Sunday, March 25, 2007
A conversation with JW Veldhoen: Part Two
"The counter method bit is interesting. I though a bit about the cut-up and wonder if it is just a more mechanical extension of what one already does when writing. Moving things around, reading, moving them again. But writing that I wonder if the cut-up extends it to 'looking' instead of 'reading'. A relationship somewhere between viewing and reading.
There's little of interest in the book of essays on John Hawkes I just got, but one thing sticks in my head. The interviewer goes on for a while about the strangeness of Hawke's first book being non-biographical, as most are. He had no grand reply, and described the day that the book was started. I think a lot lately about the lack of importance that I ascribe to the specifics of what I am doing in the studio when "painting is going well". It could just as easily be blue and flat or brown and glossy and there's simply no place that isn't me.
Making fog horn sounds as I wave my hand over some great lump of paint. No one is ever going to do that but me.
I think Hemingway meant his famous words to be about writing in good faith, less than 'if you're going to write a cock, write YOUR cock'. I, just the other month, picked up a brush and started rendering form. I am an unpracticed hack. The only strategy is to be one until I'm not."
"This(Pascal's Wager) is probably as close as I've ever come to a method for living, and I've used it as advise to myself and for others. If you find yourself lacking belief, perhaps by acting as though you believe, maybe you'll trick yourself. This also allows for the transference of belief, and the wearing of masks. Rilke said people run out of masks, and I hope not to. This of course opens up a whole can of worms regarding self-deception, or bad faith, but I've dumped constant existentialist anxiety for what seem like palliative (a treatment or medicine relieving pain or alleviating a problem without dealing with the underlying cause, from Latin palliativus, from the verb palliare ‘to cloak’) or destructive actions. As for 'write what you know' I guess my point goes to how I practice creative writing, and against how so many think that slavish imitation of life, or observation alone, is a high enough criteria for experiential prose, and how a so-called 'true-story' or a story transmogrified from the base components of happenstance, equals authorial and narrative consistency, or honesty, as a opposed to an elaborate dissemblance (especially one that might take on the appearance of truth to the author) that illustrates a variety of truth (a well-worn chestnut).
And when I wrote, 'a method wherein nothing is moved, cut-up, or transplanted, but is still not a linear narrative... where parts multiply, and organize according to a systemic logic, rather independent of desire, except as reactions.' I was attempting to translate half-digested and voguish theory into something far more elusive and personal. This systemic logic is varied, indecipherably hermetic, and is why I can't really compose a methodology for narrative. I've used formal tricks for effect (anagrams, word games and puns, words for sound vs. words for meaning, issuing in something akin to aphasia), or I've used bodies of reference and discourse related to keywords (ie. pre-twentieth century American gothic literature and "witches") but then I manipulated my work, worked my work, almost sculpturally, or at times thinking of it as a performance. Lately though I've shifted into a linear narrative mode where structure accedes to fable, and a set of different conceits for rendering form, not so dissimilar to your "picking up a brush". Although I doubt your word "hack" as your hand has a memory, with your eyes, and perception and rendition are linked. People used to call it taste before they became exhausted and silent. Likewise, as I struggle with fable and story, I can't ignore outpouring, indirection, or what a number of contemporaries have called 'aimlessness.' "