GABBLER RECOMMENDS: A World Ordered Only By Search The Convivial Society: Vol. 2, No. 17

This kind of reading was grounded not just in the book generically, but in a particular book. Remember, of course, that books were relatively scarce artifacts and that reproducing them was a laborious task, although often one lovingly undertaken. This much is well known. What might not be as well known is that many features that we take for granted when we read a book had not yet been invented. These include, for example, page numbers, chapter headings, paragraph breaks, and alphabetical indexes. These are some of the dozen or so textual innovations that Illich had in mind when he talks about the transformation of the experience of reading in the 12th century. What they provide are multiple paths into a book. If we imagine the book as an information storage technology (something we can do only on the other side of this revolution) then what these new tools do is solve the problems of sorting and access. They help organize the information in such a way that readers can now dip in and out of what now can be imagined as a text independent of the book.

I’ve found it helpful to think about this development by recalling how Katherine Hayles phrased one of the themes of How We Became Posthuman. She sought to show, in her words, “how information lost its body.” Illich is here doing something very similar. The text is information that has lost its body, i.e. the book. According to Illich, until these textual innovations took hold in the 12th century, it was very hard to imagine a text apart from its particular embodiment in a book, a book that would’ve born the marks of its long history—in the form, for example, of marginalia accruing around the main text.

I’ve also thought about this claim by analogy to the photograph. The photograph is to the book as the image is to the text. This will likely make more sense if you are over 35 or thereabouts. Today, one can have images that live in various devices: a phone, a laptop, a tablet, a digital picture frame, the cloud, an external drive, etc. Before digital photography, we did not think in terms of images but rather of specific photographs, which changed with age and could be damaged or lost altogether. Consequently, our relationship to the artifact has changed. Roland Barthes couldn’t be brought to include the lone photograph he possessed of his mother in his famous study of photography, Camera Lucida published in 1980. The photograph was too private, his relationship to it too intimate. This attitude toward a photographic image is practically unintelligible today. Or, alternatively, imagine the emotional distance between tearing a photograph and deleting an image. This is an important point to grasp because Illich is going to suggest that there’s another analogous operation happening in the 12th century as the individual detaches from their community. But we’ll come back to that in the last section.


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: On the Cult of Originality: What Byzantine Literary Culture Can Tell Us About Fanfiction by Arkady Martine

“And yet: we are surrounded by literature which is not original and which is successful, enjoyed, and persistent.

This literature is described as flawed, insufficient, not morally improving nor useful to the scholar; self-indulgent, archaizing, written by un-scholarly or un-imaginative persons, or worse yet, by members of marginalized groups; literature which is full of tropes, of expected emotional beats, of Happy-For-Ever endings; literature written using someone else’s characters, for no monetary gain, merely social pleasure and social currency. Literature which insists on being unavoidably present: produced by both the most-educated and the least-privileged—and unequivocally enjoyed (and reproduced, traded, invoked) by both these groups?

You think I’m talking about transformative fanwork here. And I am. But I’m also talking about Byzantine literature from the 9th-12th centuries. What’s interesting is how similar the problems are in evaluating whether some piece of writing is good if we use the criteria of originality to make that determination … both for Byzantine literature and for modern transformative works.”


I See Your Preferences, Wendig

‘I guess what I’m saying is this: Chuck Wendig has written a piece that’s enormously helpful if you want to learn to write like Chuck Wendig and/or have a natural inclination towards his style, but which is vastly less helpful if you want to learn to write like anyone else; like you, for instance.’

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

Earlier this week, Chuck Wendig posted a piece on his blog – I Smell Your Rookie Moves, New Writers – which, as the title suggests, is a takedown of particular errors he feels newbie authors make. It’s been doing the rounds on my tumblr, Facebook and Twitter feeds, because quite a lot of people I follow seem to share his sentiments; but as often as I’ve agreed with Wendig’s rants in this past, this isn’t one of those times. In fact, my abiding reaction to the early sections in particular has been one of teeth-grinding fury.

Before we get started, let me make two things clear up front: firstly, that I have an inherent dislike of writing advice that lays down specific mandates regardless of where it comes from; and secondly, that I have enormous respect for Wendig himself as a writer. His prose is punchy, sharp and bruisingly beautiful…

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On writing negative reviews:

But also, giving feedback is probably the best way to innoculate yourself against receiving feedback. You get used to expressing your opinion of someone else’s work in a way they can stand to hear, and that helps you realize how hard it is to do that. Also, writing negative reviews of things can help you get used to the idea that someone will give you a negative review, too. (I would be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I didn’t welcome harsh reviews of my creative writing, at this point.)

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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On Art and the Introvert:

“That is why my first and most pressing question seems like such an outright act of mutiny. What I want to know is, since when does making art require participation in any community, beyond the intense participation that the art itself is undertaking? Since when am I not contributing to the community if all I want to do is make the art itself? Isn’t the art itself my intimate communication with others, with the world, with the unfolding spectacle of the human struggle as we live and coexist on this earth?
I mean, I can hardly see past the spotlights and pretentious echo to my own page of writing. It looks like an alien thing in this environment, wholly unbecoming and sickeningly feeble. And lest I imply that the underground bunkers and wine cellars are better venues for the bookish, all of us with our beer slouches, our pond-water hues toning in with the shadows, our mussed hair like bits of unspotted mold, that’s not the case either. It’s all the same. It’s all very embarrassing and alienating, when we look around. We’re real-life writers, not actors each in our own third-rate art film about the writing life. Aren’t we?
Since when did the community become our moral compass—our viability and ethics as writers determined so much by our team spirit? What if the community and the kind of participation it involves are actually bad for my writing, diluting my writerly identity, my ego and my id, and my subservience and surrender to the craft? What if I just want to make something? What if all this communing actually hurts the primary means by which I set out to participate and communicate—my writing itself? What do I do then? I mean, why can’t I make art in my clerestory abyss and snub the community without feeling like a snotty little brat? Why can’t I?
History has typically not been generous to the writerly recluse. It’s usually only a lucrative position after the fact of your success—and it works best if you’re a man—Salinger, Pynchon, Faulkner all have that esoteric aura about them that’s quite different from poor old Emily Dickinson, that self-imposed shut-in, or Flannery O’Connor, whose excursive limitations were a sad matter of physical ailment. Even Donna Tartt has to go on 12-city tours. And then there’s me. I’m not Donna, or Emily, or Flannery. I’m not getting anywhere as a young, reclusive, female writer.

For me the aesthetic of art is primal and private—it’s a guts-deep aesthetic that is not only losing its potency to the benevolent dictatorship of the screen, but that also goes limp and queasy in the rooms that host the reading, the conference, the Q&A. Writing, to me, isn’t meant to be read aloud. The last thing I want is some writer’s actual voice and bearing and personality scumming up my love affair with his/her book. I want to be alone with your book, please. It’s your words sweet-talking me deep in my head, it’s your thoughts caressing my inner voice, it’s your expression commingling with my perception. But I’m a selfish lover, and a limp compatriot. I want every book I read to be mine, not yours. And I also want every book I write to be mine, not yours—I don’t want to stand at a podium and acknowledge my readers and inoculate them to my writing through my underwhelming personhood, and I don’t want to have my own primal encounters ruined by your personhood either. If we must encounter each other, let’s do it the old way—in the dark, by the fire, our breaths bated, the world a big black mystery beyond us.

Or, if that’s impossible, I hope I can not draw too much contempt as the wallflower at our community shindigs, compelled to be here out of peer pressure but banishing myself to the sullen edge of the dance floor, clutching my bony elbows by the punch bowl, trying to disappear in this room of people that have welcomed me so very ardently. I don’t not want to be your friend. I just don’t want to dance with you.”

Read the rest of An Introverted Writer’s Lament. 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.