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CROSS TALK

Edward Williams

Month

August 2011

Fame

——Is fame bestowed, or realised first within the person? I think one always becomes famous in their own eyes, takes increase by virtue of their own ambition, before anyone else gives them recognition–at least the kind of recognition they can accept, which must come close to matching their own self-image, their own standard.  So, it is all a wash; one gets just short of what one thinks they deserve, and remains running. If in fact anyone is truly famous in their own eyes, if they have been free enough to posture and admire their own ambition, and be amused with the results, from the distance which life provides, which is what counts, which is the epitome of a reflective mind, they never will be satisfied with always cheaper worldly credit. But they will not scoff,  it will only occur to them that if the world has recognized them, it should then supply them with concomitant riches, and of course the means to spread the news of their existence far and wide. That all might then greatly benefit-from the proliferation of their work. (No one even considers the issue, of course, unless they are known to themselves as the creator of great work.) The stranded genius, who is so inwardly confident, is forever poor, relatively speaking, when he considers the debt he owes the world. For of course it was the world that gave him cause, to set out on the path towards glory, it was the world that was the assignment. Was it not? Once cold fame ensues, me bethinks it irreversible, and the calculations of such a status, having begun, in fact, before anyone even noticed he was so assiduously working–well!, one cannot return the compliments fast enough.  Thus exposed, the famous one will always desire more riches, and want to be appreciative of the public weal, than ever before. Tears are in his eyes, the debt can never be repaid. This can be observed in every case.  Even I, who have only achieved fame in my own eyes, fervently dream of a material fortune, and galloping reputation, while knowing I will always outrun them both–because I talk way too fast and have topics galore. Well now!

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Old Movies

——These old movies –it is hard to believe they were once brand new movies. They seem to be just thorough-going old movies. Like it was even obvious to anyone who sat down in a theater to see one of them, these projections, hoisted up in a kind of remarkably rickety medium, that these were historical in the first sight of them, which means that these movies were preliminary and they projected a future. The audience knew that they were viewing the beginning of something, and beginnings are sentimental. The first movies put you in a mood. Movies had a future, and the first try-outs were obviously that, so no one could have thought they were contemporary, but they immediately viewed them as old movies, spinning in time. People watching could laugh at the primitive techniques, the blatant plots and familiar characters, the incompetence, the miraculous dissembling of the obvious. I stay up late at night and watch old movies sometimes. And I think, what a treat to see such innocence.  I think, it was a more inventive time back then, people allowed ideas, roughly formed, knowing it was the inflowing of the future–which is where we are now. We are in the future of those old movies!  And we don’t allow anything like that, we are sophisticated. Is that it?  That we require . . . new movies. We even remake old movies, which were, as I said, old to begin with. An astonishing reversal has occurred here, and in a relatively short span of history.
——The cogent thesis I wish to explore (to come at this another way) is that the old movies were old to begin with. This may be hard to comprehend for people nowadays, who live as if they were in a present tense movie themselves. But what I am doing is speculating.. I speculate that people in the past were excited to watch the original movies as tentative explorations, ordinary scenes just borrowed from life, miraculously projected in a very tentative fashion, handled quite badly in a ridiculous form of presentation, meant solely to amuse. Cranky traditionalists at the time thought that movies could never make new content like privileged art and literature always had.. But the dichotomy is more profound, there was technology, a driving force of nature, ideas about reality, driving this new medium.  People could create the historical back then, whereas nowadays, so desperately creative as we are, we conceive of the absolutely new, and we can contemplate the past as a category, and invest our imagination in it, for one motive or another.
——I think it is only now that we indulge in what is brand new, but only if it is utterly spiffy and pain free, sparkling. People in the past limped along under a burden of being in the past, I think, and I think, and am saying over and over here, people who made these old movies actually made them as old movies. Here me out. It is like furnishings were needed. Everything was invented in this way, to get furnishings for the present hour. And now we lapse into wonder at the the sight of anything old, as if to ask: how did it get here? I am thinking they brought it in deliberately, or at least half-consciously, with a sense of destiny: to make a future world. This is the future world these old movies were meant to be seen in, repeatedly by modern audiences.  Now it is that certain point where audiences are watching so many old movies, that some genius, glutted by this inheritance, gets the bright idea and finds the gift of artistry, to make a new movie. One which resembles reality scene by scene so frightening in verisimilitude, that it will be a red carpet–virtually a transition to . . . where imagination spins its wheels.
——Originally movies were clumsy improvisations, they were modern art, of course–or they were art’s cousin, advertising and propaganda. They are driven by either high motives, or low motives, but the point is they were actually new. But what is actually new is done in light of the future in which it will shine. You see. But now we have reached the apogee, the brick wall.  But now, now virtually all movies are made with pretensions to be like life; the artist is gone, and everything is commercial. Even the technology has taken over. And the content is entirely recycled from the past, even incestuously feeding off old movies themselves, but more often off old books.  It’s a sub-genre, anyway, and I am not sure why I am challenged to figure it out, except that it is so obvious that the old movies were never new, and that the new movies will never be old . . .

Garden Variety

——-I cannot figure out how people get along without an accompanying deep inquiry, how they seem to just live, accumulate a narrative of their own life and yet never put this life against the shuddering backdrop, the question of their own person. My writing represents that question, which did not randomly intrude one day (like in adolescence, or in a creative writing seminar), but was there at the irretrievable dawn of a being foisted off on the world. I feel I sprung out of some impetuous uniqueness–that’s it! Which consequently I can only imagine must have been needed, especially for this place. Therefore my story is vital, it must be taken as significant. With such a sense of importance did I arrive, blameless in life!  How, I wonder, do other people live without the important shadow self of their own sustained inquiry?  Why do they all not have an ungainly, blushing, imperfect record trailing along with them?  If I make to discuss this, anyone is going to reply that, yes, sure, they understand, and they surely do have such a beseeching, shadow self. But where is the evidence on their part? Do they never have time to jot down a odd refection, that seems to set them apart? Or pipe up in a small party, some night, of their peers? Is it the case that life meets them so squarely, that they are every day used up in the act of living? And there is no space, no compulsion to express the general situation? My compulsion—it is just automatic. It traces back too far already, and yet projects wild futures. Why others were not born in crisis I do not know. My crisis, I have noted, is not of a garden variety. And will not be hijacked. I will not be found, nor championed by either literature or philosophy–the one, I know would make a celebrity out of what personality it found, lurking in a casual style of expression; and the other, horror of horrors, would make and package up a representative human, out of my singular consciousness.

Modus Operandi

——If I am gauging what I write with an eye as to how it is eventually read by distant  readers, who are separated from these sentences in time, by the circumstance of my being unknown to them, though I address them nevertheless, it is with the most careful, self-critical eye–more, I think, than ever I would employ should fortune already have granted me throngs of fans and flatterers.  How’s that?
——Indeed, the latter situation (throngs of fans and flatterers, so phrased) is difficult and distasteful to imagine. I am so dedicatedly obscure, I seek refuge in reflections that I can tell are the most far-flung, most secretly held–and yet, perforce the most rewarding once put forth. My elite readers are, like me, protected from conflict, say, with received literary opinions and territorial squabbles. This may be assumed to be the prideful stance of any unknown writer, really. He is one who is more careful, writes more with an eye towards his eventual status, writes in an important sense more as if he were actually being read, than the famous guy who has unfortunately gained worldly approval, and therefore finds himself wholly free–and unsupervised.
——Success, I figure, has had that effect on him, and he is at sea, precisely in terms of his reputation. For it, his reputation, it is increasingly clear to him, is an insignificant achievement. He knows he can be replaced, and that that is what surely awaits him. Success, I have reckoned, is surely the first step toward one’s eventual eclipse. One can feel the encroachment, and the resentment of the audience will find a place in his heart. Aha! It becomes obvious to the public author, obvious he has no effect on anything. His naive fantasies, of being an effective public figure of some type, having been made foolish, the author, who also knows (in his heart) that it was undeserved, premature!, though he did have talent, now faces the prospect of having to maintain his reputation. And this strictly on the basis of his own guesswork, while having to plan, and agonize over the plan, of another damn book.
——Whereas, look at the contrast! The knowledge that one is unwatched, that one is addressing an unlocated audience, whose faculties for comprehension and whose imaginations are preternaturally superior;  and yet the knowledge that one is commissioned, however that is to play out–this will make the incipient historical author, like me, alert in the production of what is truly readable, what flows and ignites the mind. . . .   And I will elaborate pointedly even in reference to my own condition, setting the crisis of communication in profound terms only. For I hold their attention, these future readers, precisely on this profound issue of how it is that I was not heard in my own time. It is, I will say, the discrepancy that makes the author in the first place, makes his speaking seem to himself a necessity. Because that is the dramatic condition of talking in a mystery.
——What if, in a changed world, I awoke and had an audience waiting with baited breath for every script rolled out?  My readers!–flushed with anticipation, they are lining up for the next installment, nudging each other in line.  I imagine this, and then I realize I am so superior in my attitude, I would always be dissatisfied with any public that I was supposedly reaching. Seriously, would I start issuing fluid commandments, like red meat to a starving public? I think not, I would declare it to be relative–the attention I was now receiving. Oh, I would say, I’ve had experience of this kind of thing, at various times in my life I have suffered this attention, and survived it. I would be tempted to outwit this fate, and, deviously, go back to my old notebooks, the original and unresolved jottings in the void, and re-issue them, though worked over, in a jubilant second draft.

Charter

——-“The longer a straining and struggling set of truths, in their most exquisite, perilous expression, are kept from the consideration, the view, of a gluttonous, decadent public, the more they will, he is sure, come to utterly define the age. What he means is, the longer his voice is unheard, and his words ignored, the  more their future is secured.  What once had, in the competition between his contemporaries, only an outside chance of permanence, now earns the ultimate guarantee, because it has outlasted all their antics, and their sneers.  History, he says to himself, will serve his texts up as the exemplar case itself, the vital reference to the times when they were written, though he felt an incomprehensible shadow of doom the whole while he was stubbornly at work.  But his stockpiled descriptions, even the loose opinions of his fictional characters, his fallible scenery, even though fawned over as utterly obscure by a few, and never pictured by the rest, as it  gushed and spilled from his pen, shall go down as the best available report, carefully composed with fidelity and sensitivity.  Amazing! As if he knew intimately the habits and thoughts of the very same people who, at the time, declared him incomprehensible. Though of course the question of there being a future time, in the consciousness of any indolent reader, swinging in a hammock on a summer day, so to speak, is rendered problematic right within his suspenseful narrations, which seem almost in every sentence to pose an existential question, or internalize an eternal quandary–only to dramatically withdraw it. out of concern for this same, maybe happy reader. As if it were too much to speak, really, about life right as it is happening, but one must always be removed, be comfortable, in order to consider what he is about to say. He is the equivocal author who is on a par with the reader, who is the profound target. As if the book, his book now, but any book really, was an invitation to revelation, and could only fall from your hands, as it suddenly struck you what it was saying.”

Abstraction

——The content of any thought belies all scientific accounting for its origins. Snatched from the air, received by fiat, the thought I have, though it lays claim to my attention, has arrived from outside the body–no question about it.  No ordinary mortal, or scatterbrained genius, can produce a thought wholesale, but the mind–let’s call it the mind– is only and suddenly a partner to this thought, whatever oddity it may represent, or champion in the circumstances of life. When your thoughts, as they probably must, bear directly upon the activity of your person, then you act. Often your thoughts do your body no service at all, but lead to further, even feckless, tireless speculation. This hierarchy, where thought lords over the body, is passing obvious. Vital thoughts have come to visit you, and gotten you out of your quandaries, and hourly slumps, where you are idling in mere remembrances, like rummaging through old movie reels. One does not even need thought to survive, after all, if one has already lived through a certain time, and learned to move and have regrets to feed them. The physical form can simulate a person, and slowly diminish them, now even your shadow on the sidewalk is enough to indicate you are unique.  Yes, though the brain cannot produce a thought, it can hold it, and the questions keep humming internally like a disc you forgot to take out of the video player. This is rudimentary, everyone is example and  victim of this hierarchy– in which any thought belies, speaks loudly of, its real source, which is an outlandish mystery. I can tell, says any self, my thoughts are frequently brand new to me. I am nothing if not  . . . willfulness and inspiration!
——But now a greater question arises, than the controversial location of thoughts assaulting you, I say,  I say that for a person, once they have admitted to being a receiver, a sieve, a conduit, a target for truth no less, a greater question opens up. And this is the location of established, or even dubious, ideas. Thoughts I know can take residence in my brain, and I can mull them over, cast them out, use them infinitely to my benefit. I have thoughts advising me on the very choice of words in this harangue, which will work awhile and flicker out. Thought is personal, though I don’t own it, it owns me as quick as I speak.  But wherefore the origin and habitat of already formulated ideas?– which are not mine? The large, indifferent class of ideas, in what hotel do they stay? While gaining distinction as such, lasting fame and durability, these ideas are what flow in conversation, wherever I go. People are plagued and beset by ideas, and they cannot even trace them. Some may be from books, but more are simply overheard in their lives, by osmosis, from talk and rumor and pure imagination, coincidentally rioting in the speech, and not reclaimable by any individual.  As individuals it is all we can do to sort out the dilemma of our own being.
——I say, I know my thoughts are not my own, but these general ideas, in their rough currency, seem to be quite even more in the air, and some of them pressing for solution.Or even calling for my own opinion!  We live in a world of abstractions!  This is clear.  And insofar as it is clear that a brain cannot produce a thought, as I first established, now I am suddenly wondering if it isn’t is even more impossible that an idea, which he did not have, can be handled by the lone thinker.  I mean maintained for three paces in the mind of a single person, say while determinedly walking, keeping themselves attached by an invisible thread, or a paradox, to their shadow.

Cloudland

Alexander St. (click on image to see full size)

Salvation

       A subjective illusion is building that the kind of data that inhabits cyberspace is capable of interstellar travel, and possibly even transmission to other worlds, and ultimately even the region where the dead go. There is an unconscious blurring of the spiritual and material, which arises in the confusion as to what kind of physical structure this virtual data has, what at bottom it actually consists of.  We are impressed, more than impressed, by the fact that it can be transmitted at the speed of electricity. We know that the content of the material is the same old stuff, but the age-old longing to see the other side of death without having to go there oneself is, nevertheless, being approached, psychologically, and even satisfied in the imagination of consumers, willy-nilly, by computers, cellphones, smart-phones, all devices  of  this new, animated matter. It has untold properties, interiors, promising regions of communication beyond our reach.  No one is explicitly saying this,  but it is just happening, satisfying a new assumption one has somehow smugly, I mean covertly, made about the full operation, transcendentally, of all realities.  There is that aspect of reality that we all are most secretly concerned with; an understanding or any type of glimpse beyond this life,  such as presages our passage into another place altogether.  A place we envision reaching, somehow intact in our persons, having left everything behind. Do not tell me this new technology, in its quest for invisibity and exploration, is not bringing you the means, the very gliding mechanisms, of a kind of quasi-salvation–and that you are not engaged in its  useless rituals–which, I mean to say, are tantamount to otherworldly preparations . . . .

Search Engine

——Are most of the books written in the ancient world lost?  Not likely, I say. It is just that the scholar is losing his or her memory, and makes a willful analogy. Is no one is listening to me? I say, ’tis a blatantly false analogy! Losing ones memory, surely, is not the same thing as losing faith in the survival of the past.  Losing track of a subject matter, and how to account for it, is not the same, even if as easy, as losing part of a recipe for dinner.  But she is catching up with a lagging, emotional sense that life is not quite matching to expectations. There is the lulling mood, the disenchantment, causing most of the books to be gone, and the ships that sailed, while the sauce she is stirring is a new taste sensation, so to speak.
——And therein too springs the cause, I say, to imagine a universal library, posit it, and place it in the fabled past. And to dream of its contents, the full menu.  Tacitly we succumb, give approval to, and license the notion of a lost library; and imagination can only tolerate or sustain the image as a totality. For imagination is just that: dependent on a single source. Worshippers of the unknown we are, she and I. Tossing darts against the dark blackboard, that must be rallied into one mystery. How much can I stand?–thinks a person. Hope and lament swing together . . .
——More is invested in imagining what is gone, for it fits the emotions you have, I want to say. Possible volumes in this ancient library that was lost just must contain summary explanations for things we do not get. Like people then were . . . people.  The universe was once not so much a secret! Though personally applying to my life, well, the lost world connected to this one must have suffered a shipwreck, or a fire, or a catastrophe that required several centuries to recover from–and we haven’t yet!
——Fantastic! Research into this supposed, universal library is now simulated by the experience of the lone person at his computer, late at night, with the moon at the window, or in the middle of the afternoon blazing outside, near the air conditioner, or secretly at his job, seeking to abide, both spur himself on and relax, in one action and one breath, on the total information highway. Inexplicably at his fingertips, the internet was born in a fit. To fit the mood, and he and I are not denied–but given access.
——What abides throughout my study is this hankering for one source, or purpose.
——And this is different entirely from what motive anyone ever had looking up something in an encyclopedia, on a rainy afternoon, or stranded in the public library. Those fat tomes sat around,.no one ever went there willingly, but it was as if they were compiled as if for a future day, when a scholar had the strength, and keen focus, to visit.
——Now, by God, I say we are reversed, it is the end of compiling altogether!  It is a radical shift, and I say this must in fact have been caused by the mood. Out of necessity, though no one is allowed, to listen to my theories.. I can only fancy that the computer has arisen, like a strange coincidence, out of a flurry of fingers typing, directed by the coiling and recoiling mind, out of confusion to answer to the new quest of her consciousness which, voila!, has now attained the image of a universal library in the rumored past. And secretly–it seems as if secretly, found the energy to explore in fits and starts, and cook it.

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