So this morning I was at work, ridiculously early, as always, preparing my coffee and my blueberry bagel and wondering about whether there would be any comments on my blog today. (It's very unhip to admit to this, but I've pledged and oath of honesty).
"I recognise this feeling of anticipation, from some deep far away place, What is it? What is it?" I said to the bagel.
"It's like wondering if the tooth-fairy has left coins in your glass of water overnight" suggested the bagel, nervously eyeing the breadknife I had in my other hand.
"Yes" I said "It's a lot like that. But it's also like some other memory or feeling I have."
"Perhaps" said the bagel, playing for time, "It's like when you've planted tomato seeds and you are basically pretty much certain that they won't sprout and then one day you look into the pot and one seedling has started to emerge. And from then you become obsessed with the seeds and check them all the time, just in case another one has made it through."
"Exactly!" I said to the bagel, holding it aloft. "That's exactly what it feels like. You are a very wise bread-based snack."
And then I cut it in half and put popped it in the toaster.
"You know" she says "Something just occurred to me the other day. It's probably pretty obvious, but I'd never considered it before."
"What?" I say.
"Well, you know how when people come back from overseas and they always say 'Oh, everyone was so friendly over there'- so you end up feeling like everyone in the whole world is much nicer than the people around where you live?"
"Well what I realised is that it's actually nothing to do with the people in the other countries. It's to do with the person travelling. Suddenly they have to ask people for help or directions or whatever and when people help them out they think 'Wow, aren't they lovely? Aren't they kind and wonderful people to actually stop and help me out.' "
"You see, they never have to ask strangers for help in their own country because they already know the answers."
(a pause here.)
"What made you think of this?" I ask.
"I gave a tourist directions yesterday and I could see her thinking 'What a nice helpful person she is.' And she would go back home and tell everyone how lovely Melbourne people are, based on the fact that I showed her where the river is."
"You know what the irony of that is, of course."
"That I'm not actually very nice at all?"
I caught the tram into the city this morning and walked up Collins St. Because of the drought the City of Melbourne has turned off all the fountains, including my favourite: the water-wall near the Westin Hotel. Fair enough, of course, but it is terribly sad for a city to have no fountains. It's like a bald fairy princess.
So I walked along, sadly fountainless and thought about some of the things that were discussed at Meetup. I thought about Miss Jen Jen's idea for a new blog and I hope she does it as it seems like a very interesting project.
I also thought about the blog-to-book, book-to-blog discussion. It's a funny thing, that relationship blogs have with print- if someone likes what you do they do tend to say "You should get it published". The fact that it's been eletronically published doesn't really count. Web publishing lacks the tangibility of the book as object. Objects, how we love them. It must be why we buy books and videos rather than just hiring them from libraries. We like to own, to hold.
I've yet to actually read any of these books that have come from blogs, and I must admit I feel a little sceptical about how well they would work. It is such a different format. And then there are the books that have been "serialised" and made into blogs. For some reason, this seems more likely to work to me, but I guess it would depend on the text. Dickens would translate well into a blog. And I'd love to see Shonagon's Pillow Book done as a blog, especially one with graphics as well.
Miss Jen Jen raised an interesting point about writers who are given book contracts based on their blog writing (must remember to ask her who in particular). I wonder if this is just a temporary phenomenon, stemming from a publishing company's frenzied attempts to keep abreast of current trends or if it points the way to a new system? Hmmm.
It's Meetup again tonight and I've yet to decided if I will go. I enjoyed the last one and it introduced me to a whole lot of blogs I hadn't read before, but I'm also starting to freak out about the fact that I'm going away for a month at the end of next week. So much to get done before then. Of course, not going to Meetup in no way guarantees that I'll actually get anything productive achieved anyway.
At uni I avoided all classes that involved any kind of literary theory. I wanted to read books, not books about books. Which is why, 15 years later I am having to get acquainted with material everyone else already knows. Please do forgive..
(from Barthes' essay "The Death of the Author.")
"...writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing."
(I think what interested me about this sentence was the reference to writing as a space- especially as when I write on my blog I very much have the sensation of writing into space which I don't have with writing either on a page or in Word. I'm also interested in what he says about writing as neutral, without identity. I can't really get my head around the idea of writing as destruction of voice- is this because we are ultimately constrained by the limitations of what words exist? And is this therefore true of spoken language too? Am I way off the mark? Probably.)
"We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single 'theological' meaning... but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writing, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture."
"...the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them. Did he wish to express himself, he ought at least to know that the inner 'thing' he thinks to 'translate' is itself only a ready-formed dictionary, its words only explainable through other words, and so on indefinitely."
(This led me to think about the way in weblogs people link to other people's writing to express what they themselves think- a sort of "me too" effect. It's odd to think that you could build up a fairly comprehensive image of what a person is like based purely on what they linked to. A book of clippings. It's hard not to think of the web when you read about a "multi-dimensional space" where you can find "a variety of writing, none of them original." Anyway enough.)
Ah! Someone who felt the same way about Adaptation as I did:
So where does that leave Susan Orlean's "Adaptation" -- a book that obviously means something to Orlean and to the many people who read and enjoyed it? In interviews Orlean has claimed to be happy with the movie. And the reality is, she sold the book and accepted that it was out of her hands. But I still wonder what, in her heart of hearts, she thinks of what Kaufman has done with her book. I didn't write "The Orchid Thief" -- heck, I didn't even read the whole thing -- and even I feel somewhat protective of it. What does it mean when a book's essence becomes subsumed by a screenwriter who thinks his insecurities are more interesting than anything another writer has come up with?
and this too:
But they're essentially throwing up a different kind of barrier between filmmakers and audiences. They're using their smug gimmickry to distance us from our deepest emotions rather than lead us straight into battle with them. Kaufman the beleaguered screenwriter is the star of the show, and its hero. He wants every civilian out there to know that writing, like war, is hell. He should tell it to the Marines. Or maybe he should just tell it to Susan Orlean.
I met up with Jill and Jenny on Friday night which was lots of fun. I think that perhaps that I was afraid that meeting face-to-face would be weird and difficult, but I found it easy and highly enjoyable. Thieu's work bonding day finished early and he came along too. He got a chance to use his Norwegian on Jill which made him happy.
I spent the rest of the weekend reporting facts about Norway to Petite:
"Did you know there's only 4 million people in Norway?"
"Did you know that in Norway they give the school kids reflective vests to wear to school because in winter it's still dark at 8:30?"
"Did you know they make bolognaise sauce out of whale meat in Norway?"
I was thinking about the set of circumstances that lead us to being there that evening, how oddly chancey and coincidental it all seems-
I found Jill's site via a Google search and emailed her to be included on her list of research blogs
Jenny interviewed Jill and found out about blogging through her, then started up her own blog
I read Jenny's article this year about Meetup and subsequently joined that group
Bernard Lane wrote a piece about Melbourne Meetup and linked to me
Jenny read the article and found my site
And then a few months later there we all were eating pizza at the Blue Train.