Friday, January 28, 2011

WHY 'LITERARY GREATNESS'?

With all the new folks signing up for my blog and on my facebook, many of whom have advanced degrees in English and Literature and so on, I told my wife that sooner or later someone was going to recognize me for the fraud that I am. Well, that has finally happened. A woman took a look at this blog and had this to say, "Do you know how much of a prat you sound?" She asked that I never darken her facebook wall again. Of this blog specifically she said "... it sounds like a lot of male ego boasting, with some intelligent words flowered around it, trying to make a point over some vague topic, when there is none." Then, "Take your head out of your arse and learn some humility."

Well, I have to agree with everything she said. I am a male, and therefore what ego I have must be male and if it be ego, it boasts. I have spent years and years trying to learn humility, and life has beaten me down to such an extent that you would think humility would be natural by now. But, and it is this I am sure she is picking up on, I don't think I am yet completely humble.

Further, my topic 'is' vague. I am trying to write this blog from the eye of the creative experience, which means I am learning as I write along, and my hope is that the reader of this blog will find something useful in it also. I am working on my life's masterpiece, which also probably lacks humility. (The very act of trying to achieve greatness is probably not very humble). But, having said that, I am trying to hold myself to a certain standard. This means that I read Tolstoy and Shakespeare and Dostoevsky and Eliot and etc., and out of my experience of writing, and out of my reading, I am trying to establish what is 'Literary Greatness'. I may never attain it. I am humble enough to admit that. But I am going to try, even if that is not very humble.

When I offered to quit writing as penance for my crimes, this woman thought that might be a bit much. I have been writing since I was twelve, so I'm happy she didn't pull the plug on my efforts. Now I am tempted to say something cute and cutting to get back at her - to retaliate for her blow against my huge male ego. But then I remember the saying, "When you go seeking revenge, dig two graves." The fact is, I am somewhat less than perfect and I hope you forgive me that. But the fact is, also, I seek your comments both positive and negative.

There was a time when a writer could write. Period. "A writer writes," is the saying. But now a writer must write and edit and promote and market and be all things to all people. I make no apologies for being less than stellar in all these areas. I know deep in my heart of hearts that the only thing I can do, as Churchill used to say, is to "KBO - Keep Bumbling On." I will do just that until there are no more readers interested in what I have to say.

Thanks for reading. Jim

Friday, January 21, 2011

FOUND THINGS

Years ago, in Art 101, I learned something new. Our prof had us pick up things all week that caught our eye and then were were challenged to put them all together in a work of art. 'Found' art, she called it. The idea is, if something catches your eye to the extent that you will actually stop and pick it up; that item holds some power for you. Some special attraction. So, if you use what you have found to create a work of art, that piece will reveal something of your inner self to the world. It will have a feeling different from any other work of art you might create.

And feeling is what art is all about, is it not? What does the viewer feel when he or she takes a look at what you have created?

None of my found art went on to be displayed at MOMA or anywhere else for that matter. (I was too old for Moma (My Momma) to tack such things up on the refrigerator). Hi Mom. But the idea stuck. Now, as part of my regular writing and reading routine, I go out and 'find' words. When a word strikes me as I read along, I pause long enough to jot it down. (I always carry a notebook with me). Then I try to incorporate those words into the sentences I write for my novel.

What could be more natural, then, than to use found words for poetry? As part of the first novel in my novel in four parts my characters use poetry to express themselves. Most of the time they are using simple heroic couplets, though once in a while they opt for something more complex. Now my 'found' words are really coming into play. I have begun to use them in this poetic interplay between my characters.

So, without further ado, let me make my poetry debut:

THE LOST ONES

The lost ones move across the falls of twilight
No longer do they search the faces of the crowds
Their skin is old and parchy
and no longer catches the sun's kind embrace.
The lost ones move like a burden of wood
hobbled on the backs of the road.
Their stare is not meant for this world.
The lost ones move across the falls of twilight.
Nothing holds them down
And nothing lets them go.

(Copyright 2011 by James D. Sanderson, All rights reserved).

I will post some more of my new poetry on my 'Notes' on my profile page over at Facebook if you'd like to take a look. See yours truly, James D. Sanderson. For those of you who regularly use Facebook, my blog is networked also on my fan site: James D. Sanderson (Readers of).

All right. One more for good measure:

MAKE ME YOUR LOVER

Make me your confessional
where all secrets are told

Make me your sorrow
when the quiet outrushing scream
is too much to hold.

Make me your salvation
we can share the common madness

Make me your tree of life
a grove of sturdy oaks.

Make me your hidden desire
source of excruciating longing.

Make me your pomegranate Christmas carol
Your twilight of silence
Your thunderstorm heartbeat.

Make me your lover.

(Also copyright 2011)


Thanks for indulging my poetic fantasies.

Jim

Friday, January 14, 2011

IS MYTH ONLY FANTASY?

When I think of myth I cannot help but think of the great educator and writer Joseph Campbell. And, whether I like it or not much of what I write here today will probably be his thoughts re-thunk and set down in different order. Sorry, I wish I could be more original but that tells you just how important he was (and is) to this subject. It was he, not I (darn it), who began to recognize mythology as one great story. His studies caused him to recognize that myth was nothing more than a set of stories that try to make some sense of this old world, and the world beyond. That, upon looking more closely, we can see that myths use universal themes from across human experience. And that myth comes from humankind as a whole, while dreams are personal and individual.

For source material simply look up one of his many books – ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ is one I recall, or see a series of his lectures recorded as ‘Mythos I and Mythos II’ available at Netflix.

Society, Campbell claimed, must have a central myth to hold it together. Without that essential element, society will fly into a million pieces. That, he continued, is exactly what is wrong with our world today. Nowhere can we find a single myth or story that we can agree upon. In fact I will take that a step further and say that we do not even believe there is a single story that could define us. That leads, naturally, to the fragmented literature of the post-moderns, so called, and the overwhelming numbers of stories and various points of reference now found on the internet. Every story is important; we are told, and equally valuable. Every point of view is correct for the person expressing that point of view, and we must respect it as such. A single story? That’s a laugh. We’re lucky if we can find two people to agree on the validity of any story at all. And this is to our detriment, according to Campbell.

The stories today that most embody mythology are found in the fantasy genre. This gives the reader one measure of distance between the story and the underlying myth. It can be read for entertainment, in other words, and never has to be acknowledged as any kind of truth. Here we still find the hero going forth to be confronted by innumerable dangers and mystical experiences and encounters with strange and wonderful beasts and peoples and maidens or men. Try to write anything that is genuinely mythological and you will find lots of resistance, I’m afraid. I am speaking to myself here because what I am currently working on comes from just that background – genuine myth. I am looking for ways to convey that universal story in ways that are fresh and meaningful for moderns and post-moderns. Not a small task.

In order to accomplish this, I have decided to use motif and symbols that come from the deep well of our common humanity, and a series of interlocking epiphanies along with the ‘normal’ plot development of the story. And so, since this is a blog written from within the creative eye, I will be writing more about these subjects in the near future. I do hope these journeys into literature will be a benefit to you, dear reader, as well as to me and my own work. As always I invite your comments.

Until next time then, I remain…

Yours In Literature, Jim

Friday, January 7, 2011

WRITE TRUTH AND BEAUTY

Let me begin the New Year by welcoming all the new readers of this blog who have signed up in recent months. I was going to publish my piece ‘Is Myth Only Fantasy?’ this week but then something interesting came up and I decided to wait until next time for that. What came up was some very interesting writing in the New York Times Book Review (Jan 2 issue) about the state of literary criticism. Like so many others I had begun to speculate that criticism, and even the need for it, was dead. The cluster of essays in the Review has renewed my hope.

Like you, fellow reader, I had begun to suspect that to set standards of value in literature has become a thing of the past in this post-standard world. That (with a nod to the great critic Alfred Kazin) literature is no longer in the position to change the outcome of the future. That the future is now in other hands. That, in fact, the whole thing has collapsed from the inside. That the writer of literature no longer knows what the reader wants. That the reader doesn't know what the writer is saying. And that the critic who tries to make sense of it all simply cannot.

But then there it was in the midst of all the other words and sentences like a shining beacon home: seek truth and beauty in your work, no matter what! Be ye writer, reader, or critic, do not settle for less. And that is precisely what I am seeking here. In writing here from my own work in progress – what I am reading, writing, thinking at the time of creation – a new work emerges, which the reader might find important in its own right. It is interesting, I think, that I am able to use the internet to connect up directly with my readers. The internet has become a kind of great leveler, for good or bad. By way of this connection we can write anything, tell my story as it were. But what we may not do (and yet so many have), is to become sloppy in our work. Sloppiness is neither truthful nor beautiful. This blog, then, acts as a kind of ‘Author’s Notes’ as I try to make sense of it all, but from another perspective: from the very center of the creative eye.

The marketer in me is now tempted to shout ‘if you have friends who read, invite them to join in.’ But perhaps we should be more selective than that. Perhaps we should say ‘if you know someone who is seeking truth and beauty in literature, we would be happy to have them join us.’

Or, will we suppose that the future will be increasingly image-driven: film, television, photo, graphic art?

Or will words continue to pull from that deep place within us all that distorts images. The place that shadows and lengthens and deepens the truth we may yet encounter and choose to live by? Only in this way will words continue in importance – a great responsibility and great opportunity for all writers, readers, and critics.

Seek truth this New Year. Seek beauty. Jim