Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Last night at a lecture by Dinty Moore of Ohio University, who's doing a visiting gig this week at Our Fair University and leading a creative nonfiction workshop. The talk was all about the difficulties of defining this new "genre" – difficulties which I suspect have more to do with the disciplinary demands of creative writing programs in the academy than with anything intrinsic to the nebula of sorts of writing that one could plausibly call "creative nonfiction," both now & historically. But this is a discussion that Bradley & I have been having for 3 years now, & will probably continue when our partners have strapped on the drool cups & checked us into the same wing of the long-term care facility.
The upstairs bathroom reading these days is Robinson Crusoe, which I haven't been thru in 2 decades or more. A slow start, as is Defoe's wont, but once things get going – once RC's on the island, that is – things pick up amazingly. As the last time I read it, I'm fascinated by the degree to which Crusoe structures his life as a balance sheet, reckoning up credits & debits, blessings & curses, counting days & pounds of gunpowder & all manner of items. A commonplace of Defoe criticism how Crusoe embodies the Protestant/Capitalist ethic.

And of course today's tax day, a day of summing up accounts. I'm beginning to think Jonathan Mayhew is the Crusoe of the blogosphere, continually counting & self-examining & laying out self-improving plans. Salutary, but probably only to the degree that the plans get followed thru on (Jonathan seems remarkably efficient in that regard). Which makes me want to cast my own accounts, & try to make some medium & long-range plans (ignoring for convenience's sake more or less immediate obligations – finishing the semester's teaching & grading, writing the 3 essays I've committed to over the next few months):

•force some kind of order upon the midden of papers, books, CDs, musical instruments, & just plain shit that is my study
•come to grips, really come to grips, with Hegel
•read my way thru Ruskin, all 37 volumes
•along those lines, tackle some of the writers whose works I know a just a bit of – Djuna Barnes, Wyndham Lewis, Thomas Middleton
•acquire a real knowledge of music – learn to read, that is, maybe take up a classical instrument (this was supposed to happen this January, but...); learn jazz, learn to hear Romantic period "classical" music
•shore up my knowledge of Victorian literature (I've read maybe 40 Victorian novels, but half of them are by Wilkie Collins – there's bunches of Dickens & Eliot I don't know at all)
•continue to paint, learn new techniques & "tricks"
•blog smarter – figure out the relationship between my blogging, my obsessive notebook-keeping, & my "real" writing
•start getting that poetry manuscript out there
•short book on biography, theory & practice
•possible project: Ian Hamilton Finlay garden theory/poetics book
•possible project: Ruskin & the modernists book (has anyone already done this, aside from the collection of essays that came out a few years ago?)
This kind of dopey resolution-making is usually reserved for New Year's, I guess. Tax day seems just as convenient.


Archambeau said...

Robinson Crusoe? When Ian Watt describes it, I like it. When I read it, I want to hit myself on the head with a 2 by 4 until I go numb. "And so I began to fashion a spoon out of a palm frond and two pebbles [12 page description of spoon-making] ... but then I misplaced said spoon, and began again, taking up another palm frond and two choice pebbles [another 12 pages of description]." I just don't have the patience for reality-effects...

Vance Maverick said...
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Vance Maverick said...

acquire a real knowledge of music – learn to read, that is, maybe take up a classical instrument (this was supposed to happen this January, but...); learn jazz, learn to hear Romantic period "classical" musicI envy you the project. I'm tempted to offer you suggestions on the latter (Bruckner 9!), but such things are not hard to come by.