Thoughts on Thoughts

File:The Thinker, Rodin.jpg

“Though thought may incorporate other material, such as images, it seems to be predominantly linguistic…

Thoughts are often fragmentary and frequently condensed or elliptic: Many things are left unsaid, and the dots are not joined.

This presents a challenge to novelists who want to deliver a character and her world entirely through interior monologue. Our consciousness, after all, doesn’t have to tell itself many things that readers may need to know in order to follow the plot.”

Raymond Tallis on “The Voices Within” by Charles Fernyhough (WSJ, Books, Sat/Sun, October8–9, 2016.)

 

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Did You Know?

The Japanese language does not include swear words.

‘Perhaps profanity’s ascendancy will eventually bore people into finding new and more interesting ways to express themselves. For now, however, anyone hoping to escape the triumph of what was once called “gutter talk” should either lance hie eardrums or consider relocating to Japan.’

— “Salty Oaths and Bloody Words” by Dave Shiflett, WSJ, Books, Sat/Sun, Sept 17–18, 2016

“About suffering they were never wrong”

David Lehman’s essay on W.H. Auden’s ekphrastic poem.

“I teach poetry in the graduate writing program of the New School in New York,” says David Lehman, “A favorite prompt of mine is to read “Musée des Beaux Arts” and other poems about paintings. Then I suggest that the students visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and write about Brueghel’s sublime depiction of summer, “The Harvesters.” Try it—not in competition with Auden (you can’t win), but with Auden’s marvelous poem as your model.”

My two cents:

Don’t be intimidated by “you can’t win.” Try itnot in competition with anybody, except perhaps yourself. Go ahead, and write your own marvelous poem.

 

The essay was featured in The Wall Street Journal, Review, Sat/Sun, May 14-15, 2016.

Confucius et al., and Anne R. Allen

On the paralyzing effect of “concrete, defined plans for life,” the glory of change, and the liberating power of play and experimentation.

“The talents and weaknesses we are born with get in the way if we allow them to determine what we can and cannot do. The only thing you really need to be good at is the ability to train yourself to get better.”

— Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh (with a nod to Xunzi), from “The College of Chinese Wisdom,” The Wall Street Journal, Review, Sat.–Sun., April 2–3, 2016

“Having fun and letting yourself play can be the key to unlocking that box and freeing your creativity from the beliefs you don’t even realize are keeping you trapped inside.”

— Anne R. Allen, from the post “We are All Prisoners or Our Unexamined Beliefs: Is a False Belief Holding Back Your Writing Career?”

 

 

“Stop!” vs. “Desire of Liberation”

“…an aspect of the ‘Kamasutra’ that has been lamentably overlooked is its strikingly modern attitude toward the role of women in sexual relations. One reason for this ignorance is that the text is known almost entirely through the flawed 19th-century English translation of Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Burton can be admired for the courage and determination it took to publish the work at all (it was banned in England and the U.S. until 1962), but he robs women of their voices, replacing direct quotes with reported speech rephrased by a man, thus erasing their vivid presence. For instance, the text says that, when a man strikes a woman, ‘She uses words like ‘Stop!’ or ‘Let me go!’ or ‘Enough!’ or ‘Mother!’ Burton translates it like this: ‘She continually utters words expressive of prohibition, sufficiency or desire of liberation.’

— Prof. Wendy Doniger, author of “Redeeming the Kamasutra” and a translation of the “Kamasutra” (with Sudhir Kakar); The Wall Street Journal, Sat/Sun, March 19-20, 2016

“…just let the mind wander”

“What Victor and others with his dementia can teach us is that the key to creativity might lie in our ability to suspend conscious scrutiny, if only for a moment, and just let the mind wander.”

“Dementia and the Keys to Creativity” by Dr. Sternberg, The Wall Street Journal, Review, Saturday/Sunday, February 20–21, 2016

“Sometimes, I think, it’s puzzle-solving…”

“…I want to make good English sentences but without losing the particular voice of the Italian writer. I can’t explain how it happens. I think it has to do with staying pretty close to the original.”

— Ann Goldstein, head of the copy department at the New Yorker magazine, “accidental” book translator

“Her name on a book now is gold.”

— Robert Weil, editor-in-chief of Liveright

“A Book Translator Becomes A Star” by Jennifer Maloney, The Wall Street Journal, Arena, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016