Where were we?

October 12, 2011

A long time has passed since our last communication, mainly due to our sore disappointment with your not posting any comments, Oh Dearest Readers! Yet, efforts have been resumed in the hunt for the fantastic genre, having had a major development in the history of this Internet interaction, that is to say, that a distinguished gentleman, member of the unofficial Scientific-Philosoliterary “Guitarristica Extremosa” community in Haifa, contributed to the discussions humbly posted in this space.

If we recall the diverse discussions elsewhere in this blog, we shall see that no true progress was made in the inquiry, yet that many a hard dilemma did show its ugly face with uncanny temerity. We must face the monstrous problem of representation where we postulate that language is a representation and yet it isn’t… we must encounter conundrums such as “that thing is real but it is “realer” in that situation”. Alas! we shall meet face to face the cruelest of predicaments, and yet an enticing: what is the function of the fantastic genre and furthermore, what is the function of literature as a whole and, need I tell?, from which point we unify other aspects of life to the literary experience, such as, well… everyday life, agriculture, mockery, chess battles over tea, diligent walks through parks at sunset, commuting to Jerusalem, searching the web for sensual delights and the such.

In this occasion, however, we shall not temp the depths nor stir the dark that lurks well within the sea of awesomeness that we sail upon. Let us stay afloat yet for a while and dwell quietly on the crimson sunsets and the to-and-fro toandfroing of pleasant seamanship.

What is the most basic approach to literature?

This is not meant as a “fundamental” question of literature; it is not even meant as an elaborating upon a formal concept of literature, because, obviously, we haven’t yet given any. So perhaps the reader will be more comfortable with a rephrasing of the question: What is your most basic approach to the experience that, intuitively, we call literature?

We must allow our memories to surge, and come back to the dark forest on the slopes of a mountain and the cabin that stood there, half-hidden, half purposefully revealed; or sneak again through the aisles of a faraway palace with rich tapestry and a gilded tale of conquest. Remember the smell of the surf as you approach perilous shores, and the tang of rain-to-come in some grove of ancient idolatry.

We have become accustomed to a literature that is not to be dissociated with the Industry of Literature. Thus, it only seems natural for literature to live in fancy bookstores, under bright covers, on Internet stores or even exclusively in exalted, turbulent emotions. Also the production of literature is quite narrowed-down to particular characters: the tormented poet, the snappy asshole, the progressive mademoiselle, the enlightened aristocrat… Literature has been given a seat of honor among the arts, yet all these arts have been taken by force by the elite of high emotions. We have created art for critics and academics, that can only be understood through the codes of those particular groups. A great proportion of the artistic produce to which I have been exposed is explained representatively-allegorically. That is to say, there is a formula of interpretation that reveals a somewhat psychological meaning that sprouted in the mind of the artist. There is the common phrase: I wanted here to challenge our perspective on bla bla bla. And bla bla bla is not just the usual tautology which indicates I’ve already overreached in the subject. A rather precise bla bla bla which encompasses topics such as: injustice, love, violence, consumption and waste and [insert here hot-topic-of-discussion]. Then, I must presently address, how do I explain the unequivocal emotions that derive from the aforementioned expositions to the artistic corpus of our time? Well, I think that the art-forms communicate vague meanings, then the interpreted art-form leads us towards an emotion. For example:

HERO

Now, you might be thinking: heroism, epic-stuff, strength, justice, good overcoming evil…

Then you ask the artist and he explains: I wanted to challenge our view of war as a positive endeavour under certain circumstances. How we value the hero despite that he is generally entangled in one of mankind’s most criminal activities, then he reveals the key of interpretation:

WAR

Now, you have been completely guided towards an interpretation with a fixed meaning. Even, for example, if you were thinking “Hero-dote, that’s awesome!” or “Guitar Hero”, you have been guided into an unidirectional view of the world, that of the artist. There are those who resist this allegorical rendition of art. Most of us, however, yield in and mumble “delightful” and we stroll respectfully towards the next show-piece. The interpretation is associated with accepted emotions, the very allegorical-representative works of art even tell you how you are supposed to feel. If we consider as well that the experience of art is often thought as an act of sensibility, that is already positively associated with status and intelligence, it is no surprise that we ourselves exalt these feelings, that we move ourselves and are not moved by the artwork, even if we were spurred by it.

Before you say: We have ourselves another Plato here!, let me be clear that I love such art-forms from time to time, they are pleasant, sometimes funny and positively outrageous; they can shock you or lead you to question you values. In addition, there is always the thrill of interpreting and achieving a plausible explanation. Yet they are not basic art-forms. They, however, are perfect to feed the industry of art-forms to which literature has been associated.

That industry affects our day-to-day experience of literature. That is perhaps one of the reasons why people — obviously not all!!! — have become disenchanted with stories; other reasons being technocracy and the gimme-hard-data approach to life. Within such a perspective, we cannot expect for literature to have any basic function in our lives, other than entertainment. That is why I requested the reader to evoke memories of very literary situations before I began my rant on the high arts. There is a very high probability that at least once in your life, oh Reader of many memories!, you have been deeply moved by a story, a character, a scene. Most likely this happened in childhood, when you were kept awake by excitement, and you nervously played with your hands even if you knew, you well bloody knew, that the hero would prevail, despite the gathering darkness, despite all odds being against him… you knew.

That is the Literature of literatures, the storyline that accompanies mankind from tender age to bitter decrepitude. Man is a creature of narratives, a historical being — dare I say Dasein?

We have been somewhat misguided when we are lead to believe that to be a man of literature you must collect books, spit famous quotes, spend your life reading X number of books per year, frequent coffee-shops where people gather to display their insight on such and such classic of literature and so on and on.

The most basic approach to literature is to be a historical being, which in this particular case means, one that is moved by stories.

What does it mean to be moved by stories? I do not believe that this is a matter of sensibility, because it is not a movement that is originated psychologically, despite that it has numerous psychological ramifications. For now let’s say that one is capable of being moved by stories when one is capable of being moved by the world: the change of seasons, the coming and going of the year, the gathering storm, the clear sky of summer, the baking of bread by the fireside, the birth and the slaughter, the scything of the hay.

[As a side note, but something that belongs rather to another one of my blogs, city life (also suburban life) tries precisely to attenuate the movements of the world, it is a shelter of such completeness that dissociates us from the world and nature. The passing of the year is felt much more strongly in the country than in the city, the complete experience of time and space is altered in favor of stability].

Please comment!!!

It pains me to admit that I spend quite a bit of time in front of the television. The general policy amongst the learned circles is to say “I wouldn’t know about that; see, I hardly ever watch tv,” and then add knowledgeably: “because I eat poetry and sh*t emotions.” We know that intellectuals’ and artists’ time is precious since they were sent into the world to ennoble mankind. We wouldn’t want for them to spend their relatively brief days – since immortality awaits – entranced with petty squabbles and tasteful cat-fights. Well, since I cannot yet contend to the heights of artistry, I have taken it upon myself to commentate on a new reality show that goes by the name of “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist”.

The format of the show is very Project Runway-like. However, I believe this particular show has really spiced things up for reality tv. First of all, it has very interesting and distinctive subject matter; that is, art – as in plastic art. Secondly, it is rich in strong images and inappropriate topics. Finally, it doesn’t depend on the brawls, the drunken incidents and the general disgustingness of the participants. I would say that Work of Art is akin to Top Chef, since they both feed on creativity for tension rather than on drama and bad taste.

The format is very clean and appealing – something that in my opinion Project Runway is lacking. The challenges are really the coolest part of the show. If you have seen Work of Art, then you probably know by now that we are going to focus on the book cover challenge.

For the third challenge, the contestants had to create a Penguin book cover for a classic novel. Damn! That’s something I’d like to do! For me, covers are a very important part of books. It is a very rewarding experience to be reading something, then closing said pages, and being able to continue and enhance the words by means of images. A good cover produces a fuller aesthetic experience. Furthermore, it is a very physical approach and, as you know if you have read my other posts (please do if you haven’t, ha ha ha), the physicality of reading lies at the heart of literature, even if it is devilishly difficult to define and analyse.

Penguin  in particular – I feel -, does an extraordinary job when it comes to covers. They are evocative if need be, literal in some instances, but generally fitting to the book in question. Penguin’s covers invite reflexion and sometimes they and the books become inseparable; then the book as whole physical being becomes a work of hybrid art.

Probably the best of the episode was the artists’ insight into the books. Had all of them understood the true challenge that creating a cover entails, they would have had taken the time to read the book, as Miles did; thumbs up for that. So far he’s my favorite because he really seems to get into his art and verily creates pieces that are intelligible, however complex. The biggest blunders of the episode had to do with the lovely Jane Austen – now also spelled ‘Austin’. Judith seemed to think that it was a shameful endeavor for a fine artist to contribute a book cover; shame on her, let her work be forgotten. The other Pride and Prejudice cover was, as the judges well put it: generic. Jaclyn said that she wanted to express the ‘moral ambiguity’ of the characters. I assume that us guys will have a tendency to sympathize with Jaclyn, but – since we are literary maniacs – her blunt misspelling of Austen’s last name and her comment about P&P being a romantic story that is also a little tragic between Elizabeth and ‘Darby’, simply put her at the bottom. Jamie said that Dracula’s immortality was relevant to her because she was a Christian, and then proceeded to paint a black and red landscape horror. Other interesting interpretations were Peregrine’s who said that The Time Machine was about a time traveler who was also in love with this woman; and Abdi’s, who claimed that Frankenstein was about alienation from God, people and ourselves; so deep, man!

Some of the covers that the contestants created were very commonplace, some were plainly awful. Some of them had a bit more sense. The clichés need no comment whatsoever. On some of the covers I would like to give my impressions.

<<Spoiler alert>>

Miles’s work I believe was the most eloquent. First of all, he took the time to read the book. His piece had ‘parts’ – wires and such – placed over a board. He set a fire to a section of the board so there were scorched patches in the finished work. I think it worked extremely well for Frankenstein since you have parts – the construction of the monster – and then the fire – which we only understand from the traces it has left – represents life, soul, etc. It was a dark and slightly disturbing piece. Loved it!

Nicole’s work for Carroll’s Alice was very interesting because it was dynamic and interactive. Yet it begs the question whether she didn’t foresee that it was inappropriate for the challenge? I don’t think it was a terrible idea, all in all. I would certainly  like to see edible books and  more interactive ones that aren’t for children – though I tend to enjoy those and keep mine from childhood. Nicole is my second favorite. I believe she is both talented and lovely; though her “shocking” challenge piece was awful…

John’s cover, and the winning piece, was in my opinion a bit uninteresting. The little ladder was the most appealing part of the cover for me. One of the judges said that he had made a head from the planet pineapple and then called it a time machine. The judge was utterly convinced that said pineapple was a time machine. I wan’t convinced in the end. Though I have to say that compared to other covers this one was pure genius.

Jaclyn’s cover was terrible. It was poorly executed and didn’t have much to do with the book. I like Pride and Prejudice so much that I blush at the mere thought of Miss Eliza in the nude. She is my heroine: damn the artist who dares portray her as a morally ambiguous trollop!

Judith’s cover was the suckiest of all. It was dirty and clumsy, and she tried to justify herself saying that she did fine art, not commercial stuff on commission. I really dislike artists that simply try to force whatever they come up with onto the audience. There has to be an amount of process and interpretation before the artwork can be done – take Miles’s example. The point, to some extent, is that without the artist’s help we are left with mere things, which, because of the western rupture within entities, we are unable to understand. To have artists simply puking random stuff at us, a practice glorified of late, seems to me drab and annoying.

<<End of Spoiler Alert>>

A lot of artists, shielded by so-called integrity, resist the production of ‘usable’ art. I think that art that lives amongst the daily things, that is meant to be touched and seen while doing other than standing in a gallery saying “Mmh, yes, exquisite!” has a true magic about it. Any artist should be honored to have a Penguin cover. My respect goes to subtle communion between the arts.

Now you tell me: have you ever bought or read a book simply because of the cover? What is your favorite cover? Has any cover changed your experience of a book?

My cover-influenced book is Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (get it), Penguin’s edition obviously, with a wonderful cover – on commission – by Phil Hale. I think it is just brilliant and it scares the hell out of me. Love it!

Please comment!!!

You’ve Got Owl Mail

June 30, 2010

Today I shall discuss further – and most grievingly alone, having had no comments whatsoever – on the wondrous topic of the ‘meaningless’ in High-Fantasy. I beg, dear readers, that should you find these comments interesting, appalling, offensive, contradictory or anything other than bland and dull, you be as kind as to drop a line or two, even if they are of a vulgar nature.

Our last discussion left us with high remarks on Tolkien’s dislike for allegory. We then developed a sense of what applicability might have meant for Tolkien. Our greatest discovery was that through the deprivation of meaning – albeit meaning by means of reference – High-Fantasy as epitomized by LOTR would allow for ‘things’ to remain unhindered and thus appear to the reader with superb strength and clarity. That, in my opinion, constitutes a tremendous virtue of the genre. One must clarify however, that not every single word or sentence in Tolkien is without reference; after all, being a westerner, he must have had, to some extent, a saussureian approach to words.

Words in western thought tend to be divided between the physical occurrence of the word, that is to say, how it’s written or pronounced, and the ideas or ‘things’ to which it makes reference. Furthermore, it is usually thought that one is not dependent on the other. Perhaps – it appears to me thus -, the clearest evidence of the schism between ideas and things is evinced by the inner conflict of words: a conflict where the physical word is the thing and its meaning the idea. The platonic notion of eternal, unchanging ideas, is deeply carved into western imagination. It thus follows that if there exist these concepts of a lofty nature, words can be allocated to them as long as they remain conceivable. This former view does not consider that concepts become conceivable perhaps because, and only because, there is language to conceive them. Notwithstanding, a word could be considered perfect if it expresses its related concept with clarity and straightforwardness. The problem arises when one accepts that an ideal tree, or rock, tiger or tyger, has never crossed one’s path, nor any other ‘entity’ susceptible of immediate conceptualization.

How then, is a concept born and particular things buried under generalized ideas? This remains an utter mystery to me. I can only hypothesize that a tension exists between particular experience and the experience of the collective. If we were to be placed before a thing completely nameless, I believe that our first attempt at language would be to point at it and say “that!” As long as we would remain within reach of such a ‘that’, our own bodies and some inarticulate grunts could serve the purpose of naming it. But afterwards, we would try to make reference to it perhaps by description, analogy or generalization. We could, wielding our western reason and science, eventually reach a perfect meaning and a ‘closed’ definition. However, its many names would never be a perfect substitution for the experience of the thing, or would they?

Language, being that most wonderful realm of existence, has its ways of solving the distances between names and things. Those familiar with Hebrew and Judaism may be aware that a perfect correspondence exists between words and things; that is to say, the word is the thing. It is not thus in western languages, to my knowledge. Nevertheless, every language has poetic qualities. These qualities shorten the distance between the name and the thing. Every language has the ability to make things be plain and whole and particular. No matter how scientific or rational a language becomes, when given a literary, poetic or religious sense, the words regain their complete, original nature; that is, of things without reference that are the very substance of particular things.

My obsession with Tolkien arose from the former realization thus abridged: that when I read LOTR I delved into a reality more substantial than that of my scientific papers or other ‘serious’ books. In fact, that by reading Tolkien one could smell the air and touch the grass in a livelier manner than that of our purposeful and meaningful lives.

Again we reach the point where High-Fantasy has the ability to ‘make real’ the words and things described. The meaninglessness and purposelessness of such storytelling seems to me a great achievement of beauty and truth in a very pure form, that of mere experience.

It doesn’t surprise me, for instance, that a very rational analysis of some plot elements in LOTR leads to questions such as: why didn’t they fly the eagles to Mordor in the first place? That is a plausible solution, which I won’t dispute within rational terms, but I won’t have it seeing that everything inbetween the Council of Elrond and the Grey Havens would have been left out, and I share in fact Tolkien’s regret that the book is not longer.

I wish to share another example where High-Fantasy overcomes the need for rational solutions in storytelling in favor of the aesthetic and the beautiful. Much can be said about the Harry Potter series, especially by rancid intellectuals who tend to hold a grudge against the young wizard. For my part, I have a hearty liking of the story, particularly at the beginning. Its charm is undeniable, for most people, and has magic in it other than magic. Most of the fantastic elements that appear throughout the story come out as they are needed for some part of the plot to work; they pose a rational solution, however unrealistic, to plot issues. But there are also elements that seem to appear out of sheer joy and plainly because of their aesthetic qualities. Take for instance Owl Mail: it is certainly slower than e-mail, puts the wizarding community at a higher risk of contracting ornithosis, and tends to be rather messy. When the plot has need of a swift communication other means are sought, such as the Floo Network, Patroni, dark marks, etc. The idea of Owl Mail remains viable throughout the books and it is plain genius to place a character in a tower, in the wake of night, waiting for a snowy owl to arrive with a handwritten letter. Another element that I find greatly poetical and aesthetic is the Hogwarts Express. As with LOTR and the eagles, it can be pointed out that students have easier – more efficient – means of transport; they could side-along Apparate with their parents into Hogsmead, or they could use the Floo Network as indeed happens in book six – another plot requirement. Owls and trains are elements that give the story its particular aesthetic qualities that, in my opinion, have a lot to do with the series’ success.

Please comment, insult or bully as you see fit.

Into Fantasy

May 29, 2010

I must beg the reader to endure a brief reminiscence, from my own experience.

We set ourselves during the first weeks of 5770 (waning 2009). Gushing rains have showered on the kibbutz and the afternoons have darkened. Since we are no longer sweating on our beds, nearing fatal heatstroke, our brains begin to function again and digress, in a most colourful fashion. We steal to our bedroom – fortunately the other bed remains unoccupied, so we must make the best out of the luxurious privacy. Our habit of reading has suffered immensely, we have been spending our free time learning how to roll cigarettes and prepare Turkish coffee, spluttering ill-constructed Hebrew sentences and complaining about pigeon shit on our beards – yes, you too, dearest ladies and respectable beardless ephebi! But now, as the refreshing breeze attests to the coming of the new season, we begin to experience a visceral want: we must read a book; furthermore, it must be one in particular, The Lord of the Rings.

We open the book excitedly; it’s been a few years since our last reading of it. We usually skip the forewords and prefaces – however this time we savour every word, from front cover to back cover. We come across these revealing words that would hitherto occupy our intent minds:

As for any inner meaning or ‘message’, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical (Tolkien. Foreword to the second edition. The Lord of The Rings. 50th anniversay one volume edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. xxiii). Oh, do get this one! Amazon

During the ill-fortuned times when I studied literature in college, I encountered a tendency in high profile academics to justify Tolkien’s writings as having a deeper allegorical meaning or historical context – that of WW2. That is, if they had enjoyed the books. If they hadn’t, they would dismiss them as ‘not literature’. Why – is the question at hand – are we so averted by things void of meaning? Ironically, Tolkien’s books are the most ‘meaningful’ to me. At the turn of the page, we encounter further explanation:

But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author (Tolkien, xxiv).

By my early 20’s I had grown very distrustful of allegory in literature. It was my appreciation that characters or events with established allegorical meaning were in general stiff and unmoving. When an element in a given story becomes allegorical, it must adapt itself to the meaning it attempts to convey; this not only renders it limited but also straightforward, lacking in complexity. Now don’t get me wrong, for there are incredibly complex allegories. The sort of complexity I am talking about has greater affinity with paradox and conflict rather than substitution and analogy. I also don’t think that an archetype is an allegory.

On the subject of applicability, we might go down the easiest of roads by saying that it is ‘personal allegory’. Thus, the knowledgeable academic says LOTR is about WW2; the black metal musician says that it’s about how the Aryans must fight against impure elements – lesser men and Orcs, who in his eyes are clear metaphors of other-than-blond individuals; and finally, the inspired poet says that it’s ‘bout courage, hope and love, man. For many a long year, I did in fact try to ‘reduce’ Tolkien to similar terms. At first I would say that it was about good versus evil, then that it was about reinterpretation of myths and stuff (literally), in the later years I would forcefully state that it was mainly about the fair versus the foul. I am not saying that the former interpretations are implausible or wrong – though one is very politically incorrect – but rather that they remain allegorical and suffer from allegory’s short-sightedness.

On the fateful afternoon, when the previously quoted words were brought forth, I was somewhat bothered with the idea of applicability. A few weeks later I found myself walking through the length of the country, forlorn and alone, with all of my possessions inside my backpack, and most of the nights without a roof over my head. I said then “Damn, now I love Tolkien the most!” In truth, my own experience did resemble Sam and Frodo’s journey. Not because both journeys shared any common meaning – but in their plain physicality I was able to apply Tolkien’s words to every stretch of the road, when water became short or food scarce, when I was scared or reminisced of home, or sang in the forests of Israel my own versions of The Wanderer. In that sense, I came to realise that by applicability we may also understand ‘intimacy’.

My very own night at Weathertop

Intimacy is the bond between the reader and the text. It is easy to relate to a text when you actually do the things described. But it is clear that, for example, Tolkien didn’t make reference to my particular journey – or for that matter to any particular ‘real’ war – but that he made his words embody the actual narration of his books. When the narrative involves events, actions or characters that do not closely resemble the ones in the reader’s life, then intimacy requires empathy. Now we can re-read the statement about applicability as the ‘relevance’ the text holds to the reader. I must emphasize that I don’t mean ‘relevance’ in the thematic abstract sense, but once again grasp onto the physicality and embodiment of the words and things narrated.

Even if this process is not exclusive of High-Fantasy, I find that it is very important – nigh on definitive – to the genre. Perhaps a good counter example comes from Realism.  The latter is more accurate, in a strict sense, and much closer to the perceived elements of reality than Fantasy, thus it would be easier – seemingly – to bond to a realist novel. Still and all, I think, characters and events in Realism tend to go somewhere meaning-wise. From the chaos of his observations, however faithfully recorded, the realist writer draws order and conclusions, to the point that the characters become epitomes of ideas and values that reinforce whichever point the author is trying to make. Some very obvious examples are Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata and even Anna Karenina. I have long wondered why people – some people at least – are plainly horrified when the mare is beaten to death in Crime and Punishment, but barely twitch at the actual murders; it may be because the sisters appear out of need: one as the rationalised social-parasite that justifies the murder, the other as the innocent victim that will embody guilt.

When I imagine a LOTR without “inner meaning or ‘message’”, I am overcome by the beauty of things, plain things. Their aesthetic qualities – in Tolkien heavily linguistic – are not stifled by some higher meaning so they simply are allowed to be. That, in my opinion, constitutes the marrow of High-Fantasy. I am not sure how I feel about the so-called Low-Fantasy. But this short approach will have to suffice for the moment. Please heat up the topic by means of commentary!

It’s been a troublesome endeavour to write again. What in my tenderest youth came with ease and naturally, today makes me ponder upon wasted talent, wasted years, and waste in general. A few years ago, when I stopped writing altogether, I felt as if I had nothing left to say to the world. In fact, nowadays that I deem myself wiser – more bitter is a better statement – I believe I never had anything to say at all; but I had interesting ways of laying down such nothingness.

The act of writing, I find these days, has pre-eminence above both the act of creation and the act of imagining. The raw physicality of writing, so to speak, subdues the fiery dragons of the mind and the wanton delusions of images. If there is any truth to that, the act of reading must also be apprehended by way of its physical occurrence, that is to say, during the act of enunciation. Perhaps that last bit is easier to comprehend when it is said that books can only truly come alive whilst someone reads them. Accordingly – correspondingly – it now seems obvious that the existence of literature is rendered possible by the fact that someone writes it. However evident both statements appear, they hold a keen reminder to the oblivious writer, who may consider that the many wonders safely guarded inside his head amount to realms greater than the pettiest hero who’s been put to words.

Such was my surprise at these intuitive arguments, that when I gathered enough experience as to deem myself fit for writing once again – and stole to it with excitement at first – most of my brilliant ideas faltered when filtered through the pages, though I could not tell why. Believing that my voice had been lost, or my talent fully atrophied, I sought for answers in the heavens, in beauty, and finally in my pockets. It seemed that I couldn’t grasp a wisp of inspiration when truly I was in want of practice.

Keats came to my aid and revealed dramatically that to write one must write. The epiphany arrived having tremendous scenery as a midwife.

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,

Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,

Hold like rich garners the full-ripened grain; […]

(Fragment from When I have frears that I may cease to be, Selected Poems, Penguin. Get the book: AmazonPenguin.).

So I said to the muses ‘by the heavens this is true!’ It became even stronger when I remembered that the day before I had described a gesture as ‘…only perceptible to the moroseness of my pen’. During those fleeting moments I was fully aware of a distinct reality available only through the written word. Then I became concerned with what would happen with a brain – such as my own – that isn’t teeming but for a few hours every decade. So I turned the page, not knowing that a new revelation would come my way:

‘[…]O fret not after knowledge – I have none,

And yet the Evening listens. He who saddens

At thought of idleness cannot be idle,

And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.’

(From ‘O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind’, Selected Poems, Penguin).

And precisely in that spirit is that I would like to continue these “essays” :~, discussing the physicality of literature and attempting a rather difficult approach to the moment of enunciation. The focus of these short reflexions will be that of Fantasy – more precisely High-Fantasy. The central argumentation of these discussions flirts with the thought that the genre has not been properly defined and that the inclusion of fantastic elements is not enough to achieve a satisfactory definition. The initial drafts have taken me even beyond the concept of genre, and have ominously drifted onto tensions between the teleological and the naturalistic. Please comment freely.

Return, oh fleeting wind, to-morrow
From meadows vast and downs so distant,
With age unspoilt untouched by sorrow,
To cheer my days now trod with sadness.
Do bring upon your brow the candour
Of foreign wolds with news of wonder
And rest o’er me your lengthy travels,
Then fly once more or fade in silence.

L’espoir noir

May 13, 2010

Alas, it is but darkest hope again,
The season brought to peaceful contemplation.
Cruel sun, thus taming savage trees and tall
To bend before ten thousand gleaming whips,
Thus painting cheer upon night’s gloom,
His idle gaze upon wet beating fields.
But on the brink, the very moment of my exclamation,
His eye is drawn to happier countries – fresher days –.
A half-begotten unborn word surmounts her breast:
Alas, dark hope again!

Estimados lectores:

(Para el pleno entendimiento de esta breve comunicación, debo remitirlos al Tugurio Maloliente, donde encontrarán los antecedentes de esta terrible historia.)

Una vez más, siendo el tiempo algo que tengo en cantidades insalubres, me he dado a la tarea – la misión por las extensiones azures encomendada – de meditar sobre el mal primigenio, la secta correspondiente, y los síntomas asociados: el berrido infantil y la procrastinación en general. Sé que muchos de ustedes, ¡oh, corona del pensamiento social!, estarán enfadados, ofendidos, o de otro modo amedrentados por los sucesos – o las narraciones mismas – que componen la obra intitulada “una gran aventura” compuesta de “el piscolabis metafísico”, “la prosapia del mal primigenio” y su antagónico clímax “los comedores de kk”. No teman, bellos míos, pues a cada uno tengo una respuesta acorde a sus dolencias y enmendaré toda tacha, todo yerro, toda falsa imprecación y toda falacia. Preparen, pues, sus ojos para el descubrimiento de la verdad:

Como muchos de ustedes sabrán, tras los embates de la secta del mal primigenio, experimenté una extemporánea crisis. A mí me pareció un asunto natural, al ver los años dorados derrumbarse frente a mí. El trío fantástico, quienes combatimos en un inicio contra la mentada secta, vimos nuestro contubernio perderse entre las cuantiosas heces que se creaban a cada momento a nuestro alrededor. No es cosa baladí, pues los Airani, por Natura tan sabiamente confinados en la mítica Tlachaloya, franquearon sus propias fronteras y se dieron a la noble misón, ya antes vista en América, de difundir su fe y sus hábitos de alimentación. Tan terrible es esta “fuga cultural” que, si mis predicciones son acertadas, pronto veremos Airanis en altos puestos de gobierno y otros sitios influyentes desde cuyas espantosas troneras podrán embadurnar nuestras humildes existencias con su sustancia sublime.

Como venía diciendo, Ivonne enloqueció y el Bochis comenzó a libar con los Airani con frecuencia cada vez mayor. Terrible fue mi soledad, así reducidas las filas de nuestro selecto grupo – poseedor de los secretos del Bordo de las Maravillas, dignatario entre los duendes de las hachas, etcétera – que opté por recurrir a los antiguos. Los embates de la secta nunca me dejaron en paz por completo, incluso cuando me mimeticé arteramente con los Airani, di un salto a la madurez y, me duele confesarlo, chojeé en un par de ocasiones… ¡Ah los errores de la juventud!

Efectivamente, al consultar al oráculo, recibí arcanos que me situaron en un dilema interpretativo que me condujo, una vez más, a buscar sabiduría en los sitios donde ésta suele esconderse, es decir, lejos de aquí. Escribí a Simon Kircher, como en otras ocasiones, pero también a Björn Svergenson, doctor eminentísimo. De este modo me dirigí a sus dignidades:

“Queridos amigos:

“Me encuentro una vez más en una situación desesperada, como ustedes comprenderán, de lo contrario no osaría robar su tiempo precioso con banalidades. Como sabes, Simon, seguí tu consejo y huí de la secta del mal primigenio y del berrido infantil buscando refugio en las ignotas planicies tlachaloyenses. La secta, plena de recursos y de medios, me encontró sujeto a prácticas innobles y deletéreas, mi terrible disfraz, un peso de conciencia que cargaré hasta el fin de mis días. Quimeras y falsedades, tribulaciones del espíritu y otras bajezas constituían mi cotidiano, hasta que, desesperado, recurrí al oráculo de los antiguos – que quizás hayan encontrado en otro sitio con el nombre de la femina maculosa -; las respuestas que obtuve del portento requieren de una inteligencia muy superior a la mía.

“Cuando pregunté ‘¡Oh noble oráculo, ¿debo permanecer bajo este sol y sobre esta extensión de tierra?’ me contestó: ‘Dale chance al sabor’. Al no comprender el significado de su adivinación, continué: ‘Decidme, ¡oh sabia voz que penetras en las nieblas del tiempo!, ¿podré escapar de la secta del mal primigenio si viajo a las tierras ancestrales, allende la mar?’; pero, de modo aun más críptico dijo: ‘Sigue los llamados de tu corazón, que son los siguientes: tomarás una gallina del séptimo corral; cuando la luna se encuentre plétora y dicha gallina comience la pelecha, prepararás dos medidas de estiércol y las colocarás en un ánfora de plata; luego diluirás el contenido con el fermento del maguey y darás de esta bebida a tres Airanis selectos. Una vez realizada la libación, derramarás los sobrantes sobre la cérviz del ave destinada, tomarás un garrote y matarás a la gallina, sacrificándola a los dioses sabrosos de esta tierra del sabor. Si así lo haces, los fuegos de tu espíritu se apaciguarán y tu semilla plantarás – así, rico – en el fértil vientre de la pitonisa de la danza del sabor’. Finalmente pregunté: ‘¿Cómo conoceré, entre las multitudes, a los tres Airanis selectos?’, y su respuesta fue: ‘Por el hedor sublime los conocerás, de entre las multitudes, los ungidos de los dioses del sabor’.

“Como podrán percatarse, mis queridos y eminentes amigos, no puedo desentrañar el significado de estos ritos, para mi gusto atroces; pero a la vez no puedo dejar de pensar que la femina maculosa está en posesión de una perspectiva privilegiada entre las monstruosidades del mundo: así lo quiso el sino cuando la dotó del entendimiento cáustico del devenir.”

Así me dirigí a los sabios Simon Kircher y Björn Svergenson, quienes me contestaron in mode and manner befitting their renown and noble intelect; es decir: in modus chidus et infalibilis. Sin embargo, maestro generador de tensiones inmerecidas, dejaré su respuesta para la próxima y brevísima comunicación.