Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Writing Is FUN?

Very few writers believe this, and yet it is quite a common conception among people who don't write, and especially among those who don't even read for pleasure. Why else would anyone do it -- if not to make money? or "have fun?"

Into this conversation we ought to insert one or two of Roland Barthes' little ideas that he set down in The Pleasure of the Text. Not that these ideas will do most non-writers any good whatsoever.

Shall we call them "civilians" ... in the War of Words?

One of Barthes' main ideas seems to be that the pleasure of the text -- of the "dream of reading" -- resembles the pleasure of the species-specific human bonding and imprinting interaction, which coincidentally happens "at the reading distance" between two pairs of eyes. Perhaps I have interpolated this idea from Desmond Morris's book The Naked Ape?

The eyes, they make an 8 shape -- lying on its side. A symbol of infinity.

The Pleasure of the Text is a brilliant short book full of luminously paradoxical and counter-intuitive insights. But in describing the pleasure of the text as an intense experience which can be recognized only as one "wakes up" from it, does Barthes give adequate consideration to he startling implication that "pleasure of writing" -- of creating a text? ... must be even more intense than the pleasure of simply reading a text? that the pleasure of creating a text that makes the world "disappear" for the reader is necessarily a jouissance even more intense for the writer.

But fun?

Not that I mean to imply that the pleasure of the text is one of life's simple pleasures. More likely it is astoundingly complex and intensely erotic. Yet another term we should investigate. But alas, my copy of the great anthology Les Chefs d'Oeuvres de l'Erotisme was jettisoned -- with all my other books, many of them irreplaceable -- by that illiterate rascal, the "painter" -- The Strathmore Stripe-ist Shane Guffogg. While he was divorcing my half-sister Martha Gehman.

Other more or less unreplaceable books in the jettisoned-by-Shane-Guffogg category included

My copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer ...
All my father's books but Gary Cooper...
About twenty of my stepfather Lowell Bair's translations, including Liaisons Dangereuses, The Three Musketeers, and the Bantam dual-language edition of Candide ... along with a manuscript for Delgado's A Tikipan Coule le Rio Chongo ...
Signed copies of two dozen books published by personal friends over the last 30 years ...
My copies of the Tolkien game role-playing manuals I wrote for Irown Crown Enterprises ... The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales...
My almost antique (from the Sixties) two-volume Gourmet and many other cookbooks ... my small Revere ware chili pot.  My three inch butcher block cutting board.
My Abrams Art book about the Woodstock painter Fletcher Martin.
My book of the paintings of Ellsworth Kelly that I got at the Guggenheim show in New York.
The truly irreplaceable last remaining copies of my first two novels, "Upstream to Die" and "Croatan" ...
My science fiction collection containing almost all of Jack Vance and Heinlein ... among other writers.

Total  replacement cost  -- somewhat less than the $3,000 dollars that Shane Guffogg, The Strathmore Stripe-ist owed me at the time and still does owe me for work done around the Courtyard that he never paid for, although he did collect money for the work done from the Courtyard's owner Ed Ruscha.

The Strathmore Stripe-ist!
Because after all, "a stripe is a stripe is a stripe."
Will he ever be more than just another Wall Batterton?  However, Wall Batterton is, after all, not only a better than average painter in his own right, he is also a teacher of painting -- in addition to being a "Friend of Ed."

Of course there are a great many painters in Los Angeles who  who won't rise much above the level of those set decorators whose work has always been so popular with interior design consultants; and most of them probably believe that Roland Barthes is (a) unintelligible or (b) a glibly gibbering  idiotic Francophone "theorist" -- who never wrote a screenplay.  So I say ....

Baja Hollywood Forever!

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