|I have many things to write unto you
but I will not write with pen and ink
--JOHN the theologian
16 in. x 16 in.
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John Horváth Jr
'to see everything and
to see it often incomparably more clearly
than our most realistic minds see it'
Contemporary authors – those who write at the onset of this 21st Century, the one named for the movie industry (appropriately, the work of thousands who create fleeting if even memorable images consumed in movie "theaters"; better call them houses, for none is a home to thought: the innovative, the creative power). Contemporary authors are children of the mid 19th (19th not 20th) century – they are 'modern' authors. Let me distinguish Authors from Writers.
Authors commit to paper the monuments of our times, What Hippolyte-Adolphe Taine in his History of English Literature (London 1863-7) called ' transcripts of contemporary society'. And there is the first note of authorship: to believe in society rather than community. Society is a negative term, it is that from which individuals are alienated. No, not negative, society is a mythology which exists only through language.
And belief in that mythology is what drives authors – the ones interested in 'milieu', Taine's notion of conditions which produce mythology. Because they believe in the mythology of society, they are driven to produce mythology – as would a herd animal feasting on grass produce the fertilizer (merde) to produce further grass. Society is something which the author wants into… the author commits to paper a transcript of society, myth, which in turn allows that individual to be mythologized: an Author. But not quite an author. The author must first mythologize himself; the innate and hereditary dispositions (uniqueness of the individual) must be united with the marked differences in others of like temperament and call this structure a 'body' so that the author may think, speak, write in terms of belonging to a Race – a community of blood and intellect, though intellect is less important today as it is anti-intellect that our mythologies and mythologizers make into gods. Thus, by virtue of circularity (an individual alien to his myth – society – creates of himself a myth of membership calling this not 'society' but race), the Author finds himself in a moment for which the author creates a transcript for other like himself. But, so much focus on the myth estranges the author from the natural world in which the author is merely an individual, compounded of innate and hereditary dispositions (the business of social education is to eradicate these) and differences of temperament and structure (the business of social education is to reduce these to 'academic' questions).
If I have lost you, consider the corporation (the myth of in corpora, in the body).
What the author does is what Henry Ford did. The individual becomes the "owner' of his own myth, Ford Inc. And the myth is so powerful it eradicates the humanity: Edsel Ford is Ford Edsel; child of the man become product of the myth.
In the face of a myth so powerful as to transform the individual so thoroughly, and to be powerful in the presence of that men, some individuals are driven to become authors (to lesser or greater degree, to see oneself as part of a race myth, in a moment of estranged and alienated bewilderment, and to see oneself as a product of the myth. 'modern' people cannot think except 'I am a victim of society,' because victim differs nothing from product. Even the momentarily faddish 'post-modernists' were modern in that they defined their myth in terms of being passed 'modern,' which of course they were not (the impulse to collect whether from other myths be they literary, cultural, or historical is by no means 'post modern; rather we might argue easily that it is indeed 'pre-modern – and here is the only novelty of the post modern: that what is pre something is post something. But the impulse to collect is nothing more than the action of a bewildered, estranged, and alienated person. What any one of us would do to surround ourselves with the trappings of an 'individual' and at the same time lay objective credence to the notion of belonging to this or that myth).
Authors are about belonging.
Writers are not about. Writers skaz. Writers who stop skaz become authors; or, they return to being individuals as they were always consciously aware of being individuals. What do you DO? I write. What does an author DO? Authorize! Authors write but mythologize themselves and their writing.
I write. I write skaz. I call my skaz 'poetry', and others have done so.
SKAZ is not an invented word. Fellow named Mikhail Bahktin (like Bactene but with a rounder 'ah' sound) writing about "Discourse Typology in Prose" (1929) as the 'oral narration of a narrator' and says that it is all about verbal devices with double focus. Stay with me. Consider
four structures on paper combine to make a word that is either verb or noun. But, without you (the reader) reading them either way, it is neither verb nor noun;. It is a structure. Now consider
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET
in which case ROSE becomes both a noun referring to a kind of flower and part of a quote from something by William Shakespeare. If you know also that royal hangers-on in Elizabeth's court often referred to passing gas (farting) as 'cutting a ROSE' you also pick up the formal condition called 'irony'. SKAZ is the jump between, the 'on your way to', the making from structure of a relationship between structure and word, between word and phrase, between phrase and Shakespearian quote, between quote and irony. Might press on
A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE
and we arrive at 'allusion' – Gertrude Stein alludes to William Shakespeare (note here that the two individuals, both thoroughly dead, are in present tense, active voice as if they were both still very much alive – 'literary present tense' another level of skaz).
Mathematicians beware. I have an example you can understand. The uncertainty principle (Heisenberg, 1930s?) argues that the act of observing influences that which is observed so that an observer can never be certain of the results from an observation. This is akin to ' I step into a clear stream and right off, things have changed…pebbles move, critters flee, mud rises around my foot. And the clear stream is no longer clear' Skaz is what is happening before you observe it and mess it up.
To skaz one sets aside all the mythology. One begins as one, an individual. Not a poet, not an author. To write, a writer needs to maintain all those innate and hereditary dispositions, the marked differences in temperament, the befuddlement and bewilderment at what happened, happens, and will happen. Wallace Stevens knew it; the writer must be the red wheel barrow on which so much depends. Such self awareness requires knowledge. To skaz a writer must know all that stuff like structure, history, flowers, queens, farting, allusions and illusions, math, science, ichthyology, whatever. I've never met a writer who didn't know much more than the writing revealed. I know; I know, the illiterati is jumping up and down screaming 'dude, so un-natural' and ignoring the fact that upon recognizing a distinction between yourself and the teat that feeds you, you become no longer natural. Is it 'natural' to have no learning? nothing gained via experience? no habits?
If all you've got is EXPERIENCE, then it is good to remember the aphorism: 'experience is fallacious'
If a writer lacks knowledge broad and deep, knowledge eclectic and focused, knowledge as wisdom, then the best chance is authorship – collecting things as observed. Without knowledge someone comes up with a theory of, say, 'reader response' – just read it and tell us what you think. Without knowledge reader response is little more that impressionism – a dab of thought here and there, it looks coherent. Even Stanley Fish (who threw schools back a hundred years by 'discovering 19th century impressionism) had to admit that without knowledge, reader response becomes a game of egos or (at best) the kind of 1 to 10 rating on some music shows of the past: 'it's got a good beat; I can dance to it: I give it a ten.' I am about to admit that few YOUNG writers skaz. There's a great deal of first date, first fuck, first heartbreak on the web. It doesn't skaz. It doesn't look for what it is beneath all that, the mysterious link between male-female becoming Jack and Jill, becoming unfertilized becoming fertilized. It does not try to get below the individual, into the individual, beyond the myth to put it in a new, fresh, original being.
Here's the rub, "ORIGINAL"
Writers skaz about originality, about all the world reduced into a single moment of what it was/is before I observe. What it is despite my observation. And you don't build a great deal of machinery to observe like this. The writer does not approach what is to be written with 'I'm going to write a dactylic Spenserian sonnet' or 'my lines will follow rhyme royal.' Structure should come after, should grow from within the individual's 'innate and hereditary dispositions' and 'differences of temperament.' Form follows function. Form is what you REvise for; re-ENVISION. To see what is inside the thing.
This means that 'society' really doesn't want to hear it. Myth and mythology and mythologizers will call it obscene, mad, anything but writing. And, when that happens, Skaz.
Here's something of what I mean by skaz.
THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
THE FATHER OF WATERS
now read the following line
UP FROM THE NIGGER BROWN RIVER MISSISSIPPI
INTO THE WIDE BELLY OF THE COUNTRY
I will now focus on what 'society' calls the 'N word.' We've heard much of this. We know that certain books have been banned, will be banned, and are being banned because of the N word. Mark Twain and Joseph Conrad have both used the word (interestingly, both Twain and Conrad are fictions, having been adopted by writers for use as 'author's' pen-name). Also, James Baldwin, Imamu Baraka, Alex Haley, and a host of other writers have used the N word. Without reproach. Only by 'stepping out' of the myth of the book, back to the myth of society, and beyond thus pointing to the actual individuals who are writers do we become aware of physical distinctions – differences of temperament, innate and hereditary differences. At his point we are doing politics or anthropology or sociology, we are playing some game of mystifying the mythologizers and the mythology becoming mythic. Stuff and bother. I say that Twain and Conrad are great for creating such stuff and bother long after they are each thoroughly dead. Only those who are products of the myth can be much concerned about the N word. Truth is, the Mississippi is indeed a "nigger brown river' much abused, given little credit for its role in building the country, many times overflowing and flooding, killing and rampaging, but other times gentle and glorious without which no New Orleans and perhaps no Chicago Jazz.
I think the line is skaz
UP FROM THE NIGGER BROWN RIVER MISSISSIPPI.
Up has no relationship to direction, yet it does with the lowliness and ignorance hanging onto the word 'nigger'; and, brown is everything from tan to dun to dung and chocolate;
and river is a thing, we all know what a river is and a river cannot be a 'nigger' in any traditional sense of the words, yet the words bring along the baggage of 'social' traditions. Then, a reader might ask, 'if Mississippi is the down from which one goes UP, where is UP when you get there?' Our mythology answers, 'East Coast, West Coast, big city, Second City, anywhere but there.' It's the mythology of our time. Skaz.
We need more writers who will skaz. We don't need a lot of 19th century Authors. Most of them are or should be dead by now.
Every written word provides ground for expansion into a past world, deeper into the present world. it speaks of the world of our associations, and the world as people by nonentities passing to and fro around 'me'; every word is about everything that has been said and everything that has been written.