Tag Archives: Literature

Things Falling Together – Creativity as Reverse Entropy

So, this is pretty much a part two of yesterday’s post. So you might want to read that first if you haven’t already.  Today is going to be mostly inspired by Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, Whitishrabbit‘s comments yesterday. Also loads of Modernism/Post-Modernism lectures at Uni. And probably some other stuff.

You can basically translate that whole first paragraph as meaning that I’m going to be a bit pretentious…but then..if you’ve been here before then you know that already.

So let’s get going.

Basically, yesterday we discussed the problems with the fact that possibilities become defined as we read or write. The options close down and there become less available routes available to us. Our myriad hopes and dreams are crushed by the one dominant course of action that plots itself.

The thing is that this ain’t all that bad.

The thing about writing, reading (and life) is that it’s fun. There’s always more possibilities than you think and there’s always more things to do.

You start off with an blank page, and in your mind that represents a chaotic and dramatic struggle of a million and twenty ideas, characters, events, plots, concepts..whatever. This huge disorganised mass of options that could go down. Twenty six letters, then another 26 to choose from after that. The options increase exponentially. Disorganisation rules. All the words in all the languages in worlds are available for that opening. Then anything you can fit after that.

I mean…just how many sentences are there to use?

Lots.

That blank page could become anything. It could be a magic carpet to take you to far off Arabian bazaars, it could be a Longboat ready to take you to watch the spectacle of Fimbulwinter, it could be a patch of Earth for you to grow beautiful flowers in.

And that’s assuming you lack imagination and use the old tropes that have already been worn out; and even if you do that it could still be something amazing, because your mind remains different to everyone elses.

There’s lots of options…it’s chaos…that’s what I’m saying.

But then you make that first mark on the page.

That first miraculous mark, followed by the next, and the next.

So much pouring out, before you know it, the chaotic whiteness of possibility has been filled with the black marks of order.

Where there was nothing, now there is something. A story. A tale is being woven. An image is captured.

Creation…right there…on that little bit of paper. (Go and watch Mirrormask, Stephen Fry’s Librarian relates a similar creation myth…its also a good film).

And order is created.

That’s what’s wonderful, its not the possibilities lost, its the one that gets found. Defined, properly explored. It stops being a nebulous haze of thought, and becomes a solid, defined and reified piece of something. You can follow the thread now, see where it leads.

Out of the labyrinth.

You reverse entropy.

The structure becomes more organised.

Okay, so you don’t actually break any laws of Thermodynamics…that would be silly.

But you create something out of chaos.

It’s wonderful.

Pynchon carves these ridiculously lost and confused passages. Charts the passages of things falling apart. And leaves you hanging, dangling, waiting for a conclusion that will never come. He plays the game both ways. Leads you down a long dark tunnel of strangeness, raises mysteries and loses you in them. He takes you forward, ever forward, and then leaves you realising you’re on the wrong of the cliff edge.

You’re back in the chaos. You’ve no idea what happens next.

It’s a great feeling. But you’ve been bought there by that tunnel. Choices have to be made to lead you to that point. The route has taken you so far..and your imagination takes over.

Things fall apart all the time.

Try putting something together.

Try and lead people along with you, show them a path (remember it will be different for them….no matter how well you make your path it still looks different through the eyes of another) and lead them somewhere exciting.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the blind leading the blind. Just because you don’t know where you’re going doesn’t mean you won’t end up somewhere.

Doesn’t even matter if it’s nowhere…as long as the journey is fun.

Let things fall together.

It’s a good ride.

Thoughts?

“Life ain’t Nothing but Bitches and Money” – A half arsed discussion of Psychoanalytic and Marxist Criticism

God…that title looks boring.

Anyway, basically, I’m going to do a half arsed version of an essay I’ve been intending to do for ages. But because its Sunday, I’m not going to do any research, and I’m probably going to stop halfway through to start tidying up my room.

Still, at least I’ve got an NWA quote in the title.

Anyway, lets get on this.

So, I guess this could be considered an attack on the grand narratives of Freudian Psychoanalysis and Marxism. Which is interesting because It think there are lessons to be learnt from both. Its just the old post modernist thing of attacking the grand narratives I guess. Plus when you try and summarise Freud and Marx using the words of Ice Cube…it becomes much clearer just how much the two can be seen to reducing everything to nothing.

Lets (for some reason) ignore the fact that Freud was a sexist pig who had no idea of anything that happened in the lives of people who didn’t live in Middle class Vienna. This is probably a gross oversimplification of him…but that’s all that everybody ever does with Freud, which is perhaps the problem. My housemate did Psychology at Uni, and she always finds it interesting that I did loads of stuff on Freud (in my Literature degree) when they were taught from the beginning that the whole thing was unprovable tosh. Freud and the interpretations of Freud (we’re talking Lacan’s phallus here by the way) are still prevalent modes of criticism in the field of Literature.

There is genuinely some really interesting stuff going on there. You can compare Freud’s understanding of ‘the dream work’, that is the way our subconscious presents thoughts in dreams but then we encode and disguise them so our conscious mind doesn’t have to face up to the unpleasant truths within, with the practice of writing and creativity. The construction of meaning in writing can be compared to an expression of the mind of the author (who, as we all know, is dead) being transmitted through the veiling and changing process of language. Does that make sense to anyone who isn’t a pretentious wanker? Possibly not. But there’s definitely some interesting stuff going on there. For the likes of Nick Royle, literature is a form of telepathy (I’ll post my dissertation on Philip K Dick at some point for more discussion of this) between the minds of author and reader. In fact this is probably a gross mis-interpretation, but that’s what I always got out of it. In fact I think that its closer to empathy at least half of the time. Good literature has an ability to make you feel a situation, rather than just think about it. That’s why we love reading even when its not the smartest and wittiest and most intelligent pieces of Canonical literature. That’s why ‘trashy’ and ‘lowbrow’ books are still damn good.

Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward is an excellent book that essentially deals with psychoanalysis through the medium of a witty and fast paced sci fi narrative. Read it now…its worth it. The writing seems a little stilted at times but the pace and humour is so good that you forgive it immediately…and its a first novel…so its a pretty damn fine achievement. I won’t analyse it now as it would spoil it. First person who lives in my area and e-mails me asking for it can borrow my copy.

Anyway. The point is that you need to get the whole breadth of Psycholanalysis being considered in order to get something useful out of it. I don’t like the way that one tiny element has effectively become the whole grand narrative. Its a simplification. Everything is about sex…apparently…it just becomes a hunt for phallic symbols and returns to the womb. Eye removal is apparently synonymous with castration anxiety…as is almost anything else that can happen. I mean…I can appreciate that people think about sex a lot…I sure do. I can even see how it could be considered one of the primary motivational drives. The reproductive drive (continuance of DNA…the selfish gene and all that jazz) is the obvious motivation. But even Freud had to override that with the Death Drive once he saw the results of the First World War. I don’t know…I guess its the reductionism of most psychoanalytic criticism that pisses me off. It is possible to take note of Siggy and not actually have to make everything about a couple of out dated and genuinely quite ridiculous statements. If most psychologists think that its nonsense…then why is the literary world still so obsessed with the Mother Loving Austrian Prick.

And I haven’t even mentioned Oedipus yet.

Anyway. Marxism is something i like. The key reduction here is viewing everything through a system of economic relationships. Sahil believes that every relationship is a constant series of negotiations…and that applies on International levels and on personal relationships. For Marx it’s about class war (aside: protest on campus once…someone yelled out ‘its a class war’ and got the biggest laugh of the day as everybody noted that in fact the only classes present were the middle…that’s what University protests are all about..middle class kids pretending they aren’t) and the constant dialectic struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. The important thing however, is that everything becomes economic. The money and the value of goods is exchanged, and this leads to the exploitation and alienation of the proletariat etc etc blah blah blah.

We all know about it. If you don’t (or just like re contextualised works) look at this .

Anyway, I’m talking through a literary lens today…so lets go into what Marxist literary criticism is like. Basically, (I think) literature is considered complicit in the oppression of the ‘people’. It forms part of the ruling hegemony (unless it is subverting it of course) and creates and uses language to promote the status quo. The ideology of the ruling class controls the language and uses its meanings to impose its thought upon people. Language itself is guilty of oppression, which is why people try to screw the system up by subverting language itself. Look for those experimental poets fucking shit up. My mate Jeffers does a fine job of it. I think its all well and good. I kind of tend to agree with bits and pieces of it to an extent. But at the same time…I don’t like the idea that language is to blame. Can we not change language. I mean…I know language and meaning has its limits. But the beauty of language is in the fact that it changes every fucking time you use it. Every time I use a word in the company of someone…then for both of us that word acquires a meaning related to that moment. It adds an extra level to it. A lot of the stuff in my short story posted below (Abort , Retry, Fail) is little words and phrases that only make sense to me and a couple of people who will recognise the original situation. I don’t know if it makes sense to put them in there…but I think it actually challenges other readers to associated new meaning with those phrases. The story isn’t as subversive as I’d originally hoped…but it certainly is a struggle to read…it makes you think…but at no point to I make up or invert language. Everything is in vaguely accurate English. The grammar is disjointed…but you generally understand what is going on.

Anyway, I’m going to edit it soon and hopefully it’ll be better then.

I’ve rambled off topic.

Basically..the general point is that grand theories must be looked at in all their intricacies, and should be only used as a lens. You must be aware that you are making a certain judgement of something using a certain set of rules laid out, by that something.

Life is more than sex and economics. Don’t reduce things to that. Look at everything. If you’re being Marxist..then note that you’re being Marxist and try and think of what the other side is. same for Freud…don’t just glue yourself to his ideas so that eventually all you can see is cocks flying through tunnels or whatever it is that Freud saw everywhere.

Hmm,

I haven’t said anything have I…ah well…any thoughts? Any questions? Want to call me a big shit and tell me I’m wrong? Go on…make a comment…I dares ya.

Edit: Read the commments if you haven’t. My second comment below actually ends up saying what I was trying to say above but couldn’t quite figure out.

Pain, Gender, and Transformation in Comics

Just a quick link to a fantastic article elsewhere on the interweb about public and private pain in relation to gender and identity, particularly using comics as the focus. Really incredible article, Well written and waking me up to a few things I wasn’t aware of and hadn’t considered. It led on to a seriously long discussion between me and my significant, which can only be a good thing.

Edit:

I’d just like to add that following my discussion with Alex in Wonderland, a new post has been made about the Sandman comic ‘A Game of You’, on the subjects we were discussing. It is another excellent article that explains the points I was trying to make in a much more detailed and well formed way than I could ever have managed.  A brilliant post, and also the first time I’ve been name-checked as the inspriation for something..so double yay. Seriously, have a look at this, it worth it.