Saturday, April 29, 2006

Wordland and Other Thoughts


I know my current diary cannot compete with the adventures that beset us in Mexico, but one must sometimes make bricks without straw, especially when one’s mood disorder persuades one that one is incapable of making a ham sandwich

This third person neutral prose troubles me. What is the proper usage to acknowledge a reading audience today? You may find it will best serve you to speak in the second person. Or is it better when I speak and the audience becomes the thou, and mutual recognition occurs. When one speaks of one doesn’t one seem some faceless automaton who obeys the directives of the audience and writer? There remains it, the more personal third person, he, and the alternative, she, and the most awkward of all, he/she—which I think has thankfully left the language.

(Among languages English is known for its common sense. As a mutation of Germanic and Romance languages, English is endlessly adaptable, unlike French, a language jealously protected from contamination from inferior tongues. If I could write in any language in 2006, I would choose English. What a luxury that it is my native tongue!)

Interesting to consider how these different usages affect the topography of Wordland. I speak of Wordland, of course, the land that language generates in our brains. Now that I am using the first person plural, do we feel more included or does it strike us as an imposition?

Wordland is nothing like reality. In Wordland the sound of a muffled gong at twilight should generate, at the very least, either leather or brass in the reader’s mind. Or not? Please write.

Perhaps the affinity for image generation from language determines the audience for poetry and the best-written prose.

If words paint they do so through the transducer of the brain, integrating the senses, dominated by vision. Much easier to describe a thing than a sound, smell, touch or taste.

If there is a wide range in our ability to transform language into an ersatz sensory experience, unique to each reader, there must also be a Jungian commonality that allows us to speak of written works to each other for purposes of discussion in Wordland.

Here it gets dicier, because it is words interpreting words until a new commonality of terms becomes the playing field. An upper level rink in the Galleria of Wordland, in other words. One must have a tremendous commonality of language simply to agree to disagree. In disagreeing through the common use of language, one is more in agreement than otherwise.

The existence of literary criticism is evidence of a general understanding of language.

Language need not be propaganda, or a puzzle of texts and context, assumptions deconstructionism, which I poorly understand, sometimes implies.

Language need not have an ulterior motive. It doesn’t have to be used. There can be honest language.

I write a blog without remuneration and only the faintest assurance than anyone reads me.

Why, then, do I write? To write. It’s a pleasure to write. If I do well, the thoughts I put on a page eventually assume a life of their own apart from me. I enjoy that. I also enjoy the progress I’ve made as a writer. For most of my life I was primarily a poet, but I have made some strides in prose in the last few years, and this blog, in addition to its therapeutic value, gives me room to practice.

I most envy the prose style of C. S. Lewis, who always makes me feel like just the two of us are sitting by a fire with a glass of port and talking. I don’t know how he achieves such intimacy in prose, but I suspect it has something to do with humility—not my chief virtue.

Recently I’ve been writing about depression. I didn’t e-mail anyone about it because I thought it wasn’t worth reading. But as T. S. Eliot said in our encounter at the end of my essay on his Four Quartets:

CE: Do you think my attempt to make your work more accessible to those who may not be among “the elite” of any value?

TS: I cannot pass judgment on what you undertake. It would be presumptuous. Let the reader decide.

CE: Good advice.

TS: The only advice.

The link to this issue with that essay is, btw:

T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets

(It’s been nearly three months since the publication of Melic’s last issue and no one to date has written me about the Eliot essay. I’m wondering if anyone has yet managed it. If anyone has, I’d like them to know I’ve revised it, especially the muddy “Overview” section, and I’d be happy to e-mail a revised draft to any who wish it. Just write me at with the subject header, “Eliot.”)

As to my mood, I think I am ascending out of the Slough of Despond, so cross your fingers because human kind cannot bear very much reality.

I intended to write today about our landlord, whom we nicknamed “I’m Not Crazy,” and our new neighbor from Manhattan, whom we nicknamed “I’m Not Creepy.” But I’ll save that for tomorrow, along with the Naked Tile Guy I met at an Irish bar tonight. Not to mention the hippie who pinched my nipples there, then ran after me when I was leaving, screaming “I’m not gay! I’m not gay!”—while begging me to slap his face in retaliation, indeed insisting until I touched his cheek with my finger, something he apparently needed for his primitive version of atonement.

I also want to write about the saga of our dog, Kenyon, and our grandson, Jacob. Something occurred between them 21/2 years ago that nearly tore our family apart, and I recently had a healing experience that seemed to put a cap on the trauma.

To be continued....

4/29 I'm Not Creepy and I'm Not Crazy

Why then has our landlord been christened “I’m Not Crazy”?

It’s simple. When we were first applying for tenancy at his little chalet in the redwoods, he would often call before 8 AM, hardly the hour a writer is generally conscious. One morning he called me to discuss the placement of various skirts around a chimney on the roof of his property, going on at length. I told him I was confused but was willing to listen. He concluded the conversation apparently satisfied, not realizing that he was not speaking with his carpenter. Afterwards the phone rang again, but I chose not to answer it, fearing it was he again. So it was. He left a message. “Doc, I’m sorry I called you earlier about construction issues, I want you to know, despite the appearance, that I’m not crazy.”

When a new acquaintance and prospective landlord feels the need to assure you that he is not crazy, the opposite suspicion blossoms. Hence his moniker.

Near us is another residence, one we considered before renting ours, into which a new tenant just moved. I’m Not Crazy warned us that a new tenant might be moving in, and that he hoped we’d get along. I told INC that we would do our best, but that we considered him our village god should any disputes arise. He gave me an anxious smile.

That same day I thought I heard a car, and going out back discovered a man with disheveled white hair that drooping in curls, a five-day beard, and polyester slacks, looking as seedy as a displaced professor. I approached him and he introduced himself. “I’m just killing time,” he said. “I’m just killing time. I hope you don’t mind. This is so beautiful. It’s the only place I’ve applied for. I hope you don’t mind. I’m just killing time.” He was obviously enraptured by the redwoods, but I found his social graces lacking; not that he was offensive, only in a world apart, in a word, creepy. There are better ways to introduce oneself. “Hi, my name is ___, I’ll be your neighbor, how are you? I hope you don’t mind, I’m just enjoying the view of the woods here. It’s really spectacular.”

Now it was none of my business, but seeing as how this man might be destined to be our near neighbor, I called I’m Not Crazy to render an opinion. I told him his prospective tenant seemed a little creepy to me. He responded by saying “We’re all different, you and I are different.” To which I said, “Yes, but although we are different, I don’t think either of us is creepy.” And that was that.

I’m Not Creepy turned out to be from Manhattan, where he just sold his co-op for God knows how much money. He’s been very friendly, just gave us bookcase today that he didn’t need, but his boundaries are shaky, the kind of person who immediately tells you about his most intimate struggles as if you had been bosom friends for a decade. He desperately wanted to tell me about his troubles with the co-op board, etc., etc., and I could have cared less, but he did go through four glasses of wine in less than half an hour while first visiting with us and unabashedly recited his travails back in Manhattan. At least INC seems harmless.

Thine as Always,



  1. Been busy, so I have not had time to leave you a note. Have fun even with the crazy and creepy neighbors. :-)

  2. I'd like to read the Eliot essay but will have to print it out at home as I can't read so much text on a computer. I am not of that generation. Also I laughed about your comment on Keats' "last years," since he was barely out of short pants when he died. Have you visited his house near Hampstead Heath? It is a perfect London excursion when preceeded by a pub lunch and you can see Fanny's mourning ring made of Keats'hair.

  3. Cyn, can you tell me how to link to your blog here? I'm cornfused.


    Still his last years, even if he died die at 25.

    Yup, he just got it near the end. Not that he didn't labor day and night to get there. He, like many of the early Romantics, believed that poetry could change the world. He was a true believer.

    I thought if only I put LSD in Nixon's coffee I might do the same.

    Drugs are obviously more powerful than poetry, so don't laugh.

    I'm going to mail the last Eliot essay to you since I've re-written it and the webmaster of Melic has not formatted the old version correctly as yet in any case.

    Did you go to Memphis with E?



  4. Well.. I do the changing in the template... if you right click on my blog, you will see the code. :-) Or go to blogger for help on links... I am terrible about explaining it. LOL

    It is easier to describe a cloud.


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