An Intentional Blog Post

Part 1:

In a "Rare and Used" bookstore in Black Mountain, NC, this weekend, I sifted and sifted until I found a book, now out of print, originally published in 1990, by a publisher of no repute, written by an author (b. 1951) with no Wikipedia page. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that none who reads my blog will seek the book out for himself purely as a function of my endorsement, but as a matter of conscience, here is a link:

Part 2:

Two men could, independently, write the same book. Granting that unlikelihood, one of the men could have written the book with the intention of revealing divine truth to his most earnest readers, whereas the other may have written the book hoping to make a living.

Now again, two men may read that book (either version, of course); and, one man may say that it matters greatly whether the author had divine intentions or financial intentions. The other man may say it matters not at all.

Now again, two men may read a book, authored by an author with divine intentions, and one may receive the transmission, while the other may not.

Now again, two men may read a book, authored by an author with mundane intentions, and one may be changed for the better, whereas another may not.

And further: women may even involve themselves in these kinds of scenarios!

Part 3:

Here follows a bit of text that I wish I could use as an epigraph in a scholarly article, but can't, because no editor is subtle enough to get the joke:
"No one realised that the book and the labyrinth were one and the same." --Jorge Luis Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths, possibly translated to Russian by unknown, then quoted in Victor Pelevin's The Helmet of Horror, translated into English by Andrew Bromfield.


Wishydig said...

from auden's dichtung und wahrheit:

Of any poem written by someone else, my first demand is that it be good (who wrote it is of secondary importance); of any poem written by myself, my first demand is that it be genuine, recognizable, like my handwriting, as having been written, for better or worse, by me. (When it comes to his own poem, a poet's preferences and those of his readers often overlap but seldom coincide.)

I read a poem by someone else in which he bids a tearful farewell to his beloved: the poem is good (it moves me as other good poems do) and genuine (I recognize the poet's "handwriting"). Then I learn from a biography that, at the time he wrote it, the poet was sick to death of the girl but pretended to weep in order to avoid hurt feelings and a scene. Does this information affect my appreciation of his poem? Not in the least: I never knew him personally and his private life is no business of mine. Would it affect my appreciation if I had written the poem myself? I hope so.

Casey said...

Wow. First of all -- awesome source!

Some thoughts: I like that Auden implies that the poem is a kind of "object," either good or not-good. I like the overlap-but-seldom-coincide notion.

As for part III, I don't disagree, but wouldn't the act of writing that poem have felt inauthentic or ungenuine to the poet, precisely because he was faking the tears?--and shouldn't the "true" poem have been about faking tears to save someone's feelings?

Or is that Auden's point?

Wishydig said...

his idea of 'i could never do this because my poet shouldn't. but it doesn't matter to me if his poet does' could almost be called hypocritical, but only if we believe that our demands our writing are the same as our demands of those we read. which he obviously doesn't believe.

so i love that i have no idea what advice auden is giving to the young poet. probably none.

Casey said...

You'll like this, I think:

Somehow our little exchange here reminds me of a thought I had while standing next to the drum circle this weekend in Asheville that went like this:

[Casey, internal, disorganized, almost in images]: Drumming. So eternal. Wait. Could it be stopped?--

[Casey, verbal outburst to Gretchen]: You know, this drum circle would make a cool central symbol in a novel... and like, a cool scene could be where something happened--something great, or probably terrible... but maybe great?--where something happened that caused all of these drummers and dancers to stop all at once.

[Gretchen, politely, half-listening]: Maybe a short story?

[Casey verbally, feeling defeated]: Yeah, maybe.

[But Casey internally, moments later, feeling redeemed]: No, that would be stupid as literature. But the conversation with Gretchen could make a good first scene in a novel, where the "Casey" character is sort of a well-meaning half-wit.

Wishydig said...

i do like that.