarl Jhönarlk (Prester Jhon) to the Sidèhl of Samarkand (the Seeds of Samarkand)

From The Weirding Roads

THE ENTIRELY LAUGHABLE IDEA – THE BEST PIECE OF HEALTH ADVICE I CAN POSSIBLY GIVE YOU

This is the best overall health advice I can possibly give you.

Buy yourself a good axe, a hatchet, a slingblade, a fine set of shears, a machete, a long-knife, a shovel, a pushmower, and any other useful tool you will need and then go outside every day you possibly can and work your land for at least an hour or so.

Do not buy or use electronic or powered tools and equipment for these are for your convenience and work avoidance, they are not for your health, your strengthening, your toughening, or your personal good.

Instead buy high quality and durable hand tools and do all your work by hand and by main force. This will make you strong, and tough, and healthy. Work in the fresh air and sunshine, sweat freely, and do your labor vigorously and your labor will reward you many times over in your life and in the length your lifespan.

If you live in a city and have no land of your own to work then get out of such a deathtrap as often as possible and go out into nature and work at whatever you can for whomever you can whenever you can.

You will live much longer, you will be much stronger, you will become much tougher, you will be much happier, and you will be far healthier than ever before.

The sedentary and inactive man dies a little more every day, but the Active and Vital Man is reborn each time he works the world. The Earth itself is his lifeblood, his labor is his expansive breath, and his unrelenting activity is the drumbeat of his powerful heart.

Never fear hard physical labor, labor hard at the entirely laughable idea that you can ever truly live free of it.