How Something Comes from Nothing by Way of Autonomic Processes, philosophy / biology – 25 May 2016

The most prominent argument in support of creationism and most difficult to disprove is the notion that something cannot come from nothing. This can be considered an argument from incredulity, a common means to reject the theory of evolution and all subsequent proofs demonstrating its mechanisms of action. A recent example of evolution would be that African elephants; as they are constantly in danger of being poached for ivory, the main targets, the males, have been gradually losing their tusks (or, rather, being born without them to a male parent whose genes didn’t result in tusks.) This is evolution by removal, as all males with tusks would be in much greater danger of being killed before reproducing. This could be considered an observable example of microevolution, a change within species. Macroevolution is still the most contested concept in evolution, but there are many, many examples of this taking place. Continue reading

A Rose by Another Name, short essay – 25 May 2016

A ROSE BY ANOTHER NAME IS A POPULAR PHRASE that originated in Shakespeare’s light-hearted romantic comedy, Romeo and Juliet; for reasons we will discuss, it has entered the lexicon. The popular interpretation is that an object’s name doesn’t change an object’s nature. Of course a rose’s smell would not change if it was called a rope. It doesn’t matter what it’s called. The essence of a rose should not change if the language used to describe it was changed. The beauty and aroma is entirely independent and separate from its designation. This assumption, this assumption that a name does not carry with it any inherent value which can be added or subtracted based purely on what it’s called or how it’s foreshadowed, is wrong as wrong can be. Continue reading

From a History of Thought and Thinkers, foreword: What is philosophy for?

Philosophicus humanicus – an anthropomorphic concept of an abstract, the embodiment of the academic field of philosophy cobbled together from the parts best suited to the purpose of our present story: a guided tour through the history of great ideas and thinkers, meeting with philosophers, artists, and social critics in order to apply their wisdom to the moral and philosophical questions of our own time. Continue reading

A poem for my favorite fictional couple, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

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A Poem for Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson

“So I deduce,” a start –
“A truce!” I called,
his hands up-held,
“Surely, Sherlock, some stain,
some smell,
has given you unique detail,
and through some voodoo
only you do,
you’ve riddled me out,
you’ve found the clue, indeed!
The moon!
In reflections upon wayward shoes.
But, tell me then, if you’re to read,
My comings and goings and deeds today
“Misdeeds, indeed,” he said, “I’ve seen,
my friend.
I’m afraid you’ve lied to me again.”

“Misdeeds?” I laughed. “But Holmes…”
“You did not lie about the phone?”
“How could you know —
“Not answering – just banging on..”
“I was alone?”
“Because, my friend, I’ve called you, too,
You hate the phones, and more, the booths,
old fashioned aren’t we, stubbornly,
so instead of picking up a phone which rings,
you’d rather with a station’ry,
send a wire to me at Baker St.”

“How would you know I sent a wire?”
“Across the telegraph office,
for several days,
that Bakery has been ablaze,
and that soot, that ash, has put
the smell of smoke upon your boots.
You waited, watching, quite sad, too,
A man of letters, what do you do?
So full of feeling, and  un-tethered,
you left the phone and took the ledger.
A wire you wrote, and for that smell,
does more than your voice to tell,
you stood stiff and bored and thinking,
“Hell!”

“And what if I deduce your day,
Sherlock Holmes, monsieur, surely,
You woke to the ringing clock,
at dawn to listen to the docks,
A tincture first, and coffee, pleasant?
A little needle and brief heaven?
Then full of vigor, what to do?
Call on Mycroft, play the Sleuth?
Not now, for Mycroft has gone sour;
his Pall Mall lodgings dank and foul.
You read the paper, yes you did,
the agony column – scratch the itch;
and as you read that smut each day,
you callous up and draw away,
cocaine for dawn, morphine for day,
so excited by this violence
you’ve decided and invited
me to join you by your fire.”

“Clever, very much so,
The fire’s lit for something, true;
Pray tell me, Doctor, how does one do
what one does when one is you?
How often have you told a lie that through
the Strand did multiply,
and underneath such curious eyes,
You told the truth with utter lies!

“How do you, friend,
With just your pen,
your mind, and paper,
focused in,
And focusing
On this plot point and this plot string,
which seem to in the ether hang,
on each sweet knot we pick to fray;
Yet when to me, if truth be told,
It’s all apparent, boring, old!
And when I’ve caught them,
they may sing.
Of glories, sure, but such misdeeds!
The ones your readers love to read.”

“Let’s take a dogcart to the bridge,
and see who lands at 9;
for Watson this new crook of ours,
Imports much more than wine!
Put down your pen and grab your gun,
The fucking game’s afoot, Watson!”

The Autobiography of Mary Sue, Sherlock Holmes and True Fiction – 16 May 2016

Hagiography & the Fictional You

This essay intends to look at the tradition of what is known in the West as a ‘Mary Sue’ story, which is often an exaggerated account of the author’s own life told through the guise of fiction, wherein faults are omitted and strengths exaggerated, as the author’s own life becomes the source of their romantic imagination. It is worth discussing, as many first time authors will tell similar stories, semi-autobiographical stand-ins for themselves, retelling their own lives as a sort of romantic drama.

In such cases, it’s an autobiography in all but name. Sometimes, it’s a self-deprecation fantasy, as one finds in the work of Franz Kafka, wherein fictionalized portraits of his very real self loathing take the shapes of insects (The Metamorphosis), men condemned for a crime about which they know nothing (The Trial), and a man who starves himself for the enjoyment of an ever-boring crowd, only to be replaced by a panther — an animal with much more vigor and appetite (The Hunger Artist, the last short story before his death). As this will be the first type of novel many young writers try to write, it is worth looking at this much maligned genre.

A hagiography is a style of biography in which the author has cast himself or herself as to romanticize the notions of importance in their own life. Cunning morphs into genius, a man with modest guitar playing talent becomes a world class troubadour. Character flaws are downplayed while positive traits are exaggerated, and is often set to be a way for an unknown author to attempt, through fiction, to tell the world the truth about who they are.

The understanding of this tendency, the need to prove ourselves as credible, professional writers, is best understood as the first strokes taken in a new pool; you’re not quite sure if you’re doing it right, not sure if you enjoy it, and wonder what drove you into the water in the first place. By working through this developmental stage of writing as a natural occurrence it is possible to come away from the story you attempted to tell about yourself with a more genuine understanding of what kind of emotions you intend to convey, allowing you to develop your voice without artsy flourishes, without pretensions, by using the medium of fiction as it was intended: to be propaganda for sentimental and intellectual truths.

Because of a very unique psychological blind-spot called self-bias, it is natural for us to believe in the quality of our uniqueness and the intensely interesting aspects of our lives, and equally natural to think, when in love, that no one has ever felt so much toward another person. But many have, and also thought the same, ‘no one has ever felt this way,’ thought that many people have when experiencing emotions. This shows up in misery contests – where persons swap stories of their traumas and tragedies and relish in the idea of being more thoroughly miserable than their partner. Because of this, it’s hard to convey our memories with the emotion intended because that emotion is unique to us, happening inside of us, and often not apparent to others — at least not as powerfully as it is to us. Our importance in regards to our own story is profound and without a doubt the basis for the way we look at everything, wherein all in this little world of ours has special importance. To others, the obviousness of what we imagine to be charm in our story is not actually obvious, and any attempt at dry emotional description will only remind them they’re being manipulated by words. Which is important, mind, to learn the art of rhetoric and persuasion, but in utero, while forming as a writer, it is crucial not to mistake wistful romanticism for ourselves as a crutch for problems we’re unable to face in its true form, in truth. The point is not to dissuade, but to be of use.

To be helpful is not to try to convince new writers not to pursue the writing of hagiography, but since they will, it is more instructive to discuss the ways in which a Mary Sue can be done well. After all, some of the best books of all time are thinly veiled hagiography, at least to the extent of fictionalizing a character for the sake of a mouth-piece by proxy – as many writers with a philosophical bent tend to do. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, everything written by Ayn Rand, even the best novel of all time – Proust’s A la reserches de temps perdu is a Mary Sue, and Proust could draw the sublime from a cup of tea and build the most beautiful of vistas, all centered around a sensitive child who wants to be a writer.

As an unknown writer, I understood how it felt to need validation. And because of this, to advertise ourselves, we create a fictionalized, externalized self-portrait, wherein almost all of what is recounted is non-fiction, “non-fiction except the names” the saying goes. We do this as a way of showing not only our literary merits but personal worth. The trope is best described as a semiautobiographical, thinly veiled origin story for the author. The narration is the proxy through which we attempt to communicate our philosophy, what we think about Life, the Universe, and Everything. It’s natural and it’s part of maturing, by becoming more comfortable with the less exaggerated, more normal person you really are, and should truly be celebrated for being.

The technique can work – but only if the person attempting the Mary Sue is skilled and / or witty, or is intending to tell a story more-so than tell an allegorical representation of Things They Did; but if the intention is to make the story as real as possible, might I suggest autobiography? That’s what it’s for! And if there are to be true elements and fictional elements, what is a necessary fiction doing in an autobiography, you hypothetical hack? If your life is interesting enough, no embellishment should be necessary. If you don’t deserve a genuine biography, making a slightly fictionalized account of yourself and adding fictions to make your story more interesting, then your life probably wasn’t interesting enough for a novel. I’m sorry you had to hear it from me.

William S. Burroughs said it best in The Western Lands:

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”

The more obvious the intent to blur the recognition of a by-proxy facsimile makes more embarrassing the entire situation. And, considering you’ve admitted to yourself no achievement worth an actual autobiography, choosing to enhance your good characteristics and be virtuous by proxy, to be cared for by proxy, this all makes a sad, sad soup of amateurism and intellectual dishonesty. Nonfiction is for truth, yes, but that doesn’t mean fiction is for lying. If you want a biography, do something to change the world. Invent a working system of government—you’ll get a Mary Sue for that. Or at least an eloquent ghostwriter.

****

An example of a unique type of Mary Sue

I was a big fan of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories as a child. The first two novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four were the best books ever, as far as I was concerned. I would later get the rest (of the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories), always trying to work out how the crime took place. So I pestered my father into getting me a tourist map of London that would’ve been accurate during the time that Watson and Holmes undertook their adventures. When I first started thinking about it as an adult, I started to think that, since Watson was a disabled war vet, he may have created Holmes to somehow live an exciting life as an important, intelligent and useful man, after being invalided out of the military. This is a Mary Sue by which the author gets to live vicariously through a better, more intelligent literary self, but isn’t a Mary Sue in the life story business. Or perhaps he created Holmes as an imaginary friend, to escape the monotony of a slow and unfulfilled life. There is evidence to support this.

First, within the framework of the story, there is a surprising lack of Holmes in newspapers despite his brilliant career—as for his reluctance for validation, it does not make sense for the character as described by Watson. The Sherlock Holmes as described had few weaknesses; yet, time after time, he is prone to vanity and showmanship, despite the repeated insistence that he disapproved all forms of popular applause.

A man so moved by vanity would naturally take credit for his deeds. Yet, when not on the scene or talking to witnesses, Sherlock dislodges himself from the scene entirely, like a moth roused from sleep by the hint of a greater fire. Watson dramatized the stories by making Holmes an artist and magician.

In The Hounds of the Baskervilles, Sherlock was absent for almost the entire story – until Watson cannot form a conclusion on his own. As events begin to move along at Baskerville Hall, Holmes is found camping on the moors. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a good author of fiction, but he is much greater at bringing together lots of disparate strings in his particular type of deductive denouement. Conan Doyle was Holmes, if for no other reason than the words from Holmes’ own lips were words written by Doyle, and Doyle solves each case through Holmes.

In between these cases, Holmes is described as abstracted, detached, and aloof – almost like he isn’t there. The sole motivation seems to be to perform these pieces of drama at the behest of his friend, Watson. At the end of The Sign of Four, the denouement is usurped by the wonderful story of the main antagonist, the one-legged Andaman islander Johnathon Small. The ending is brief but telling: (From the ending of The Sign of Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

“The division seems rather fair,” says Watson. “You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets  the credit, pray what remains for you?”

         “For me,” said Sherlock Holmes, “there is cocaine.”

And he stretched his long white hand up for it.

Watson was the narrator in all but a few stories: two in which Holmes recounts the adventure, such as The Blanched Soldier and The Lions Mane, both from The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. In His Last Bow, two stories are written from a third-person omnipotent perspective, The Dying Detective and The Mazarin Stone, respectively. Watson narrates the rest, and exclusively in the first-person perspective, except for the second half of A Study in Scarlet, the first book to feature the world famous detective. The story is told in a third person to give the murderer, Jefferson Hope, a back-story which takes place in Utah and really pisses on Mormons. The same thing happens in the second half of The Valley of Fear, which tells the story of John Douglas’ time in America as an undercover Pinkerton detective going by the name Jack McMurdo. Doyle goes to great lengths to flesh out his fictional characters when they’re not even named until the final act.

Consider how Watson describes Scotland Yard’s MacDonald as a protégé to Holmes: ‘Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, while genius instantly recognizes talent.’

Consider who is more likely to exist: a man capable of riddling out your job by the calluses on your hands, where you live by the unique stains on your boots, and where you sat in a carriage because of the direction of the splash of mud across your jeans, someone who can read your mind, basically, just by following your eye-movements, or a retired military man playing his own little game of literary cops and robbers, imagining himself as Sherlock Holmes, a man of genius, wit, and skill, as their mutual creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle certainly was. Even Watson’s injury isn’t consistent from the first story to the second: in the first, he says:

“I served at the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery.”

In the first chapter of The Sign of Four, Holmes manages to upset his dull companion by his accurate deduction of his brother’s habits and character. In that scene, it becomes a leg wound that, ‘aches with the change of weather.’

Watson’s greatness and his weakness was projected onto Holmes. After Sherlock’s death in The Final Problem, published in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, [he] is assumed to have died in combat with Moriarty, having fallen into the Reichenbauch Falls. However, in The Adventure of the Empty House, from The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the first collection of stories after Holmes’ death, Watson tells of his comings and goings in Sherlock’s absence. Interestingly omitted from Watson’s account of life without his famous friend is his wife Mary, whom he met in The Sign of Four. Who, died somehow? It is never really mentioned. But how does he find Sherlock Holmes again? He runs into him while contemplating another problem, that of the death of a fashionable London socialite, Ronald Adair. Holmes, disguised as an old man, bumps into Watson, carrying a pile of books. And from that disguise, from the pile of books, Sherlock Holmes reappears.

To imbue your fiction with aspects of your life in a relatable way is different in a very important way than the first type of Mary Sue, which is little more than exaggeration and just shy of outright lying. To have a character with your mother’s manners or your father’s name is natural. The reason the Mary Sue is so frowned upon is because it negates the problem of imagination at the same time fictionalizing what isn’t the province of the fictional – the real world. The best thing about writing fiction is the discovery of truths within the fancy, within the obviousness of the falseness. When you understand what makes the best art so valuable is that it has a dual and positive effect: the motivation to acquire the skill to create, and the sensibility and identification with the material to know what you’ve created.

Literary essay: Shakespeare – Choice & Fate, Fathers & Sons, 15 May 2016

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On Shakespeare’s Drama,
Choice & Fate, Fathers & Sons

SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS ARE ALL INTRINSICALLY Shakespeare plays; yet with MacBeth, Shakespeare taps into a deeper madness, a madness rarely pulled off with lucidity in literary history. Shakespeare unravels MacBeth in much the same manner as he did with King Lear. Piece by piece the layers shed, layer after layer of human skin.

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At one point he was an honorable man, but is tempted by powers, and what justifies the need or want of power. This is a common reading, but I think the witches intend to be a sort of externalization, a way of seeking validation for the kind of the desires already there. As he rose to power, through each step, he deteriorated morally. The deterioration was such that another theme of internal / external heaven and hell becomes very apparent in the fact that he can’t even enjoy his kingship because of his internal struggle—in this he is much like King Henry IV, unable to enjoy the glory of his usurped throne.

Although Macbeth deteriorates slowly and becomes more and more vicious, his soliloquies, such as the one before murdering Duncan, invoke a sense of pity and awe in the audience simply because of how much he suffers. The great take-away for me is simple: Even monsters suffer. There is great ambition for social heights in MacBeth, but to gain it his morality is more and more cast aside.

MacBeth was once a highly respectable general in Scotland. He even witnesses to some degree the deterioration of his character as he notices his own choice for the social climb over moral goodness. He was respected by the soldiers and even King Duncan while in Scotland; however, this externalization of his greed and desire, the witches, will tempt him with the Throne of Glamis and Cawdor—and propose it will be Banquo, his good friend, soon to be a father of a dynasty of kings, and not he.

MacBeth’s ambition is the heroic flaw, a common theme in theatre,

“My thought, whose murder is yet fantastical, shakes my single state,” he reflects, regarding the prophecy. At first he rejects the idea of murder, shuddering as the witches mention what is to be his fate; he says, “If chance will have me king, chance may crown me, without my stir.”

Again the three witches, an internal peer pressure of sorts, make concentrated his murderous intentions, which he had yet to express. Again it is ambition goaded by temptation that drive him further when Duncan announces his intentions to make Malcom heir to the throne.

MacBeth says,

“That is a step on which I must fall upon, or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies. Stars hide your fires; let not sleep my black desires: the eye that winks at the hand, yet that be which the eye fears, when it is done to see.”

In the end his ambition gets the better of him and his moral deterioration is complete; in the role of a desperate murderer, he doesn’t wish for the light to shine upon what he has done—it is too evil to be seen, and far too much for him to see, to be confronted with the evidence of your crime so graphically, as Claudius was in Hamlet.

The inner conflict that acts inside Macbeth from evil and moral virtue carries on through the entirety of the play and the struggle against the prophecies and temptations become weaker and weaker. The self-fulfilling prophecy is another popular trope in theatre. He reasons after multiple aversions to kill Duncan, showing his complicit choice at each stage, aware of the risks, and then, because of what it took to get there, is unable to enjoy his rule. His slow fall covers a noble man falling from the favor of fortune, through temptation and gradual capitulation to desire, until he is a base creature, in complete service to his indulgences.

Methought I heard a voice cry

“Sleep no more!

Macbeth does murder sleep,”

the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,

The death of each day’s life,

sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds,

great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

Of many the recurring themes in Macbeth, sleep is focused on intensively. Macbeth thought that sleep made life worth living and thought that by killing the king in his sleep, that he had murdered sleep itself. This, of the many points in Macbeth, is probably the most provocative and widely discussed. He thought it to be soothing, “like a bath after a long day’s work.” In the passage, which is common to modern English’s “Sleep on it” – Macbeth is frustrated and distraught and sees no end to his troubles. Though he has a lot of troubles, he relates this with. “A ravell’d sleeve” – this is the metaphor he uses for having a tangled mesh, or string – or skein – of thread and yarn. Not unlike the tangled yard of the Weird Sisters (something else Shakespeare inherited from Holinshed’s Chronicles.

Before Macbeth murders king Duncan, Banquo says, “A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, and yet I would not sleep: merciful powers.” Something, though as of yet he doesn’t reveal it, is keeping him from sleep. Banquo shows beforehand that he is suspecting that Macbeth may have ulterior motives when Macbeth bids him a “Good repose” – which is the same thing as a good night’s sleep.

In one of the most popular of all the scenes in Macbeth, Macbeth hallucinates seeing a bloody dagger suspended in the air pointing towards King Duncan’s chamber; he thinks it’s appropriate to have the hallucination at that time of night and says, “Now o’er the one half-world, nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse that curtain’d sleep.”

Sleep, as he says, was curtained because many of the noblemen and personages high in the social hierarchy used four post beds and hung up curtains to keep out cold air. Macbeth believed the air of night could see through the curtains and through sleep itself.

“There’s one did laugh in’s sleep, and one cried murder,” – After King Duncan is murdered, he tells his wife this as he leaves the chamber and believed that the people, even though all were asleep, could see the blood on his hands.

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Tragedy is of two popular forms now in the West. Modern tragedy and Greek tragedy. Greek tragedy is tied to the ideas of fate and the gods, and sometimes regular people too. A hero defies the gods, often due to fatal flaws which is the reason behind their eventual downfall; and English playwriting, in its early years, follows this tradition. In Shakespeare’s plays, tragedy is also identified as a story that ends unhappily due to the flaws of the protagonist, the tragic hero.

Romeo and Juliet – a broadstrokes tragedy – In Shakespeare’s other tragedies, such as Macbeth and Hamlet, although those characters are fated to die, this type of tragedy is different. Romeo and Juliet is a domestic type of tragedy, a tragedy of fate, despite the fact that other characters influence the result of the final tragedy; however only a few people are affected. In most of his work, the microcosm (Hamlet) along with the macrocosm (The fiefdom of Denmark) are affected equally, making the tragedy in microcosm and macrocosm, personal and universal.

Shakespeare tries to break down the rivalry and feud between two families; the Capulets and Montagues Many tragedies are been presented in the play including that of Paris, Mercutio, Tybalt, and Romeo, Juliet, and Lady Montague. These figures all lead to each other, each building up and abetting the next death or tragedy, which could have been caused by rivaling senses of authority, codes of honor, masculinity, rebellion, ambition, and – again, fate.

From the very beginning of the play, fate is constantly referenced, starting with the prologue,

“A pair of star crossed lovers take their life.”

This is Shakespeare working on a different type of tragedy, a tragedy in the face of time and destiny. Romeo and Juliet were meant to die, in that sense, because it was their destiny.  Therefore this is what fate had planned for their lives. So the audience recognizes even further that the tragic death of Romeo and Juliet was something which was definitely happening, something inherent and inevitable. Shakespeare’s job in convincing the audience this was due to fate was easy. As the audience at that point of time would have believed in fate.

Shakespeare tried to showcase the idea that to fulfill destiny and prophecy, you have to believe in destiny. Like prophecies, inasmuch as they are ultimately self-fulfilling, Romeo was shown to believe, saying, “I fear too early for my mind misgives, some consequences yet hanging in the stars shall bitterly begin this fearful date.”

Romeo knew—to that degree of belief, it transcends idea and becomes a physical reality—that his actions were not under his control;

“…He that hath steerage over my course, direct my sail.”

By believing that one’s actions are out of one’s control, one avoids responsibility and, for Romeo to believe this, he tried to defy what was already a self-imposed idea, to go against the tide that swept him to his end was to go against a tide he put in motion.

Fate was used by a number of playwrights, and Shakespeare used it well as a dramatic device, showing what fruit there is in believing one’s life out of one’s hands. Shakespeare was central to the progress of the play and its outcome; an example could be Romeo’s banishment and Paris’s engagement to Juliet. Both a modern and an Elizabethan audience would, despite the knowledge of the plays outcome, be interested in the play, and keep watching, and in a way Shakespeare uses the audience’s knowledge as a dramatic device.

Despite his own ambition, Shakespeare has a madness for condemning it; like MacBeth, Friar Lawrence could be an example of an ambitious person, believing that by marrying the lovers the feud would stop, alleging that the only reason he is marrying the two is to bring an end to the rivalry. Despite how well intentioned this action is, The Friars decision to marry Romeo and Juliet indicates his naiveté more than anything. The Friar is ultimately responsible for the ending. To persuade Juliet to fake her death, he attempts to reverse nature—to heal the wounds of the feud—but only succeeds in making everything worse.

The Friar was a man who did not believe in fate. As such, his decision-making leads to chaos. The unpredictable direction of events help to keep the audience attentive. Shakespeare used these techniques to build tension and make scenes more dramatic.

Youth’s Romantic Rebellion.

Romeo and Juliet both rebel against their families, as most young men and women do. They enhance and exacerbate the rivalry between them by marring one another, rather than taming it. The play presents numerous examples of youthful rebellion. Juliet disobeys her father by refusing to marry Paris, something unheard of in a society where fathers are the ultimate source of patriarchal authority, and authority in all things, moral and spiritual. As both rebel against their parents through their continued association, Juliet not only disobeys her parents, she encourages Romeo to do the same, saying,

“…deny thy father and refuse thy name.”

Things did not end well. For anyone, really.

Cont.

Shakespeare could turn out plays like Romeo and Juliet in his sleep. In Hamlet and perhaps more so in MacBeth, however, he pushes himself higher and higher. In Hamlet by bringing the drama closer to the personal and neglecting archetypal tragedy; Hamlet, the character, is proof of this, as his mental anguish is the subject of the entire play. Perhaps it was due to the death of his own son Hamnet, that Shakespeare’s interest would become deconstructing the relationships between fathers and sons.

After his son was carried away by the plague, we have the character Hamlet, a consonant shy of having the same name of his deceased son, looking into a mirror, contemplating suicide. ‘To be or not to be,’ is just a fancy way of asking, ‘Should I kill myself or what?’ That’s the question. It’s the same question Camus pursued in his philosophy of the absurd, in works such as The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus; and Camus stated,

‘There is one principle issue in philosophy, and that is suicide.’

Shakespeare’s own anguish and regret seeps into his characters, who, even when seemingly on top of the world – as Shakespeare had been himself, showing up to a coronation decked out in red velvet – find ways to bemoan the everyday life of the depressive:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

The way to dusty death

Out! Out, brief candle!

Life is but a walking shadow,

A poor player that struts and frets

His hour upon the stage

And is heard no more.

It is a tale told by an idiot,

Full of sound and fury –

Signifying nothing.

Shakespeare’s characters are all saddled by one form of loss or another in this period, and they deal with grief in different ways. His later work is a dissection of grief. Hamlet’s deliberation on his life, Macbeth’s lethargy and disdain for the noise and futility of the mundane, day to day, what is real and lasting, and what is ephemeral, just a passing storm, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Shakespeare’s guilt over his son’s passing seeps into his greatest play, King Lear, as the King mistreats his one honest daughter while at the same time giving lavishly to his other daughters, who are sycophantic and gratifying, incurring his good favor by building up his self-esteem, so when it’s time to parcel out the kingdom, Cordelia doesn’t get as much as those other assholes.

It’s hard to pin Shakespeare down and say with definitiveness what he believed, or wherewith he is speaking in his own voice, as himself. He used the past as a prism through which to enlarge the issues of the present, such as the problems with the monarchy and the many religious schisms of his age. But in his later works, the character of Hamlet is in keeping with more reflective, pensive melancholy – about the loss of his father – and his ghost is who tips him on to what Claudius has done; MacBeth might be a reflection of Shakespeare’s own transformation. From the highest of the playwrights in England to a grieving father; he had money and fame at a time when it meant less than it should have.

At the time King Lear was written, Shakespeare was English playwriting. Kip Marlowe, Robert Greene, and Thomas Kyd, his detractors and contemporaries did well, but fell out of favor, gradually. Kip Marlowe has retained a popularity that the former did not, but even his doesn’t rival that of Shakespeare, the Bard, inventor of words like puke and queasy. That’s a legacy.

When one considers the popularity of Hamlet’s conversation with the mirror and his thoughts of suicide, it’s easy to see one’s self before that same mirror thinking the same thing: what have I to lose by losing everything? Will it mitigate my loss? Will destruction save me from the torments of my conscience? These are natural questions to ask, to wonder if there is providence, and to wonder if we can actually defy fate on any meaningful level. If there be providence in this world, must this be the greatest lack of mercy? This denial of consolation the grave offers us all? No grace, no word of condolences from that undiscovered country. To ask these questions during a time of religious upheaval were questions in need of asking. It is no consolation that the dead stay silent, and grace is a spectre over our noblest endeavors.

The dead may silent, sure, but they may find their voice again; if the proper necromancer restored these spirits to our world, to live out their days in one folio or painting or another, this preserves the voice of voices we can’t hear and is unless by a proper necromancer restored to live forever in the folio or painting of a fine dramatist or artist. This is among the finer qualities of art—the preservation of what we are as individuals struggling with self-definition. Shakespeare was one of the first writers to give the English a hint at what that definition could be.

A Letter to Sidney, prose – 13 April 2016

For a person with very little, as I’m sure you’ll agree, a very little is a lot. Even friends who only come to smoke or get my pills, they act like my friends and pretend to respect me, and Benny is along that vein, the people who flatter my intelligence towards the end of getting something. Like Bonnie, which is sad, because it could have been so nice for her. I’m not a romantic, I’m a realist, and I know not all relationships can work all the time, but for me, love is one of the most wasted qualities in the world. It is lavished upon the undeserving while those who feel deserving just watch, like a drowning man staring at a picture of water, wondering what it must be like to actually drink, to drink that deep drug of falling, getting to know someone and their quirks, learning how to play with them, how to fight, how to live and die well together.

And in that loneliness, which is towards my bed, to be ashamedly honest, and my voice of encouragement, someone to tell me that it matters, the things I care about, books or whatever, to know someone responds on a sympathetic frequency is enough to keep the idea of romantic love alive from afar, if not in contact, because love starts with the idea of someone. And the consensus when it comes to me is, the man to ask questions, but not really pay attention to the person behind the trivia and all that, and Bonnie plays to that need of mine, to feel that sense of being loved, and not thinking it is being wasted on me. She knows I’ve been, very ashamed of my face after my disfigurement in November, and she plays that, you know, “You’re always beautiful” card, excusing my shame and trying to offer me consolation in the most fraudulent ways.

Not by talking or growing to know each other better, but by the vulgar attempt to skip the play and conversation and challenge of knowing someone and loving them for whatever that is, she wishes to skip that process with me, the best I think, better than anything, the gradual realization of love, felt or being felt, and she makes me feel like maybe I’m not deformed or disfigured, and that people don’t see me as a meth head because I lost a tooth. It started with me not being able to smile in public, then only in groups, and now not even in private. It’s easy to exploit my need for company, because of how long time is, how slow the minute when loneliness is the situation. And she preys on my weakness for those who claim to care about me or want to help me or know me or whatever. I don’t ask for anything or make demands, only meekly hope for some reciprocation in the event I earn it, and to earn favor and not feel ugly when I’m with someone.

She makes me feel like that is possible, but without funds, that process is impossible, because the loving of me is in service to something else, and me as a person is a commodity to be used towards different ends, the ends of another type of self-satisfaction. And I never expect to be loved or even liked, much less respected, because all my efforts are attempts to make deep personal and psychological ugliness harder to recognize, and I feel like even my eloquence is the ink-sack  of the lobster, shooting it out so I can slip away in the murky water between being fulfilled by the sincere love and respect of friends, knowing the love will be from afar, and not for my face or for my form, but for, if anything, something approaching sincerity and genuineness, and at best a kind of wisdom.

We all have good moments, when we get to see someone smile because we made them laugh, or to see someone think, or feel a new sense of companionship, and I feel like my obvious desperate needs for contact manifest themselves as easily manipulated people, whose need for friendship negates the knowing eventual pain of when it falls apart, making ever more desperate future attempts at being loved. That’s why all of my advice starts with learning how to swim on my own. Because no one may ever join, so to speak, and if drowning, without incentive, no one will be there to save me. So abuse against me is something I apologize to the abuser for.

I’m sorry you broke a promise to me and it hurt, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make you happy by being me. Sensitivity and the capacity for seeing love between others, or just friendship on a deep level, only reinforces the claustrophobia of my life, and anyone to break it, even if violently, has saved me from these silent spaces.

Sorry, she came by again, her hair smelled good
I think she washed up too
And now she takes my hands and says
How smooth! The smoothest hands!

The fraudulence of such emotion more than anything offends my sensibilities, to know those whom I feel worthy of their love waste it on people who either don’t deserve or if they do don’t powerfully return it, at least in a way that empowers. I just feel, I thought coming back, I thought I’d have something to offer, something to offer someone other than someone who doesn’t want anything but my pill bottle. Sorry for rambling, and you don’t have to respond, it’s nice to have a window, even if it’s bricked. I like the idea of a bricked window, because it engenders no delusion of being helped. That’s the hardest thing to accept, that no one’s going to turn the light on, and if you need the light on now, you’ve misunderstood how to see in the dark.

Brandon fucKing Nobles

Unedited piece on criticism, judge softly – 12 May 2016

Foreword

A look at the varying methods of literary criticism

 

In popular criticism, a critic may give a paragraph or so as an initial reaction, to get the reader into his frame of mind and set the tone, jot some things down on the ride home and post a review sometime in the night. They will look at it in different areas to see if it checks all the specific, arbitrary marks, nothing on how bad the dialogue was, how the action was uninspired, and how the story resolution made no sense. And the film/novel gets a score out of 5 or 4, or a thumbs up or two, and that’s it.

          This was not always the approach to critiquing literature or art. Literary criticism, then, would be indistinguishable from what we today call literary analysis. It is the intentional probing of a manuscript, beckoning, Speak to me, ye words! And when they don’t, it’s not uncommon to feel left out of the joke. Many students have finished a copy ofThe Great Gatsby or The Fountainhead and thought, did I just not get it?

          Lots of students feel that way about certain books they’ve been told are important for so long that, when they finally finish the story, there’s just something not there that you thought would be, something to justify the reputation of the novel. Literary criticism was born out of this idea, this idea to understand how stories were best told and structured, and how to explain popular curriculum books in a way that would best resonate with individual readers.

          Literary criticism as literary analysis/exegesis made it to the popular conscience around the height of Athenian culture, where each year a tragedy contest would be held, accepting works from some of the biggest names in theatre history – Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes – who brought about a certain need in the public sphere to understand their entertainment, as a way to more wholly enjoy the performance, by identifying with the hero or heroine.

Tragedies submitted by Sophocles and Aeschylus would be judged against each other, with the critics weighing the pros and cons of such works as Antigone (the greatest of Sophocles’ plays) and The Libation Bearers, the masterwork of the poet Aeschylus. This is the opposite of the original intention of critics; as they were more likely to be expounding upon the virtues of Epicurus or Aristotle, a running theme here, and there a particularly sweet turn of phrase.

Though the popular appeal of condensed, Cliff Notes of the Gospels worked in a much different way: instead of simplifying the idea, they simplified the presentation of the rather complex ideas through paintings on vases, frescoes, and even the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. These very compact images communicate timeless ideas about mercy, forgiveness, and the hope for salvation.

This was a type of criticism, where critic is used in the sense of someone who was there to appreciate art and communicate its most important ideas to a broader audience.

We have many in the theologian tradition to thank for modern textual and literary criticism; and it is a valuable contribution to the academic community, the studies of great literature found in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature and Proust Was a Neuroscientist,while each of those books don’t tell traditional stories of their own, they nevertheless draw our attention to some of the more sublime moments in literature and art the sometimes impatient mind may miss. These works are valuable for popularizing the notion that the studiousness of academia can be a worthwhile pursuit, to somehow prune new insights from the texts of Seneca and Chuang Tzu is a magic of its own.

The critics of the other type began as spectators in the Roman playhouses, nothing the flaws of the heroes, often missing the point, condemning Epicurus for his supposed debauchery in his exploration of human happiness. It may have all began with Plato’s dialogues with Socrates, as those are essentially after-book discussions of what everything meant and why it was meaningful to be said, what new meaning can be glimpses upon examination.

This search for patterns, in thematic language, language used throughout the text that reinforces an important bit of subtext, asking the viewer to look at the material with a broader view. In music this is called a leit-motif, a pattern that repeats in different places to emphasis different, but similar structures. As there must be experts, there must be experts to certify experts as experts, and so grew the community of theatre critics, and in popular culture it leaned more toward the thumbs up/down or 3 out of 4 stars type review, these too were reminiscent of the old techniques of recapitulation, a brief rundown of the events, followed by comparing and contrasting positive and negative aspects of a film or novel. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this approach, and for those who use this method of criticism, I’m not here to critique.

The critique of studiousness often leaves out the critique of entanglement, to let the ball fall forward as it might, or even let it unravel; the lesson is that you are criticizing something as it is and shouldn’t hold it to the standards of a hypothetically perfect ideal. Instead, the critique of romanticism takes the details presented in the document and find something buried in there that may prove an unlikely source for wisdom and interpretation.

The sentimental critic doesn’t necessarily look to judge the quality of a work, but more or less put it into a context that allows students and other academics to look at an old work in a new way, a way that allows us to connect the struggles of the characters with those of the modern world and of our own.

The question of quality commercial commentary is predicated upon the wisdom of a select few being sufficient to guide a great many more to what makes the work under analysis transform into a malleable, transmutable metal in hands of great skill. The classical approach to literary and storytelling instruction has been through the demonstration of good literature by our teachers and professors throughout our life; we have been trained, through so many literature courses, to look for meaning and connect one idea to another, and hope to not be worse than wrong – uninteresting.

Many social and literary critics remain outside of the world of publishing their own fiction and non-fiction, as the academic discipline of analysis and comparative philology teaches you to recognize how stories are put together, how themes are stressed, how the most important ideas at work in the novel are contrast, and how the drama is resolved. The point behind literary criticism is to not only demonstrate the failures of art, but equally importantly, celebrate its triumphs.

When I was studying as a linguist, we often read books in their original language, then a prominent translation, and finally we’d go through for finals honors to try a more fitting translation of a given work. When you work in the dynamics of storytelling long enough, you begin to see the machinery in motion in all stories, seeing how they’re structured, the scaffold that holds the ever growing story, how the narrative is spread among characters, and as Sherlock Holmes said,

If you know how the past 1,000 crimes were committed, it stands to reason you wouldn’t have a pretty good idea of what happened on the occasion of the 1,000th crime. The comparison may not seem readily obvious, but consider the totality of literary as, essentially, mysteries, all of them, even Jane Eyre and The Brothers Karamazov – even though the *SPOILER* fact that the three brothers are innocent and that it is the epileptic bastard child Smerdyakov, son to a local prostitute Stinking Lizavetta. Halfway through the introduction of a nearly 900 page book, you know who did it, you know who is blamed, and you know who dies. What mystery, then, remains in that?

The mystery of art is not how the story ends or how a finished painting looks, but the mystery is what the story, despite its obviousness, tries to hide from us in subtext or symbolism, leaving open the invitation for the viewer to participate in the consummation of art. The mystery of literature is not how the unlikely hero manages to save the world in the end, but what lies beneath the surface, and what that underbelly says about the artist and those who enjoy the work.

The mysteries of art are endless, but the most striking has to be the almost instinctive human capacity to communicate through words and poetry, art and language and music, and how this mysterious, sentimental being orchestrates the entirety of a given narrative as though offering it up to the sheep of the cynical and irreverent who, for they lack the eye for subtle poignancies, they would much rather circle the dumpster fire attempting to stop it from burning with a think-piece, something for Huffington Post, perhaps, about how A Certain Popular Book Needs to Be Burned –and despite their mockery of such a book, they spend more time deconstructing the story dynamics, the problems with character chemistry and dialogue.

It’s easy to point out the shortcomings of a truly disappointing story, but it is equally important to understand and appreciate with the same fervor when a relativity minor book by a relatively unknown author gets everything right. It’s hard to pinpoint anything in particular when you’ve read an utterly charming novel, like The Sorrows of Young Werther.And it’s even more difficult when asked to look at it critically, to peel apart the onion and see what each new layer reveals about the characters and their motivation.

I know it’s difficult to summon the same amount of enthusiasm for a good book and to push it into the public conscience, and a further difficulty is explaining why exactly it is you may really, really enjoy something. While at the same time it’s hardly difficult to spot the problems in something truly unremarkable in film and television. The horror of this realization is that, while many people can recognize the obvious problems in a bad film or TV series, a book requires a lot more dedication and a type of faith in your author that, in the end, all of this will be worth it.

 It’s understandable: it’s easier to notice the awful in almost all areas of life, especially in the kitchen when the milk has spoiled or when your younger sister is learning the violin just below your floor. Tedious, Underwhelming, Uninspiring – these words all amount to the same thing: I didn’t enjoy this, here are some synonyms! And it’s easier to immediately tell if a piece of music is awful, while it may take 40-50 pages to discover the exact amount of time you’ve wasted.

In the final analysis, art and literature remain interesting and sacred because of the natural sort of voodoo that offer up to us; the mystery of our need to have resolution and closure; to try to get to know those characters and grow up with them, sharing so much of our mental space that such a character may become an active, participating voice in our inner lives; how can we look at the oldest books known to us and see glimmers of ourselves in the heroes and villains; how we can cry over the death of a beloved fiction character, knowing fully well they didn’t die (one must first exist); and the mystery around that strange magic that is writing, telepathy really, as authors and artists communicate across space and time to talk to others, to talk to those as sensitive as they are – to draw those wonderful word pictures in their heads and activate their mirror neurons.

This lets the reader identify with the character by recognizing characteristics of themselves in the character, and through literature we can live vicariously through the great heroes and villains of myth and legend. When looking through the eyes of the sensitive artist, our eyes may be drawn to unremarkable patterns on the water of an otherwise still lake, the dunking noise of ducklings bobbing into a stream behind their mother, each plump and bobbing in the shallow pool.

It is a unique phenomenon, to need to now that the health of a fictional character has been preserved and their character arc resolved. In the end, this is the remaining mystery of art for me: why we need to see the problems of fictional characters resolved in a way that may give us a sort of closure, letting us grieve and move on.

 

The debate between ‘high art’ and ‘low art’

What would normally be considered “Low art” is that ceramic angel figure you see at your grandmother’s house. While lovely and quaint and harmless, in the world of art these trinkets would be cursed with the dreaded pejorative kitsch.

Kitsch is a type of inferior art, by definition, the art that is soaked in sentimentality, not a part of any creative process, or any artwork that is in some way mass produced, those lawn gnomes and fake flamingos for example; it is art that appeals to our most childish expressions not yet besmirched by the dirtiness of the world of modern art or intellect, preferring to remain as simple trinkets, which – though they may not be great art – have a way of conferring brief moments of beauty and sublimity on these gaudy, overly decorative ornaments brief conferring of beauty and sublimity on these little, industrialized sugar comas.

Sadness, fear, remorse, regret, these are the feelings that make literature, and all of art, whether there is something in the air other than noise, something akin to a spirit woven out of sound, from the ether it would seem, to bathe us in this holy sound.

          High art didn’t concern itself with the snobbishness of Dutch realism until Vincent van Gogh showed a more ferocious approach to the type of paintings Rembrandt would produce later in his year. It is a beef-shank, held aloft by hooks: because it had color, and sensually arranged as to appeal to our natural inclination for curves. It shocks the sensibilities of the changing critical consensus towards art at the end of the Golden Age of Dutch Painting, with popular opinion turning against the sort of dour Rembrandt paintings, including stretchmarks from pregnancy, flabby breasts, a drooping stomach – all as lovingly contoured had she been the establishment’s Venus di Milo. Out with the blemishes and pock marks, ushering in the Age of Refinement, a movement that would last until Jacques-Lois David painted his Oath of the Horati; he reminded people that art had a specific, important mission: instruction,

          Jacques-Lois was a part of a long tradition of using art as a means of rehearsed communication with an audience, to sway them that the brutes in those dark paintings were a bad dream, but they continued. David glorified Napoleon himself crossing the Alps, commanding, virile, undaunted. In reality, he crossed on a pack mule. But the picture isn’t as exciting. And that’s a big part of the point behind the idea of art as propaganda, or a propaganda for good.

          Art as a means to communicate ideas has been around since the early Christian church, huddling under Roman cities practicing their rituals, making crude reproductions of the crucifixion. But, but! Before long, serious artists, first among them El Greco for his early use of the darkness of shadow in the later works of Caravaggio, that curacao way of making light ever brighter by the contras. It is the artist’s job to condense otherwise complex notions about mercy and forgiveness and use a hauntingly beautiful painting. And, one could argue, that long after you sing the hymns and learn the stages of the cross, all of the things in that story—those paintings and ikons and Bernini statues will outlast them all. Art, then, has responsibility to posterity.

          On 6 September 1976 Voyager 1

          In service of representing a true snapshot of their age, artists have created time capsules, if you will, and are no longer judged as they would be as a product of their time, but as a product of all time, to be applied throughout the ages to new problems in new civilizations as they arose. The most resonant of novels, the best of all, are not dated by their subject matter like topical stories, but somehow become more resonant throughout the years.

On the Importance of Criticism, 13 May 2016

On Criticism

In popular criticism, a critic may give a paragraph or so his attention as an initial reaction, to get the reader to see his perspective and set the tone, jot down something in the night to summarize it all, and post a review online sometime the next day. That’s the extent of the responsibility: not in looking into the possible allegories, the more minor touches that sometimes redeem a work, but to check off some list of minor story beats you expected to find throughout the story, correlate them with something you may have seen somewhere else or already believe, write derivative!! in your 6×9 yellow pad and underline it.

          In order to be objective, a critic will look at it from different perspectives, get some contrary statements to cover the popular angle, carefully noting how bad the dialogue is, how the action is tame and the ending uninspired. And the film/novel gets a score based on thumbs or stars, or a formal score out of five or 4 and that’s it.

This was not always the approach to critiquing literature or art. Literary criticism, then, would be indistinguishable from what we today call literary analysis. It is the intentional probing of a manuscript, beckoning, Speak to me, ye words! And when they don’t, it’s not uncommon to feel left out of the joke. Many students have finished a copy of The Great Gatsby or The Fountainhead and thought, did I just not get it?

Fountainhead1994

You probably did. That’s the problem.

Lots of students feel that way about certain books, the sacred few they’ve always heard about, the ones they’ve always been told are important. It’s natural to be underwhelmed when one finally finishes the story, there’s just something not there that you thought would be, something to justify the reputation of the novel. It’s easy to think you may have missed something. Literary criticism was born out of this need among readers, this idea to understand how stories were best told and structured, and how to explain popular curriculum books in a way that would best resonate with individual readers.

Literary criticism as literary analysis made it to the popular conscience around the height of Athenian theatre culture, later to be reintroduced in the same manner (for similar reasons) in Western Christian cultures. Athens was a culture that held an annual festival called The Dionysia, or Festival of Dionysus. Some of the biggest names in theatre history would perform their first plays there, playwrights including Aristophanes, producer of popular comedies like Lysistrata and The Birds, as well as Euripides, wonderful playwright and author of Medea. To spectators, to the noisy crowd, it wasn’t always obvious what was meant to be happening on the non-stage (the stage as we know it wouldn’t become a staple in Western theatre for hundreds of years).

Engaging with the plays was an immediate public response, and an industry grew up around the need to understand and engage in the drama. Literary criticism as a mechanism of explanation began here, hoping to be a means to helping the public more wholly understand the important moments in the story and enjoy the performances and to show the virtues or flaws of a hero or heroine. Tragedies submitted by Sophocles and Aeschylus would be judged against each other, with the critics weighing the pros and cons of such works as Antigone (the greatest of Sophocles’ plays) and The Libation Bearers, a masterwork by the poet Aeschylus.

This is the opposite of the original intention of critics; criticism as a methods of judgment or grading, as classical literary critics were more likely to be expounding upon the virtues of Epicurus or Aristotle, bringing their ideas to wider audiences by condensing and then re-packaging as beauty to communicate ideas. This is something that began in earnest up in Catholic Rome in the 17th century, under more threats from abroad of Protestantism. They responded with the power of art.

st-thomas

I’d be doubting Thomas’ hygiene.

Though the popular appeal of a condensed, Cliff Notes version of the Gospels was perfect for a sense of community and worship, ironically it worked in a much different way: instead of simplifying the idea, they simplified the presentation of quite complex ideas, and more especially for young children. This is a historical practice, whereby the education of the public through art is vehemently pursued; figures on vases, beautiful religious frescoes, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, each of these works of art communicated ideas behind the Faith as preached by the Gospels, ideas of mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.

This was a type of criticism, where the word critic is used to mean someone who was there to appreciate art and then communicate its most important ideas to a broader audience. We have many in the theologian tradition to thank for the development of the academic essays, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, especially, author of City of God, which has long been the basis for textural and literary criticism. You find this essay writing and academic exegesis in political theory, such as that of Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan and Behemoth. The writing of books about books is as ancient a process as the writing of books. Books like Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature and Trotsky’s Art and Revolution encouraged the systematic study of ideas as presented in literature. Books like this seek to explain, instruct, and dispel the mystique of other, more important books, by attempting to communicate the point through summary.

While each of the books detailed by Nabokov in his Lectures don’t tell traditional stories of their own, or the stories themselves, they nevertheless draw our attention to some of the more sublime moments in literature and art, something a sometimes impatient mind may not notice if not for the sensitive observer. These works are valuable for popularizing the notion that the studiousness of academia can be a worthwhile pursuit in one’s intellectual development. To somehow prune new insights from the texts of Seneca and Chuang Tzu is a magic of its own.

Chuang-Tzu

The critics of the more critical type began as spectators in the Roman playhouses, the watchers of the show, all the while noting what they didn’t quite enjoy or understand, often missing the point, were the same critics who condemned Epicurean studies in the philosophy of happiness as unchecked debauchery, again missing the point, searching for patterns to make sense of it all. This search for patterns and for meaning in thematic or philosophical language, the language used throughout the text serves to reinforce an important bit of subtext, or act as a harbinger, a symbolic cue to hint toward the things to come. In music this is called a leit-motif, a pattern that repeats in different places to emphasis different, but similar structures and characters.

As there must be experts, there must be experts to certify experts as experts, and so grew the community of theatre critics towards the end of the 19th century. In popular culture it leaned toward the thumbs up/ down or 3 out of 4 stars type of criticism, from which one knows nothing. These reviews are reminiscent of our primary school book reports, beginning with a hasty recapitulation, a tenuous rundown of important events, followed by comparing and contrasting positive and negative aspects of the story. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this approach, and for those who use this method of criticism, I’m not here to critique.

The lesson is that you are criticizing something as it is against the standard of what it would be if somehow made perfect, and we need more criticism of the type that seeks to understand and draw forth wisdom from popular entertainment. To Epicurus, this was a recipe for being unfulfilled in life and work. Criticism’s greatest value is the professionalism of understanding that goes into critique culture, but when it becomes nothing but critique culture, it loses its ability to be instructive.

The sentimental critic doesn’t necessarily look to judge the quality of a work, but more or less put it into a context that allows students and other academics to look at the work in a way that allows for others to draw their own, personally applicable lessons to what they’ve read.  The question of quality commercial commentary is predicated upon the wisdom of a select few being sufficient to guide a great many to what makes the work under analysis transform into a malleable, transmutable metal in hands of a great metallurgist. The classical approach to literature and storytelling instruction has been through the demonstration of good literature by our teachers and professors throughout our life; we have been trained, through so many courses, to look for meaning, and to connect one idea to another, and hope to not be worse than wrong – which is to simply be uninteresting.

Many social and literary critics remain outside of the world of publishing, neglecting personal projects such as fiction or non-fiction. The academic discipline of analysis and comparative philology teaches you how to recognize the structure of languages and their development, which puts any critic in a perpetually comparative mood. Even when looking at the organic, biological development of stories and how they’re put together, how important themes are stressed again and again, the point of the sentimental critic is to draw attention this, suggesting it may be important, not breaking out the 6×9 and scribbling  repetitive!!

A Critique of Criticism, 12 May 2016

A look at the varying methods of literary criticism

In popular criticism, a critic may give a paragraph or so his attention as an initial reaction, to get the reader to see his perspective and set the tone, jot down something in the night to summarize it all, and post a review online sometime the next day. That’s the extent of the responsibility: check off some minor beats you expected to find along the story, correlate them with something you may have seen somewhere else, write derivative in your 6×9 yellow pad and underline it.

          In order to be objective, a critic will look at it from other points of view, get some contrary statements to cover the populist angle, and, noting how bad the dialogue was, how the action was tame and the ending uninspired. And the film/novel gets a score out of 5 or 4, or a thumbs up or two, and that’s it.

This was not always the approach to critiquing literature or art. Literary criticism, then, would be indistinguishable from what we today call literary analysis. It is the intentional probing of a manuscript, beckoning, Speak to me, ye words! And when they don’t, it’s not uncommon to feel left out of the joke. Many students have finished a copy of The Great Gatsby or The Fountainhead and thought, did I just not get it?

Lots of students feel that way about certain books they’ve been told are important for so long that, when they finally finish the story, there’s just something not there that you thought would be, something to justify the reputation of the novel. Literary criticism was born out of this idea, this idea to understand how stories were best told and structured, and how to explain popular curriculum books in a way that would best resonate with individual readers.

Literary criticism as literary analysis/exegesis made it to the popular conscience around the height of Athenian culture, where each year a tragedy contest would be held, accepting works from some of the biggest names in theatre history – Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes – who brought about a certain need in the public sphere to understand their entertainment, as a way to more wholly enjoy the performance, by identifying with the hero or heroine.

Tragedies submitted by Sophocles and Aeschylus would be judged against each other, with the critics weighing the pros and cons of such works as Antigone (the greatest of Sophocles’ plays) and The Libation Bearers, masterwork of the poet Aeschylus. This is the opposite of the original intention of critics; as they were more likely to be expounding upon the virtues of Epicurus or Aristotle, bringing their ideas to wider audience by condensing them and packaging them as beauty.

Though the popular appeal of condensed, Cliff Notes version of the Gospels, it worked in a much different way: instead of simplifying the idea, they simplified the presentation of ideas quite complex, especially for a young child, and through paintings on vases, the frescoes, and even the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, communicated the ideas behind the faith, ideas of mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.

This was a type of criticism, where a critic is used in the sense of someone who was there to appreciate art and communicate its most important ideas to a broader audience.

We have many in the theologian tradition to thank for modern textual and literary criticism; and the works of Martin Luther and Thomas Hobbes are a valuable contribution to the academic community. These include Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. While each of those books detailed by Nabokov don’t tell traditional stories of their own, or the stories they told themselves, they nevertheless draw our attention to some of the more sublime moments in literature and art, something a sometimes impatient mind may miss. These works are valuable for popularizing the notion that the studiousness of academia can be a worthwhile pursuit. To somehow prune new insights from the texts of Seneca and Chuang Tzu is a magic of its own.

The critics of the other type began as spectators in the Roman playhouses, noting the flaws of the heroes, often missing the point, while condemning Epicurus for his supposed debauchery in his philosophical exploration of human happiness.

This search for patterns, and for meaning, in thematic or philosophical language, the language used throughout the text serves to reinforce an important bit of subtext, or act as the harbinger of something to come. In music this is called a leit-motif, a pattern that repeats in different places to emphasis different, but similar structures and characters. As there must be experts, there must be experts to certify experts as experts, and so grew the community of theatre critics towards the end of the 19th century. In popular culture it leaned more toward the thumbs up/thumbs down or 3 out of 4 stars type reviews. These reviews are reminiscent of our schooldays of recapitulation, a tenuous rundown of the events, followed by comparing and contrasting positive and negative aspects of a film or novel. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this approach, and for those who use this method of criticism, I’m not here to critique.

The critique of studiousness often leaves out the critique built into the experience, and it is often more natural to let the cards fall as they might, as long as you’re right; or even let it unravel. The lesson is that you are criticizing something as it is against the standard of what it would be if somehow made perfect. To Epicurus, this was a recipe for sadness. Instead, the critique of romanticism puts the pieces of a story together by attempting to put the romantic hero back together.

The sentimental critic doesn’t necessarily look to judge the quality of a work, but more or less put it into a context that allows students and other academics to look at an old work in a new way, a way that allows us to connect the struggles of the characters with those of the modern world, like us, and use the lessons learned to improve our performance in our own world, towards prestige or financial success.

The question of quality commercial commentary is predicated upon the wisdom of a select few being sufficient to guide a great many to what makes the work under analysis transform into a malleable, transmutable metal in hands of a great metallurgist. The classical approach to literature and storytelling instruction has been through the demonstration of good literature by our teachers and professors throughout our life; we have been trained, through so many courses, to look for meaning, and to connect one idea to another, and hope to not be worse than wrong – which is to simply be uninteresting.

Many social and literary critics remain outside of the world of publishing, neglecting personal projects, such as fiction or non-fiction, as the academic discipline of analysis and comparative philology, which teaches you how recognize the structure of languages and their development and morphology, puts you in a perpetual comparative mood, even when looking at the organic, biological development of stories, how they’re put together, and how important themes are stressed again and again. The point behind literary criticism is not to tear a work to pieces, not for destruction, but for putting it back together.

When I was studying as a linguist, we often read books in their original language, then a prominent translation, and finally we’d go in for finals honors to try a more fitting translation of a given work, Tolstoy more often than not. When you work within the medium of teaching English composition, you begin to see a machinery at work, one that you can’t believe you’ve never see before.  As you begin to recognize the obvious cynicism behind the construction of what was supposed to be spontaneous, you can take solace in the fact that all stories, conscious or not, set out to reach you on an emotional level, to try to teach you something in the best of times, and to admonish and condemn in the worst. But once you see the skeleton and the scaffold, you know how a narrative is likely to unfold, looking at it as another in a series, as Sherlock Holmes said,

“If you know how the past 1,000 crimes were committed, it stands to reason you wouldn’t have a pretty good idea of what happened on the occasion of the 1,001st.”

The comparison may not seem readily obvious, but when you consider that all literature and art are, essentially, mysteries, all of them, even Jane Eyre. The mystery of art is not how the story ends or how a finished painting looks, but what the mystery there is in the shared imagination of mutual completion and appreciation. The mystery of literature is not how the unlikely hero manages to save the world in the end, but what such stories unintentionally reveal about their creators, like a real life Picture of Dorian Gray.

Though the mysteries of art are endless, the most striking is the almost instinctive human capacity to communicate through expression, through words and poetry, for sensual art and language.

It doesn’t manner what form of criticism you pick, it’s easy to point out the shortcomings of a truly disappointing story, but it is equally important to appreciate with the same fervor a relativity minor work by a relatively unknown author, an author who gets everything right. It’s hard to pinpoint anything in particular that makes Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther so charming. And being a part of Goethe’s early romanticism, it’s hard to look at it critically, to peel back the onions so to speak, and finds Goethe’s own great disappointment with romanticism.

While in the modern romantic age, it’s not too difficult to find yourself agonizing over the decisions made by writers, opting for the romantic. And though it is easy to spot the unremarkable in film and television, a lot of young students grow up thinking they failed somehow, when they didn’t fully understand an assigned book.

The horror of this realization is that, while many people can recognize the obvious problems in a bad film or TV series, far less know when a book is bad or good; a book requires a lot more dedication and belief in the author.

In the final analysis, art and literature remain interesting and sacred because of the natural sort of voodoo they offer up to us; the mystery of our own needs and feelings, and our need to have resolution and closure; to try to get to know these characters in fiction and grow up with them is to risk as much as having any friend, and they share so much of our imagination that they become another voice in us, participating in our inner lives. We can see glimmers of ourselves in the oldest stories of gods and monsters.

More importantly, presenting a reader with a character not much different from them, and make them relatable so it allows us to identify with the character, activating our mirror neurons as we see ourselves in them, our failures and struggles are also tied to them.

Why Art Matters, 10 May 2016

This brief essay is a response to a question I get a lot, most often from young men and women just starting college, but a question I feel is worth dedicating some time to: 

Why does art matter?

Think for a moment about the world around you. Your immediate surroundings. A chair, a monitor, a bookshelf, desk and a settee. But because of artists, like those who line our bookshelves, each dusty volume is a portal into the world of the author. And their unique magic takes us back to their time and lets us look at the world through their perspective, through their eyes, the portal being that of the entering of another mind. As the character’s enter John Malkovich’s head in Being John Malkovich 
I want you to think for a moment about the world around you. The immediate world; the world of bookshelves and desks and an old fireplace, and an old stolen Hotei Buddha by the grating. And on the manlepiece, a hundred or more books, each in some branch of philosophy more dull than the last, lot’s of ‘ologys’ – phenomenology, ontology, gynecology.

Think for a moment: how much of what you know to be true about the world is largely in part to dedicated to historians and their information hoping to communicate the complex ideas of history through the formal language of bookkeeping. But the preservation of a culture through numbers will never give the humanity to the past necessary for us to empathize. The preservation of culture and the communication of ideas are noble goals, and both should be encouraged. But there is a different side to art — therapeutic, fulfilling, and has the effect of refining us.

The preservation of a culture is one of the most noble, if unintentional aspects of art; forever framing a quaint scene, say a flower underneath a thunderstorm alone in a field of long dead flowers; something that might otherwise be unnoticed by someone in too much of a hurry to appreciate the, celebrating in the simple, day to day occurrences which, when stripped of routine, spring back to life with a unique, infectious youthful abandon. Think also, how little the world would know of the world if not for the preservation of ancient documents, the Bayeux Tapestry, the holy books of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. All of these messages were thoroughly communicated through art long before the art of the spoken-word sermon became popular in post-Reformation society, beginning, perhaps, in the Dutch Republic, where artists such as Rembrandt and

Think for a moment how little we  know about the beliefs and histories of foreign cultures without the spread of art, through the Celebration of the Dionysia to the works of Sophacles, Euripides, and Aeschylus Without artists, we’d have little knowledge about the rest of the world and the cultures of which it is comprised. The world our own eyes would never (or could never) find in our own lives. It gives us new perspective, and not only that – but new eyes, the eyes of the artist, with which we view the totality of the world and vastness of impulses and feelings that comprise what academics and philosophers call the human condition.

We get firsthand accounts of experiences otherwise out of range of our daily lives. We may now look at a sky in 19th century Amsterdam with the same tumultuous passion as Vincent van Gogh, seeing it pulse and breathe and come alive with natural magic.

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We can live vicariously through following of great heroes of legend and myth. We can experience the mystical and transcendental in the reading of Buddhist Sutras and looking at the art, learn from the preserved cultural wisdom in The Dhammapada and other Eastern Philosophers, such as Laozi, Confucius, Chuang Tsu, and new perspectives and experiences give rise to new understanding, and understanding, with time, becomes wisdom.

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Very little in our life can provide the same emotional consolation and intellectual stimulation provided by art. We can experience the far off vistas of ancient Arabia through the Arabian Nights, and follow the adventures of the great hero Sinbad. We can learn about the political climate of ancient Greece through the writing of Plato and Aristotle, which gives us a healthy historical breadth of view in our consideration of the modern world. We can use Proust’s eyes to look at the political and emotional upheavals in France in the early 20th century through his great work In Search of Lost Time. We can look at the intellectual climate of late 19th century Russia through the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Turgenev.

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We can also cast off the shackles of realism by taking ourselves off to worlds of absolute fantasy, such as in the works of Tolkien and J.K. Rowling. We can still bring back valuable lessons from works of high fantasy, lessons just as valid in our own world and daily lives, the kind of lessons we absorb as children when we might otherwise be unaware of their intentional instruction. We learn best when we’re unaware someone is intended to instruct us, as we are naturally hesitant to cooperate with someone we know to be attempting to teach us.

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Art is valuable in traditional religion in the West as well. Our view of the Christian faith is highly reliant on works of art, the artwork of the Renaissance for example, which served to communicate complex ideas in a way that might not be readily obvious. During the Protestant Reformation in England, the great religious paintings were being whitewashed, dismissed as vulgar and profane.

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The argument offered by the Protestants was that all a Christian needed was the Word, the Gospel Truth in black and white. And yet for the millions who couldn’t read, in Catholic Rome for example, the mysteries of the Gospel and some of the more complex ideas about mercy and consolation were just as effectively communicated through the paintings of Caravaggio and architecture of Bernini as they were through the printed King James Bible. There is consolation and catharsis in art, with each painting and novel being unique guides toward our moral and intellectual education.

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Art serves us in many capacities, but perhaps most importantly is its capacity to allow us to use new and interesting ways to examine the human condition in all its forms, through all of time, and through science fiction into the future. It lets us become more complete people by understanding the nature of other peoples and their traditions more completely. An artist’s education is never over, as one always seeks to attain ever greater glimpses of larger truths only apparent when looked at from afar.

Outside of its moral and intellectual capacity, art also serves as a means of preservation. We may have lost crucial information about history, as well as our biological and cultural heritage, if not for the intense work of preservation artists work to deliver to posterity. It is the basis of what the French author Gustave Flaubert called a sentimental education.

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It refines us by demonstrating our own coarseness, it scandalizes us in a way that teaches us about our own ethical and moral compass, and it lets us begin to appreciate the most noble of philosophical goals: to know who we are and what made us that way. Art and philosophy go a long way towards answering the former question, and gives us the tools necessary for answering the latter.

On synesthesia, perception, and trauma – 10 May 2016

A friend of mine, creator of Amygdala Magazine and therapist Dwight Hurst, runs his own practice and studies the human brain. He recently asked me to take some time to explain my personal experiences with synesthesia, a perceptual disturbance where sounds are seen and colors are heard (broadly speaking) and look at it in a larger context. I have tried to look at the development of my own experiences against the backdrop of my life as it was before and after the onset of the condition.

None of this is intended to be self-indulgent or braggadocios or hagiographical, merely to recount the development of a condition.

On synesthesia,

When I was 9 years old, I suffered from severe head trauma and almost bled to death in the school office waiting on an ambulance. I had done a backflip off a cement pole (I wanted to be in the olympics as a younger man), and instead of landing on my feet, I landed on my head, on a cement beam. The immediate pain was numbed until I pushed back my hair and looked at my hand, finding it covered in blood. I ran into the office and waited, bleeding to death with severe head trauma, as a secretary consulted the archives for the number to 911.

Arriving at a local hospital, I was given a sedative (which didn’t work) and then the doctor gradually deadened the area around the contusion on my head with shots of cortisone. I felt each needle scrape against the inside of my head. He sewed my head up (37 stitches, starting just above my right eye and running down to the top of my right ear) and wrapped my head in bandages. When I was wheeled out of the emergency room, the entire world was shouting at me. The colors of the regular world were *loud* – red and blue took on ominous, personalized characters, forever working against each other. All sounds were colorful too: the music of Mozart, for example, seemed to push colors in rapid sprays out of my speakers. And when I explained this to my parents, they assumed it was down to my head injury, and that the “hallucinations” would stop. They didn’t.

 

Every sound has a color and every color has a sound. They are more or less uniform, too, as in they’re consistent and not arbitrary. Not only that, I managed to recover huge amounts of random information that had been shut off to my active mind, and since that moment, I have forgotten very few moments. Numbers have personalities, and my working of mathematics after my accident was more intuitive and easier for me to picture, and despite always being an A student, my ability to work in regards to my earlier efforts in certain types of maths was extraordinarily improved – I learned calculus, trigonometry, and analytical geometry before my accident. Afterwards I would be able to work proficiently in hugely complex equations in relativity and quantum physics, before I was a teenager. I was always good with language and words, speaking 3 languages by the time I was 5 (Russian, French, and English) and after my accident (at age 9), my ability to learn was exponentially accelerated.

Before the accident, I was thought of as a child prodigy, a child who learned at an extreme rate and excelled in many areas of academia. By the end of my first grade year, I was teaching half of the class in the back of the room. In the second grade, I took the SAT’s for the first time and left 3 answers blank, resulting in a 1580 (which was the highest result in the school’s history for almost 11 years – when I retook it at age 17 and got a 1595). I went into the 3rd grade being prepped for college, taking courses in Gifted and Talented programs, interviewing at universities and local colleges. I took the Mensa exam at the urging of my teachers and began to write my first short stories. Halfway through my 3rd grade year is when my accident took place. Everything was disrupted, and as my intelligence had once been a source of enjoyment and pride, it became a terrible curse: everybody who spoke to me had an inherent color to their voice, and some people with pretty voices (voices I would normally think lovely) beamed out horrible mixtures of colors, to the point where I would have to do something I still do today when I hear something dissonant: I cover my eyes to protect myself from the assault. (The colors come through my eyelids, alas, so it’s often pointless).
Today, I know that synesthesia is a word that to a great extent explains what I experience through my senses, which I once was told were hallucinations. I learned of synesthesia through Vladimir Nabokov – famed author of Lolita and former Cornell English teacher. It was his autobiographical work Speak, Memory that clued me in on what synesthesia means in a broader sense, and that it does not always follow brain trauma. My therapists originally believed my accident had led to something rare called “onset savantism” – something to explain my memory and ability to pick up languages, play instruments, to paint and draw and sketch, to write, and to do complex mathematics. The question is whether or not my early indications of ability would have come to their full fruition without the accident, and if I had not hit my head would the synesthesia have ever started.

The question is meaningless, though, as the experience of synesthesia is now so engrained in my life and the way I think and relate to the world that the idea of it never having been a part of my sensual experience is foreign to me. It is at some times a great aid in my working with music or new and challenging material, but a horrible burden when attempting to enjoy popular music. The dissonance has always been deeply offputting to me, which drew me toward classical music. There is a language of sound, and some musicians know about the color dynamic of their music, and use it to paint larger images for the more acutely attuned listeners.
I don’t know what I’d be without it, or what would my state of mind and intelligence be had I not injured myself; before, I was thought to be a prodigy, a wunderkind, afterwards, I went in every direction possible trying to prove it. To marginal success, mind. I cannot imagine a world in which the music of Beethoven isn’t an elaborate visual, textural experience of sight, or a world in which images, such as paintings and architecture and art, do not give off consistent, prolonged suites of sound and tone. The swirling clouds of van Gogh operate in the key of B, sometimes in its relative minor, and when the color changes, the sound changes. This is true of music as well. If the wrong note is played, the color palette becomes confused and disorienting to the senses of sight and sound trying to communicate a larger sensory experience than perhaps the mind was built to take-in on a daily basis. Some users of hallucinogens claim to experience synesthesia in the hearing of color and the seeing of sound, and while that is synesthesia, it is a very narrow and limited sensual experience of it.

 

The Word’s Worth Publishing Company Constitution

I have for the better part of my life been a hardworking and dedicated author. And yet, as every prospective author knows, the extent to which your work is valued is based upon the discretion of those whose knowledge of your work rarely comes from any comprehensive reading or understanding of your material. I have spent countless days, and weeks, months and years on projects; poetry, fiction and non-fiction, essays in academia, and plays. The amount of time spent on each work is never a guarantee that it will be accepted by a publisher. As publishers will rarely read an unsolicited manuscript, it is often a necessity to have a literary agent. Most first-time authors either don’t have the money to hire an agent or have no time between their day job—which they often hate—and the work they do with passion. Word’s Worth Publishing is founded on the principle that every registered user will have access to copy-editing, marketing, cover design, and publication without exception. Any and every author who is willing to work with us will not only have their work accepted and published; it will also be promoted and supported; a Wikipedia-esque biography is the first step to accessing the publishing service of Word’s Worth.
Registration is a one-time payment of $10 for permanent biography hosting and $20 for permanent, no exceptions publishing. Registration pays for a permanent presence on the Word’s Worth Wiki, allowing authors to create their biography as one would create and inform with a typical Wikipedia article. With that registration prospective clients will also have access to a permanent publisher; no matter how many books, no matter their content, no book or poem or intended to be published piece of art or literature will be rejected by our staff and editors. Each new client, upon registration, will be given a representative agent who will personally work with the author in all aspects of the publishing process. The author will work directly with their editor and each author will get the attention deserved by any and all who desire, above all else, to be heard; the right to be remembered is, above all else, what we intend to offer every user of our service, without exception.
Our strategy is multi-faceted as is our media campaign. Primarily the registration service is to be a part of a Wiki similar to imdb.com but instead of movies, TV shows and video games, our database will be dedicated exclusively to writers and their work. From the main page you will see upcoming releases, have access to the highest rated books, as well as reviews, contests, and trivia. Second, a YouTube channel will be created as a way by which our new clients’ material will be advertised and reviewed. Along with the promotional material will be tutorials, poetry and readings of passages from great books of the past and new books coming soon from Word’s Worth Publishing, language learning guides, reviews of classic books and poems, top 10’s in numerous different categories. This channel will be a means by which the third, and most important, campaign for clients. The third campaign will be to foster a community united by their love for art, literature, and history, and as a group will provide feedback, a personal guarantee to every author who decides to become a registered client of the Word’s Worth Publishing and Marketing company will have their work not only published but professionally edited, designed, have a cover made by a degree holding graphics designer, and their account managed by a degree holding and experienced marketing agent. Bringing together an active, participatory community guarantees a level of recognition, feedback, and the joys of having one’s voice not only heard, but appreciated and interpreted and discussed by a diverse group of artists from many different cultures and from all walks of life.
The way we will decide how to publish a book will be based on more than the blind acceptance and publication of all submitted material. When a submission is made, a member of our staff (with a degree in English or creative writing or even myself) will make personal contact with the prospective author and work with them to bring the material up to the high publication standards of Word’s Worth Publishing. Although we want to be known for never rejecting someone’s work, we also want to be known for the quality of our publications and the dedication we show to all of our registered clients. Additional (but optional fees) for cover design, web site design, and ads will also be discussed though not mandatory. The initial payment will be $10 or perhaps $20 to start with a permanent web presence of the new client’s autobiography, but will guarantee the editing, design, and publication services of Word’s Worth Publishing.
Our initial marketing strategy for ourselves is what all of the money of the first investors will be spent on outside of paying for a website and paying to copyright our logos and trademarks, etc., and that strategy will be to propagate the idea of how revolutionary the new company is; it will give the entire human race the right to be heard, the assumption of value, and the right to be remembered. Our first publicity stunt will be the reading of a passage of literature and then using the NASA website to send it into space, thus allowing it to achieve a kind of immortality. Next will be centered around the “groundbreaking” and “emotional rollercoaster” publication of a book ghostwritten from the perspective of an eight year old girl whose desire to start a charity for autism is inspired by seeing the struggles of her little brother. It will make the statement that we put all of our clients’ thoughts and work on the same level and give it the same importance. To publish a book by an eight year old about her inspiration for her Art for Artism Charity is the type of book that gets you on Oprah.
Along with this, submissions from authors we personally believe could be huge stars will be invested in by our staff personally and chosen by a member of the staff. These projects will be treated like futures, a type of stock in which we feel our own personal monetary investment will pay huge dividends. We will not appear to push nor hype these submissions we have more faith in than other submissions but our first phase marketing push will be focused on books that address the type of emotional topics with the raw clarity which will be presented as something of beauty and brilliance previously rejected by dozens of mainstream publishers. Our marketing strategy will be focused on the many number of great books of which we know were first rejected before later gaining huge followings and critical and financial success, such as Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Ulysses by James Joyce, Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, and even Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
That is to be our gimmick; it is our ability to see potential in misunderstood but brilliant young talent who have been shunned by fickle, traditional “old media publishers” which we will use in all press communications to describe all publishers but ourselves, where we will portray them as valuing only the possibility for money and financial success while we operate under the idea that all of human expression has the same value and we will work tirelessly to bring the vision of formerly unpublished authors to the public, each time triumphing how it was “somehow rejected by old media publishers” – this makes us Statue of Liberty publishing company: we accept the tired, the poor, the huddled masses; but those we do accept will be groundbreaking, exceptional, and the revolutionary aspect of our software and unorthodox method of dealing with prospective clients will be our primary self-marketing strategy.
Here is a partial, possible mission statement:
Word’s Worth Publishing was originally founded by author Brandon Keith Nobles March of 2015 as a way help authors struggling to find a publisher, promote literacy and education and also function as an outlet for writers and artists to come together to promote their material and help fellow members find new ways to share their material soon emerged as a mission worthy of true dedication and effort. As well as functioning as an organization of writers and artists, it is also intended to be a database of creativity and freedom of expression. Brandon is a novelist and essayist with a lifelong love for stories and language and Diana is a unique and eloquent poet who has advocated r education as well as worked in publishing. She now does ABA therapy with autistic children to help them learn to read and is pursuing a degree to be a better teacher. Our mission is to bring together those who wish to promote their own artistic projects and work for the greater good of all our staff and members. We want to take the first steps towards creating a new Renaissance wherein humanity is once again motivated by self-improvement over material gain and wealth. Our community is a community of the world, whose patriotism lies in the dignity of life on Earth and the equality of value in every culture.
We will feature a variety of content from the founders, including exclusive previews of their upcoming film and publications as well as weekly content including interviews, editorials, artist profiles, publications by an international staff (to be selected upon application) and selected content from contributors looking for someone who will take their work as seriously as they do. We wish to provide more than sound, but the largest collection of empathetic listeners ever assembled to promote the importance of understanding and the ability for art and literature to define human beings and define their culture. We are dedicated to preserving the artistic heritage of mankind from a worldwide perspective as well as documenting it as it moves forward as a means, to promote cultural exchange, to give a voice to anyone who wishes to express and contribute to the finer aspects of our nature, to work with charity and donate books to underfunded schools, to make eBooks and book notes and reviews free for students, and ultimately foster a culture unashamed of reading and writing, a culture where being a reader is no longer stigmatized and intellectualism no longer shunned.
If you wish to be a part of our movement or submit content for consideration, contact us at admim@wordsworthpublishing.com and let us know what kind of work you do and in what capacity you would you like to be a part of The Word’s Worth Publishing Movement. If you’re looking for an audience, submit first a “What my Word’s Worth” testimonial and describe what you’d like to have us review. The authors of the world define it more so than Kings and Queens, and in that capacity, we wish to make royalty of everyone with a voice and courage to work for the betterment of themselves and the Word’s Worth Publishing movement
Finished for the moment, I will continue to work on this over the next few days as we get the website registered and when we get the money to pay for the web design I will further work on a “mission statement” which will describe and announce us to the publishing world. If you have any suggestions on how to make this better from a marketing perspective, please let me know and, once again, welcome to Word’s Worth, Jeff.
With a handshake,
Brandon K. Nobles