Streaks of Light

Existential Fiction History Music Nature Poetry Psychology Reading Russian Technology Visual Art

1. "Our main leisure activity is, by a long shot, participating in experiences that we know are not real." A good Chronicle of Higher Education piece by Paul Bloom about what it means for humans to have the capacity to imagine. We often use terms like "imagine" and "dream" in a sort of gushy hopey way -- "follow your dreams" and all that -- but it's also worth pondering at the phenomenological level the fact that this mechanism, this remnant of existence called "imagination", has immense presence and power in our lives.

2. Very cool: a forensic astronomer has identified the meteor shower that inspired a poem by Walt Whitman. "What," Walt asks, "am I but one of your meteors?"

3. Okay, so ... because I am interested in e-book formats and also because I like Guns 'N' Roses, I followed GalleyCat/EBookNewser's cue and spent $4.99 downloading a new "Vook" -- a video-enabled book/app hybrid -- for my iPod Touch based on Reckless Road: Guns N' Roses And The Making Of Appetite For Destruction by Marc Canter. My verdict? The book is "eh", the Vook integration sucks. I thought I'd get rare live footage of the band, but instead I get lots and lots and lots of talking head interviews exactly like VH1 "Behind the Music", interspersed with text passages that stand awkwardly next to the video segments, generating no chemistry whatsoever. As far as technological innovation goes, there's not a damn thing in this presentation that you wouldn't have gotten on a Voyager CD-Rom in 1995, when Voyager CD-Roms were the hot new thing.

4. Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky has died.

5. Another angle on literary tattoos: they're Penguin's latest concept for cover art. Very nice.

6. I'm liking a blog called Pens With Cojones more and more.

7. Sometimes I make fun of trendy novelists with fancy MFA degrees. Why? Because there are so damn many of them. This list of writers "with credentials" is not the whole point of D. G. Myers' article about regional writing, but the list is rather eye-opening.

8. Sonya Chung at the Millions on breaking up with a book, mid-read. Oh, can I ever relate to this. Like Sonya, I've been heartless to many, many books.

9. Mitchelmore on reading: "... if Heraclitus is right, then that second reading is impossible. The second reading will always be the first and therefore blind. The second reading will always be the book to come. I have not read Roberto Bolano's 2666. I will never read Roberto Bolano's 2666."

10. The Map Room: a weblog about maps.

9 Responses to "Streaks of Light"

by Mayowa on

Thank you for the mention Mr. Asher. I enjoy your posts tremendously and I am glad you found some entertaining reading on my blog.

I applaud those who have attempted 2666. I went through the first twenty pages whilst sitting in the aisles of my local library. Despite Bolano's brilliance, the size and oft mentioned span of the thing was quite a deterrent. There are too many books and too little time, picking up a heavyweight like this one is no less than a comittment.

Ms. Chung's post was spot on. I never made it through The Corrections even though I was in awe of its mastery for most of our time together. Another unforgivable unfinished novel? Things Fall Apart by fellow Nigerian Chinua Achebe...woe is me.

Did you create the comet illustration, Levi? Isn't that Orion on the left?

by Levi Asher on

You're welcome, Mayowa -- glad you showed up to let me know about your site.

Bill, I did not do that artwork -- it's one of the artworks in the slide show on the link about Walt Whitman and the meteor. But yeah, you're right, that is Orion. Still doesn't look much like a hunter to me, but it's Orion.

by TKG on

"Now, however, a young writer settles upon a literary career by attending a graduate writers’ workshop where she will be instructed in a curriculum that varies little from school to school"

Yes, eye opening. And it explains a lot.

Remember that old PiL song Careering?

When will music go this way -- that for example Guns and Roses wouldn't ever get a contract because the bands all have to go through MFA programs in rock and roll.

by Dan on

Regarding number 7 - For all the arts except writing, you have to go to school to learn the fundamentals. Writers learn the fundamentals at an early age both by learning to read and write and by reading voraciously. I'm sure there must be or have been a great writer who went to a grad school program, but I can't think of any. As you indicated, you get volumes of bland tripe with all the sharp edges cut off, not literature.

Two recent writers have enraptured me: Roberto Bolano and Olga Grushin. Neither got an MFA.

"Do the colleges stifle writers?"
"Not nearly enough of them."

-- Flannery O'Conner

by Shelley on

I believe Gore Vidal once said that students from an early age should be given absolutely no encouragement to write literature.

Then only those meant to do it, would.

by BOSCUTTI on

Ah yes, the rivers of imagination.

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