Saturday, August 22, 2009

of Blooms's admiration for water

I got the bottom quote from Jimmy Chen's HTMLGIANT post re: James Joyce, from Ulysses-- an art piece that's influenced my life heavily.

A few years ago, when I was an unhappy girl living out the tail end of my second decade in Tennessee, I kept a handwritten journal, which eventually turned into a stack of speckled composition books. I've transcribed some entries on another blog: Life's Mischievy Unraveled.

The most interesting thing to me about these journals is the evolution of my writing style, influenced by various college courses, experiences and books I was reading at the time.

At one point I was compelled to pick up Ulysses after a short story called the Dead made me take notice of Joyce's complicated, yet moving prose. The story floored me; it changed me; I bought a hardcover of Ulysses and slowly tried to sink through it latching onto morsels of narrative here and there and mind bursts of images. I took the book with me everywhere, read a paragraph at a time, absorbing, digesting. I was making love to Ulysses, whereas other books I would fuck right through in an hour or two.

In a slow progression, my journal entries became extremely esoteric. I was writing myspace blogs for a while, which attracted about a hundred followers and they started to express confusion as to what the hell I was talking about. A few people in real life even looked at me funny when I spoke, as if I was spouting what sounded like nonsense gibberish. Talk about pretentious.

A few excuses I used to continue my strange new behavior was:

1. Some people actually understood me. Of course I decided these people were geniuses and pitied everyone else as ignorant.

2. I claimed any writing worth teaching in the world of higher education had a strong thresh hold of interpretive leeway. And here I thought everything I was writing was the new Prufrock. My poor ego back then; before I learned the grace of humility.

After a while, something in me decided to try to lean more toward being coherent--to appeal to a larger demographic, since I thought I had important things to say, revolutionary things, which would go to waste going over heads and splatting and drooling down walls. (I know, I know...)

This is when I decided to put Joyce away and take him out only occasionally for small doses. I began alternating between different styles of literature so not to mimic any one to obviously. This was my attempt at pacing the impressionable sponge living in my ever starving mind.

I suppose this was four or five years ago. Since then, the most fun I have when writing's with the great phenomenon of flash fiction--where ironically enough, condensed esoteric prose actually works best.

Once in a while I still crack Joyce, and I admit, the romance is as strong as it ever was.

Below, is a great example of what I'm talking about. A gliding complexity perfected from the chapter Ithaca.

Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean of Mercator’s projection: its unplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8000 fathoms: the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea: its hydrostatic quiescence in calm: its hydrokinetic turgidity in neap and spring tides: its subsidence after devastation: its sterility in the circumpolar icecaps, arctic and antarctic: its climatic and commercial significance: its preponderance of 3 to 1 over the dry land of the globe: its indisputable hegemony extending in square leagues over all the region below the subequatorial tropic of Capricorn: the multisecular stability of its primeval basin: its luteofulvous bed: its capacity to dissolve and hold in solution all soluble substances including millions of tons of the most precious metals: its slow erosions of peninsulas and islands, its persistent formation of homothetic islands, peninsulas and downwardtending promontories: its alluvial deposits: its weight and volume and density: its imperturbability in lagoons and highland tarns: its gradation of colours in the torrid and temperate and frigid zones: its vehicular ramifications in continental lakecontained streams and confluent oceanflowing rivers with their tributaries and transoceanic currents, gulfstream, north and south equatorial courses: its violence in seaquakes, waterspouts, Artesian wells, eruptions, torrents, eddies, freshets, spates, groundswells, watersheds, waterpartings, geysers, cataracts, whirlpools, maelstroms, inundations, deluges, cloudbursts: its vast circumterrestrial ahorizontal curve: its secrecy in springs and latent humidity, revealed by rhabdomantic or hygrometric instruments and exemplified by the well by the hole in the wall at Ashtown gate, saturation of air, distillation of dew: the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation: its infallibility as paradigm and paragon: its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagos and sounds and fjords and minches and tidal estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, turbines, dynamos, electric power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora (anacoustic, photophobe), numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90 percent of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon.

Joyce. You will never cease to amaze me and the rest of the world as a master. Whatever made you, to me, defines miracle.


David Erlewine said...

you are such a fascinating person! i too am relatively new to flash but i'm hooked. it's really all i can write anymore. friends and others tell me to write a novel but i'll take flash.


Sabra Embury said...

I would go fishing with you. And eat beans and things like that. Thank you.

You should read Robert Lopez's latest novel. It's comprised of bite sized pieces, but the pieces come together for a thoughtful read. What he's made feels like what novels are going to become more and more like. Simple/complex/compelling.

I could see how a series of inter-related flash pieces could work together to make a great unit of work these days.

Something like that would probably be easier to write too. Going steady a chunk at a time when chunks of time slots between available between this and that.

Kumite back!

Sabra Embury said...

Replace one between with become and then maybe I'll start to make sense.


David Erlewine said...

fishing and beans do sound quite nice. i thank you for saying that.
back atcha for sure.

i feel like a real goof since i sat three feet from robert lopez for about two hours sat night and didn't buy his book. i'm going to order it tonight.

i like what you write about the inter-related flashes. i have something upcoming in FRiGG in a few weeks that is almost 5000 words...but is broken into about 12 interrelated pieces. it's about a stutterer who "tells" key people in his life the things he could never say to them b/c of his stutter. Such kinds of "longer" work are all I'm able to muster these days.

So, we've been friends about four hours now. Craziness. kumite tossed back with a split and goofy van damme grin).

Sabra Embury said...

I want to read your FRIGG piece when it's ready. It sounds interesting!

David Erlewine said...

Thank you, Sabra! I will make sure to send you a link when it hits on/about Oct 15. After about 10 rejects from Ellen Parker/FRiGG, to say I'm thrilled would be like saying I need to get on that abs thing like some other kind people I now know!

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