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Writers Notebook
Literary Notes from the Blue of Mountains 2004

It is what you make it to be.....

The literary type is usually composed of three distinctive elements above and beyond his or her natural self.

One of those distinctive elements is a philosophical one because that's the best way for the writer to gain an objectivity that's very rare. Philosophy, more than any single activity, allows the mind to study anything in the universe with detachment.

The second element is a spiritual one that not only saves the soul and defines it but makes sure that spirit is moving forward, pushing back the envelope, connected, compassionate, and so on.

And the third element is a purely literary one that goes from journalism up into epic poetry. And that element is a transient one. It includes all the personalities, technologies, events, cities, weapons, buildings, systems, that pass through while on the Earth.

The writer isn't a philosopher, not a spiritual master, and has to define his or her role as well as he can, knowing his definition has the purpose of orientating himself to the world he lives in.

December 7, 2004

Creative imagination can sense a culture at a dead-stop; bashing itself with old, outmoded ideas driven purely by a kind of sick egotism; culture without aspiration or dream. It can sense this even though it moves decisively through the day, sometimes at frightening speeds.

The political mind is not the same thing as the literary mind. The political mind seeks to solve practical problems. The literary mind is a dangerous mind and can only redeem itself through compassion. To the literary mind what happens in politics is inconsequential; the cleverest manipulators win. Politicians are fahrts of the populace as Ezra Pound put it. The literary mind needs to race way ahead where nothing has lodged and make a stand. That can be a dangerous place. It is where Jesus meets the Devil. And the Devil shows Jesus all the fine things he can have if he gives in. And Jesus refuses and comes back with compassion for humanity and is sacrificed. That is a dangerous mind, unlike the cowardly followers who are, for the most part, ravening wolves.

The political mind can not afford absolutes; there is no political idea that can connect the self with the greater universe. There is no political idea that can survive scrutiny. The great founders of America understood this better than most; certainly better than those who equate politics with eternity.

Not only does the literary mind know absolutes, its tries to connect with the absolutes and brings back down to the Earth its findings. Vast, vast worlds then and sweetness not yet tasted by the people. And the knowledge that we are always beginning; never ending. Even now with the great machines and super-sophisticated cities, only a beginning. Only a bare structure each generation fleshes out as best it can.

"You are not enough people, yet you are all." So says the literary mind.

November 10, 2004

The writer, as a young man, has a kind of nutty but fascinating world in him. And he keeps taking pieces from that dreaded piece of rock, reality, to patch into the growing awareness that he is what he intends to be. Only later, when a vast shattering has taken place and the pieces dispensed, again, in the nutty and fascinating reality, does he come into his own as a writer.

And what terrible mistake does the young writer make? He takes ideas and tries imposing them on the surrounding reality. What was formless and brute perception becomes formed! But, once the idea and reality do not jibe there is pain and alienation. And yet, even then, there is a bit of pride that, indeed, some of the ideas did penetrate the terrible rock.

* * * * * * * *

When idealism breaks out there are an assortment of revelations. The irrational is an ally. Then the critical intellect appears late on the stage and tries to batter against it with every device in its toolshed.

* * * * * * * *

The reality today is that the writer must be a kind of liberator rather than a conscience. The writer-as-conscience becomes old before his time; brittle, bitter, and broken. Every infrastructure in life is set up to "liberate" the common person. What other use can the writer put this but to imagine the future or, further freedom, unheard of freedom? That is the kind of odd idealism in play today. The conscience of the writer details the dangers of such a view but only after he has pointed in a few directions.

And it's clearly not a case of abandoning the present. The present is a wall of mud the writer must move through to see a patch of light. The present is a series of clubby groups who are trying to capture and manipulate reality rather than celebrate it. The present is the force of money-making gone crazed and beyond anything imagined in history. Good. Create more infrastructure for my freedom! You have nothing but insatiable greed that destroys all the clubs in the end; I have masters by my side.

And the past is a vast and real river flowing like the Styx but pure in a way and glittering with jewels at the bottom of it.

The enemy to a democratic person is time. When things mass and concentrate, time slows down.

Who condemns the mass of American people may feel years full of arrogance but, eventually, will be sitting in front of a computer designing codes for credit cards.

September 29, 2004

That worthy and brilliant writer, George Orwell, wrote an essay many years ago about the literary scene of the 1930's. He mentions the heavy dose of orthodoxy both from the communist left and the Catholic church. Both produced botched literature just as the "political correctness" times, pervasive the last thirty years in American life, have done. What is so pernicious is the lack of dynamism moving through the academic/intellectual life of today. It's not trustworthy, inspiring, truthful, humorous or any other tender and good thing.

"Good novels are written by people who are not frightened."

We could slip out the noun, novels, and insert anything else for that matter. The spirit that drives out fright is usually truth of one kind or another and if that gets expressed in a story, a poem, or novel so much the better.

It is a profound thought! The journalist will not tell the truth because he or she is frightened of losing their cushy position. The professor will not tell the truth because the feminists have convinced him that anything he says is written by his evil, oppressive dick. The priest, minister, and rabbi won't tell the truth because they are frightened that their flock will be set free. The psychologist won't tell the truth because she is frightened her clientele will dry up. And the writer will not tell the truth if he is frightened of criticism or the marketplace.

Orwell is D.H. Lawrence with a brain.

August 27, 2004

The writer always needs to identify whether he is trying to tell a story or whether he is trying to form an impression out of concentrated effort, the end of which is a shape divinely senseless.

Rhythm is a strange quality connected to sex and dance. Once it becomes a habit or gets into a rut it is doomed.

* * * * * * * *

>>>... According to the SPPA, readers of literature also volunteer more than nonreaders and even participate more often in leisure sporting events. there.

* * * * * * * *

The line must be erect like the male but carry within itself life, like the female.

The large questions can be reduced to an interesting question posed by logic; to wit, either the human race is on its last legs and to be extinguished in a generation or two, or, the human race is at the very beginning having cast off a good deal of its inhibiting characteristics.

* * * * * * * *

During the two-day assembly, delegates discussed ways for literature and arts to prosper in the city.

August 9, 2004

Politics is the destroyer; it can destroy a whole generation if the tides rise too sharply, too fast and sweeps through some silent dark night. Politics can not tell anyone how to build and make things. Only those who build and make things can do that. And when the present time is destroyed by its politics the maker will search high and low for what teaches him or her to build.

Politics, left or right, if it bothers at all simply wants the built thing for its own use. It will tax it and try to take it away from the owner. That is the nature of politics.

Most of the people who rant and rave about political issues are usually the people who can't take care of themselves much less a complex liberal, democratic culture.

No, we want to build. And if the builders are in the past, a few of them, than we join with them. They are our brothers and sisters. And we glance into the future for those who will build in the future. They are the only ones we care about.

May 19, 2004

It's not the only model but it's the best one for the literary type: The Entrepreneur. That is, one envisions and has passion for something the market is not prepared for. But, he or she does it anyway; with panache, with grand laughter. The market always lags behind imagination.

What does the literary type do if he or she finds themselves in an anti-literary culture? Laughs and takes it all apart and finds the secret to building fine, excellent things. And this hypothetical creature would use every vestige left of his vaunted culture. That is, a few precious memories of itself and objects that still inspire thoughts of an eternal, unfolding future.

"But writer, your aspirations violate our mythical attachment to equality." And we answer that it's a nice and pleasant myth but you are not even equal to my simple dream last night.

You are a resource so empty it out as I will empty out my resource.

Truth be told we are usually equal to the worst of what went on in the past; shamed of that truth we try to propel ourselves upward. And at that moment the semi- religion of equality is a rope around the neck. I am no better than another person; but, I can exert my willfulness, talent, mind, etc. at whatever level I'm capable of. And if that makes for inequality, good.

March 21, 2004

There are two basic laws in the universe: Do not become the enemy of God and do not become the enemy of poetry.

>>> "What with all the literary activity going on these days, it's a bit of a miracle that anyone ever actually writes a book..."

>>> "Just imagine: a society where novelists editorialized about politics, where politicians sometimes even listened, where men and women of letters made common cause to protect rights beyond mere copyrights..."

And we bring into ourselves knowledge and understanding of the "ways of the people."

And that royal moment when we find the keys to our own productivity.

And the sublime art of finding supreme relations and securing them in the passage of every day.

Finding, in the nick of time, the bountiful sources of optimism to drive out the natural pessimism that eternally keeps human beings stupid.

So we are free to trace out the deepest implications of the self and culture.

Right before we find a monstrous heart on the mountain top.

And then link in great chains with the selfhood of many generations.

So, we have the courage to drive out every instance of coercion that demoralizes and mystifies the self.

* * * * * * * *
The kit bag for the literary mind consists of a few objects: political structure, economic structure, conflict, objects large and small, varieties of people and nature, speech, events, public works, the secret intricacies that signify the spirit of things, feelings of attraction and revulsion.

When it matures and ripens it takes on: Science, technologies, problem-solving techniques, social classes, entertainment's, life-styles, airports, freeways, computers, printed material, nature in variety, people in variety, crowds, madness, crime, intoxicants, sleep, dreams, faiths as well as the funky stories round about any given time.

People flying all over the place. People driving like madmen; like the possessed of old. People driven by capital and its promises. People driven by images driving deep into them.

It's either a hatchery for new life or a destroyer of everything.

Earth will be a vision for awhile.

March 15, 2004

And poetry is the most pliant, malleable form to work with. The novel is like a corporation that will reward you as long as you conform to the expectations. But poetry puts at the core of itself the organizing principle, "it is what you make it to be...." And so it joins "freedom," "America," and "democracy," as statements that are meaningless without some act to prove it.

>>>Want to delve into some good contemporary German literature, but don't know where to start? A new Web site called can help. ...

>>> In "What Happens in Literature," Edward W. Rosenheim offers a brief discussion of the basics of literature, including poems, novels and plays. ...

We live in an era of strange and, sometimes, dangerous liberation's. A dangerous age because the bad can disguise itself very easily and destroy the valuable advances won out of history.

>>>Viewing literature through the lens of some "ism" seemed revolutionary in the 1960s. Today, many are calling it an irrelevant approach. ...

The literary mind tries to cut through the fat of the period of time is finds itself in; not add to it. Today, the mind enlarges to the point of absurdity; mostly, but not limited to, the political/social realm. It initiates a period of subjective clap-trap unparalleled in American history. The literary mind has to learn to subvert the egotism without going mad or soft.

I sit watching videos of the surface of the Earth from the shuttle. This astounds me. This fills me with a realistic form that I knew, intuitively, was true but now see! It is there and our activity is but an invisibility swimming beneath the mundane clouds. Ah! What world do we inhabit? We are purified by the simplicity of what contains all known acts, thoughts, personalities, instruments, machines, institutions, histories, beliefs, and so forth.

"Here are all the codicils and petty irritations and murders rampant that frighten us so that we want to leave the surface and fly deep into the black source of life."

Experience + Knowledge = Literary imagination

Experience and knowledge are wild horses these days.

Would not the master allow the wild horse to be a wild horse until, finally, exhausted it prances for him?

The delicacy of relation even when the world is bad and bold.

Thoughts about Revising Material:

  1. Let the material lay around and don't touch it until the full effect of its awfulness strikes you.
  2. You need to remember that most work is performance. Get the active spirit engaged with what you are doing. Learn how to let go of things.
  3. The structure of deadlines works.

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