Who goes with Fergus?

Who goes with Fergus?

W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
Who will go drive with Fergus now, 
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade, 
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow, 
And lift your tender eyelids, maid, 
And brood on hopes and fear no more. 

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars, 
And rules the shadows of the wood, 
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

The Second Coming

The Second Coming

W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, 
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Sailing to Byzantium

Sailing to Byzantium

W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Guillermo del Toro conceived of a faceless creature called Pale Man for his film Pan’s Labyrinth. Seeing a 20/20 ABC special about The Slender Man incident, I was reminded of Pale Man. The Slender Man is a character that was conceived on the Internet and once it began, other people contributed images and stories until it took on a life of its own. 2 12-year old girls in Wisconsin attacked a friend, also a 12-year old girl, and stabbed her 19 times. Luckily she survived but the girls confessed they tried to kill her to appease The Slender Man. After stabbing their friend they were found walking towards a forest 5 miles away where they believed The Slender Man had a mansion. An article I then saw said that The Slender Man phenomenon was a manifestation of The Gutenberg Parenthesis.

The concept of a “Gutenberg Parenthesis”—formulated by Prof. L. O. Sauerberg of the University of Southern Denmark—offers a means of identifying and understanding the period, varying between societies and subcultures, during which the mediation of texts through time and across space was dominated by powerful permutations of letters, print, pages and books. Our current transitional experience toward a post-print media world dominated by digital technology and the internet can be usefully juxtaposed with that of the period—Shakespeare’s—when England was making the transition into the parenthesis from a world of scribal transmission and oral performance.

An excerpt and a link to A Transrealist Manifesto by Rudy Rucker

A Transrealist Manifesto
by Rudy Rucker

In this piece I would like to advocate a style of SF-writing that I call Transrealism. Transrealism is not so much a type of SF as it is a type of avant-garde literature. I feel that Transrealism is the only valid approach to literature at this point in history.

The Transrealist writes about immediate perceptions in a fantastic way. Any literature which is not about actual reality is weak and enervated. But the genre of straight realism is all burnt out. Who needs more straight novels? The tools of fantasy and SF offer a means to thicken and intensify realistic fiction. By using fantastic devices it is actually possible to manipulate subtext. The familiar tools of SF — time travel, antigravity, alternate worlds, telepathy, etc. — are in fact symbolic of archetypal modes of perception. Time travel is memory, flight is enlightenment, alternate worlds symbolize the great variety of individual world-views, and telepathy stands for the ability to communicate fully. This is the “Trans�? aspect. The “realism�? aspect has to do with the fact that a valid work of art should deal with the world the way it actually is. Transrealism tries to treat not only immediate reality, but also the higher reality in which life is embedded.



Magical Realism

The term was coined by German art critic Franz Roh in 1925. Subsequently borrowed to refer to Literature, its meaning went through a metamorphosis. The term is now most closely associated with Gabriel García Márquez, Author of One Hundred Years of Solitude. In this book, events are described for the most part realistically, but magical, mythical, and occult elements are introduced, often without explanation. This gives the reader the feeling that these things are everyday occurrences in the world the novelist has created, not worthy of an explanation. You should just accept them.

Examples of Magical Elements in One Hundred Years of Solitude are for instance, there is a single narrator, a family member, though the events chronicled cover a century—more than the average life span. The solitude is the result of life in colonial times, when distances to other colonies was great. The family lives cloistered in their own little bubble. Incest is therefore a recurrent theme, and the fear that a misbegotten deformed child with a pig’s tail will be born as a result hangs over them like a guilt-ridden cloud. Another magical element in the book is some of the characters seem to parallel mythical characters, or characters from native folklore. They would seem to inhabit both worlds simultaneously.

Following in the wake of Marquez were many other South American Authors, such as Isabel Allende, who wrote The House of Spirits, and was incidentally the daughter of Socialist leader Salvador Allende, overthrown by the CIA in a black bag operation. Just from the title, The House of Spirits, you know that magical elements will be present. Though not called a Magical Realist per se, South American Author and Critic Borges could be mentioned hear. Extremely well read, his writing, especially his tales and short stories, are always infused with a dose of mystery, magic, and the mythical. His Literary Criticism is very perceptive, especially when writing about Edgar Allan Poe or others of his ilk.

Science Fiction shares a lot in common with Magical Realism, except that in Science Fiction, the fictional world is scientifically possible, but strange, and mundane reality is sprinkled in to give it more validity. Both genres contain realistic and magical elements, but in different proportions. On the subject of Science Fiction I feel I should mention the work of Philip K. Dick, whose books transcended the Science Fiction genre, while maintaining loyalty to its basic precepts. There are, besides the gee whiz gizmos of Science Fiction, also occult, religious, and paranormal elements. Things that go beyond the realm of Science. Dick’s final novel was about a character based on Bishop James Pike, Bishop of the Episcopalian Church in San Francisco, who died in the desert near the Dead Sea„ searching for ancient scrolls of apocryphal gospel. Philip K. Dick was a personal friend of the Bishop and also had a keen interest in such quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore. Dick himself had a religious vision, or a series of strokes—perhaps both, in February and March of 1974. Of course, Dick also experienced extremely altered states of consciousness from the rampant experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs that was going on at that time. One of his books was composed in consultation with the I Ching, the Book of Changes.

Speaking of which, another Science Fiction Author who practiced the Literary Style of Magical Realism was Rudy Rucker, who was a Bay Area Mathematics Professor. He read an obscure but brilliant first novel by a student at the college where he taught mathematics, William J. Craddock, that was titled Be Not Content. This novel chronicles the late 60s from the epicenter of the cultural shift, San Francisco, beginning just before the Summer of Love, but ending in the winter of our discontent. Rudy Rucker, by now an established Sci Fi Author with his own publishing company, found Craddock’s widow and published this out of print tome. He said it had initially inspired his own writing, and he called the style a kind of Magical Realism, but Rucker called his Literary Style Transrealism, as espoused in his 1983 essay, The Transrealist Manifesto. Rudy Rucker coined the term after reading Philip K. Dick’s book, A Scanner Darkly, but in the notes about why he chose to publish Be Not Content by William J. Craddock, he also cites it as an early inspiration. Though not perhaps his most Transrealist work, but his most successful Science Fiction would be the books in the Ware Tertrology: Software (1982), Wetware (1988), Freeware (1997), and Realware (2000). As for Transrealist novels, there is White Light (1980), and The Hacker and the Ants (1994). His most recent book is Turing and Burroughs (2012) where Beat Writer William S. Burroughs is a character who morphs into a chimeric, telepathic slug.

With this broader definition of the term, Magical Realism, or Transrealism, although I think this example has been called Post Post Modernism by some critics, is Infinite Jest and other books by David Foster Wallace. Add to this illustrious list, Thomas Pynchon, J.G. Ballard, Margaret Atwood, John Barth, Joanna Russ, and James Tiptree Jr.

The novels of Haruki Murakami seem to me a prime example, especially The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and 1Q84.

There are other writers I could mention, but in a lot of ways, this “stuff” all goes back to the ideas of Carl Jung. Carl Jung was a psychiatrist who broke with Freud over certain disagreements the men had. I think that Freud was a brilliant thinker who had some ideas about how the mind works, but in some ways, was just wrong. Jung had a better understanding, but more than that, was open to the idea of magic, God, synchronicity-so much that Freud rejected if it could not be scientifically proven. Freud dismissed for instance the I Ching as superstitious mumbo jumbo while Jung was very intrigued by it, and even coined the term Synchronicity to describe meaningful coincidences that happen more than is statistically possible. His thoughts on religion, myths, and the collective unconscious would be extended by Joseph Campbell in such books as The Hero With 1,000 Faces that was used by George Lucas in conceiving of the updated hero myth of Star Wars. Freud was a pioneer of psychology and broke the ice, as it were, in interpreting dreams and other psychological phenomenon, resulting from repressed sexual urges. Since this was such a dicey topic, he felt he needed scientific facts to back him up. He didn’t have time for the mystical and he felt, superstitious investigations of Jung. However, when dealing with the mind, sometimes the subconscious mind can be a more powerful force than the conscious mind. As time goes on, more and more Writers and Artists, as well as Philosophers and Theologians, are exploring the ideas of Carl Jung.

What Do You Think of Austen?

I have a friend on Twitter who is hopefully in her last semester of college before graduation. She is very intelligent and creative, (as well as a whole host of superlatives such as kinky, sexy, cute, beautiful, young, and delicious) and might be an English Major, judging by some of her tweets. Anyway, whatever she is majoring in will probably not immediately translate into a high paying career with a big corporation. I want to give her a little advice about how to make the most of her college days and avoid some of the pitfalls that befell me.

First off, don’t alienate your professors by making facile comments on the first day of class, attacking who might very well be their pet author. When your professor asks “what do you think of Austen?” I guess you shouldn’t say “is for women who don’t know how to make themselves cum.” At least not on the first day. Especially if your professor is a woman, because Jane Austen is one of the best novelists of all time—male or female—and a female professor will no doubt have a special place in her heart for Jane. This should have given you a chance to bond with her, to take up her cause, which could very well be that women authors are not given their due. You could have been two sisters with a common cause, perhaps you could be the Emily to her Charlotte Brontë? But instead you make a snarky comment that doesn’t even seem to have any basis. If I had been given such an opportunity I would have said:

"I think Jane Austen is a great novelist. A book like Pride and Prejudice might on the surface seem to be a gossipy romance novel about matchmaking but it actually offers deep psychological insight into the human condition. It is also somewhat subversive in how it questions the role of women in society, especially as it relates to class. Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman he thinks is beneath his class, and will have to overcome pride and prejudice if he is to be happy with a woman he loves. Elizabeth Bennett is the most perceptive character, and the third person narrator would seem to be an extension of Elizabeth, or at least an older, wiser version of Elizabeth who looks at herself and the other characters and comments on them with just a touch of irony. For these reasons Jane Austen still attracts a wide and devoted following even after two centuries have passed since it was first published in 1813.

Bam! Easy “A” even if you slack off for the rest of the semester. If your comments are met favorably you could add:

Sense and Sensibility was an earlier effort and is a bit awkward in some aspects, like the plot, but it still shows the brilliant developing style that I like to call Austentatious (pun on ostentatious fully intended). That last bit might be gilding the lily, but if you have the green light to expand, feel free to use it. Brace yourself for some groans, but are they groaning at you or with you? This shows a little qualified criticism os Sense and Sensibility, but you see, it isn’t really knocking Jane Austen, just saying that her first efforts weren’t as good as her peak achievements.

If this opens up the discussion give a chance for other students to chime in, paying particular and close attention to your professor’s reactions. If the topic broadens to other female authors you could say something about how George Elliott was also a brilliant female author, yet she felt compelled to use a male pseudonym in order to be taken seriously. Middlemarch is a really long Victorian novel that is also stunningly brilliant in the ways that Jane Austen’s novels are. Middlemarch could also be taken as a gossipy romance novel about matchmaking, that also offers keen psychological insight on a whole town full of richly drawn characters, and is also subversive about the role of women. Would the reading public have taken it as seriously if the name attached to it was Mary Ann Evans?

Throw in a mention of Edith Wharton and The House of Mirth and The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and like I said, you are virtually assured of an easy “A” even if you slack off for the rest of the semester, provided that you ascertain that “women writers are not given their due” is your professor’s particular axe to grind, which was no doubt the sub text behind her asking what you thought of Austen. Don’t be afraid to cry “Virginia Woolf.”

I have only read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by Austen, but I will get around to her other books as soon as I finish War and Peace and the nine volumes we refer to as Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. I am more than half way through War and Peace, and heartily reccomend it, though it is 1,136 pages long. You really feel like it is a great accomplishment and validates your entire existence. It isn’t even that hard to read, as you get caught up in the grand spectacle of the war with Napoleon, and the trials and tribulations of Boris and Natasha, and of course that lovable bastard Pierre. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the Russian names can be confusing, but by page 666 you should have the situation well in hand.

In college there are some great professors and some not-so great. The great ones will inspire you and see the spark of creativity in you that could possibly be kindled into a conflagration. You might be called on the carpet for making a mistake in basic grammar, like I was for using “it’s” as a possessive pronoun in a poem when it should have been “its.” I was embarrassed but I never made that mistake again. I would consider that professor to be one of the good ones, and I also got a lot of insight into great poetry from him. He had associated with a lot of the Beat Poets, and also Bukowski, so there were a lot of interesting anecdotes.

Other professors seem very bitter that they could never write that novel, or maybe published one that was promising but then frittered away their talent after securing a cushy teaching job with tenure. No matter what you do, they just don’t seem to ‘get’ you, but there is a lesson to be learned here, and you could either file it under “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” or “don’t cast ye your pearls before swine.”

Mark 12: 17
And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Matthew 7:6
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Sometimes worse than the professors though are the other students who will attack your thinly veiled autobiographical short stories because they aren’t politically correct. This is bound to happen, especially if you are supporting your education through sex work or your idea of leisure activity is more than vanilla. Pay no attention to these critics, as none of them will ever amount to anything. Sex sells, and stories about Politically Correct robots are unreadable. Borrrrrrr-ing!

Lastly, even if your professor isn’t really that good they still deserve a modicum of respect. They don’t come to where you work and knock the cock out of your mouth, and you shouldn’t do that to them, either.