Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cut Glass

(And Some Fishiness)

One thing I'd like to remind folks hesitating to dip their feet in the water: if you choose not to, then you’d be sorry, and if you choose to, then also you’d be sorry.

You moved mountains to get to the ocean; now’s not the time to have second thoughts and think about the waysides.

The point is to move on with every passing moment, to go with the moment.

But before all that: we all have our crises, we all hit patches, and we all stay low for a long while. While we do, everything passes over our heads, and we are the wretched of the planet. Nothing sinks in. Nothing we do or eat is tasteful, we’re vegetables; worse, we’re vermin. But we have recollection of once being men.

I call to that hoary past and tell you: the time will pass, it will all come back. Like we need memories for commemoration (we never really felt anything when we lived like men in that hoary past, did we), we need this low life, this low fling, because we need to be reminded of our bellies and our lower parts which stick so low.


The point, as I’ve said before, is to move on. This is not very difficult. It just means you act, and not think about what you’ve only just done. You have to follow action with action, not with a covering thought or an afterthought. You follow action with another action and keep at it.

Of course, you will achieve nothing except a well-deserved rest for your overworked brain. Perhaps, as a side-effect, you will chance upon that rhythm, that rhythm of heart and soul.

You made certain unworthy surmises about your future as a writer. First of all I’d like to ask you what you think about a writer like Mr G, or a writer like Heidegger. (The choice is deliberate.) Writing is just another profession. I want to know if you want to write for business (more like my style) or as a professional.

Prose contra Poesie

If you choose the latter path, then obviously you’d be a poet. My knowledge of poetry is rather scant. But my idea goes something like this right now: what we get on the paper is a transcription made under duress. It is done for the publisher, with an immediate intention of some remuneration (a needy family, perhaps) or fame, and obviously it will have to be either totally new as a genre or fall neatly into a niche (in which case you’d have to have published something earlier). And so on. Of course, it will have a subject or many subjects and it will be personal. Since we sit on top of an every-rising mountain of shit (composed of the decomposing excrement of previous generations as well as that of those in office), our nostrils have to be suitably electroplated, with increasing thickness of noble metal, to provide a suitable environment to thrive. But our brains can be no heavier than 1.5 kg, and it has remained so for the past 10,000 years with no respite in sight. As a poet, your contribution to this shit-mountain would be negligible and you can rest easy. (I would like to bring to your attention two novels, situated oppositely in terms of quality but co-sited in terms of length: Avakaasikal and Jean Christophe, each of which would be around 4500 printed pages). Your sin would be slight. (But there is a possibility of a few lines doing lasting damage, like ‘Thou shalt not steal...’ than whole tomes like those of the aforesaid Christophe which remain secure, unread.)

Health Mix

You and I represent two specific issues facing the writer. I write fantastic things and groan about having nothing to write about (really, I haven’t anything to write about, as I have to manufacture literally every miserable particle of my shitload). The whole thing is conjecture with nothing to connect it to real incidents or reality. It’s truly fantastic in which I place my current dilemmas. You read it and make the connection (perhaps others would, too). Nobody reads me like you do and gets such a wonderful thrill out of it. My writing is so closely tuned to your antennae, and your reading sensibility always reveals possibilities of which I’d never thought of. To tell you the truth, you find “depth” precisely in those ‘natural’ passages, passages where I let myself go, those flowing passages which I write in spite of me. These come to me while I am writing; these are not the passages which I set out to write. They just happen. In those sequences I’ve run away completely from my existence, from my real life, and am just spending time with those characters, as those characters. I act out both and all the parts. It is a complete displacement—spatial and temporal. This happens seldom, but it does happen. This is the crux of storytelling. Sometimes I get it; but since I don’t have a grand design for a big novel or story, since I have no agenda, my stories seldom tell stories. I am quite happy with the little patches that stand out. And sometimes, if I’m sufficiently deep in the water, I go ahead and stretch the episode (‘Bangalore’). This pattern you are familiar with, and this has become my style. I’m not entirely responsible for this style; it evolved constantly with a lot of factors, of which one significant was you, the reader.

I think this has come by degrees. You read me first at least twelve years ago. You picked it up fast, because, somehow, my style attracted you and actually got you interested in reading (I’d like to think I was one of those factors which got you really interested in reading—not that I was up to much, but rather the good vibes for a fellow sufferer who found the words). But what you saw in 1997 was the tip of an accidental monument I've been carving since 1986. I'm an old man, been a writer these 21 years.


When I first saw you, you were a painter. I think C had a few commissions for you, painting stuff on T-shirts and flags and so on. My recollections of you, for a long time, were those of a painter. I think you’re a first-class painter (I really don’t care about technique), you really did have a fine balance of technique and imagery (N was 90% technique and 10% imagery). I also noted your deep, serene, brown eyes (your eyes are a very mellow tea-brown, my eyes look like trash). I also noted your serene eyebrows, the repository of your great calm.

Les proc├Ęs

If you ask me, everything else—music, poetry, literature—is an acquired taste, in your case. I think, from my first impression, you are closer to a painter in sensibility. (I never saw myself as writer; I was always a philosopher and will be. I will also make the claim that I am a first-class philosopher in any company, a claim that I can substantiate anywhere as long as I understand the language being used.) We all relate to things in that basic frame of mind. That ‘basic’ frame is actually not a simple. It depends on all our propensities. For me it is philosophical, logical, linguistic, scientific, rational, political, and a lot many other things suggested by the ‘trace’ of the thing in question. My comprehension of that ‘word’ (allow me) would be based on these, and other, more practical, considerations which are in turn tempered by my awareness. It’s a gut feeling; only, when we express it in words, it becomes such a monstrous complex. ‘Comprehension’ happens in a jiffy, and is connected with all these aromas.


So much for the ‘sensing’. It’s when we describe (transcribe) that we run into problems. This is where we have to explicitly make a choice as to how we want it to look. I choose prose because it’s best suited for showing-off my multifaceted brilliance (heh!); also you can easily drop off a lot of shit (‘it’s only prose’) at a later date without breaking into a sweat. And, more importantly, it’s the easiest thing, and easily what most literate people find easy to assimilate. I was lucky in that I built my expertise in a thing which was both easy and popular. (And remember those 21 years.) I read prose exclusively, and wrote; one thing added to another and the other was crowned by the glory of vanity and ego.

I guess, with poetry, exactly the opposite applies. You think up a lot of things or you register a lot of things on a field trip or out on a walk; you somehow “shorthand it” or mentally-type-it. Somehow you retain a trace of it. At your leisure you transcribe it, voluminous, trying to recall. And then, you reduce, condense, clarify. You go through several iterations of this, and explore uncharted territory because in the harmony of sound, idea and feeling, your individual production will give rise to poetic insight and poetic opportunity that are never present in a real, tactile reality.

The Cut and the Draw

The stage between ‘registering’ and transcribing—that big yawn—is what determines the final form of the poem—symbolist, surreal, experimental, typographic. Every poet is an individual. The different nooks and corners he has explored will always matter. As he seldom has the luxury of ‘other voices,’ poetry is seldom secular or neutral. You will have to take a stance. Every poem aligns you with something or somebody, you cannot hide behind different identities because modern poetry is essentially a monologue—no more illusions. By necessity a poet has to be honest to his self and true. By definition, this excludes me because I change so often. To me, the most expendable thing is the opinion I hold. And I have nothing but opinions; nothing is really hard and fast with me unless I have paid for it.

And this, by definition, includes you—you are true and you never really change. You always come back to the same ‘fundamental truths.’

For me, the truth does not exist. If anything, this fact simplifies things. Without truth, there is nothing permanent, and all we have are conveniences which can—and will—change.

And we are both right—unfortunately.

General Mongering, As Usual

I see truth as external; our ‘internal truths’ do not matter, as we communicate to the world exclusively through our actions (as anyone knows, this itself is an assumption, which hinges upon our definition of ‘action’). So it is the external truth that I always speak about (whatever ‘external truth’ means—maybe, truth or ‘human nature’ for other people, or absolute scientific truth, which is another absurdity). It is a fictitious constant, and so, by definition, illusory. It is the infinity in my logical firmament.

You see truth as internal, as representing your own contradictions and moral confusion. This is an inclusive view of truth: you are defined by your honesty, your truth, and the ‘you’ is enclosed completely. To survive meaningfully, ‘you’ have to define and substantiate, and constantly corroborate, the ‘truth.’ It is an absolute, all-encompassing, godlike truth.

In other words: truth does not matter to me, whereas it is all that matters to you. For me, it will always be an ideal, and I wouldn't insist upon it. For you, it's a living presence, and it should pervade your being otherwise you'll be miserable.

It’s often a question of which mask suits you best at any one time. But for some, it’s not a question of changing masks; for you, it’s not a mask at all. Which is why you paint, and I draw (—there's always the eraser).


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