HEY ROSETTA! (KINTUKUROI)
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about writing, is the way it fosters new connections and ideas through the power of conversation.
They draw many inferences that jibe with what I wrote. Here are some lyrics:
Oh stand in front of me
Open your eyes like you know me
Oh see inside of me
Lay the heels of your hands upon me
And let your fingers fall
Bless the broken bowl
Make it whole, make it better than it was before
Make it better than it was before!
I like the idea of listening to the song while you read the recommendations below, but I’ll leave that up to you, the reader. Speaking of!
REVISING UP YOUR READER (GEORGE SAUNDERS)
I find understanding the process by which art (or really anything) comes into being to be very engaging. Oftentimes I find myself at museums wishing they had all their tools hung beside the paintings, sculptures, etc.
Writing is no different. I’ll admit that writers tend to become inbred at times, writing about writers writing about writing, but still I can’t help appreciating an inside glimpse on creative process.
Here’s one such example. Saunders explores the idea of “revising up” your reader, by which he means to write in a way that gives the reader credit for a certain brilliance.
This is a hopeful notion, because it implies that our minds are built on common architecture – that whatever is present in me might also be present in you. “I” might be a 19th-century Russian count, “you” a part-time Walmart clerk in 2017, in Boise, Idaho, but when you start crying at the end of my (Tolstoy’s) story “Master and Man”, you have proved that we have something in common, communicable across language and miles and time, and despite the fact that one of us is dead.
Another reason you’re crying: you’ve just realised that Tolstoy thought well of you – he believed that his own notions about life here on earth would be discernible to you, and would move you.
Tolstoy imagined you generously, you rose to the occasion.
There is so much I like about this sentiment. Saunders himself may convey it best:
And in revising your reader up, you revise yourself up too.
The article is about a 10 minute read.
NO LAPTOPS AT KIBBITZNEST
There’s a book bar in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago called Kibbitznest that no longer allows laptops. (Oh the pang of self-loathing I’m feeling as I tap away presently on mine!)
They will, of course, loan you a typewriter—of course! They are aspiring to some lofting ideals as a place:
To encourage debate, active participation, independent research, seeing all sides of an issue, participating in and/or enjoying cultural experiences, thinking critically and independently, and the examination of existing theories.
I can’t determine whether this seems pretentious, or if I’m piqued. I think it is the latter, as I feel myself tempted to pay the place a visit. (I’ll report back if I do so.)
She borrows throughout on a nice little essay by George Orwell on his favorite pub “The Moon Under Water“, using it as a plumb line for the consummate public house.
While Kibbitznest is not my Moon Under Water, it comes as close as any place I’ve found in Chicago.
It is worth the 10 minute read, if for no other reason than to trigger your own thinking about those places that breathe life and creativity into you.
AMERICAN LOSS OF INSTITUTIONAL FAITH
Bill Bishop (author of The Big Sort) writes in The Washington Post about the long-declining trust in virtually every American institution: from government to business to religion.
(I.e., this isn’t a Trump-era phenomenon.)
It’s a clunky article, but the graphs are worthwhile to peruse. I did like this thought:
We have become, in Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s description, “artists of our own lives,” ignoring authorities and booting traditions while turning power over to the self. The shift in outlook has been all-encompassing…
Artists of our own lives, indeed.
It’s a 10 minute read and a 5 minute skim.
Here’s a fascinating case study Thomson cites on the origins of the Impressionist canon:
One of the lesser-known impressionists today is Gustave Caillebotte. He collected a bunch of his friends’ paintings if they wouldn’t sell. He was like a buyer of last resort. And he collects six or seven of his friends’ paintings, and he dies in the early 1890s of a stroke in his early 40s. And he bequeaths all of his paintings to the French government. He said, “I want these paintings to hang in the Museum de Luxembourg.” And the museum says, “No, absolutely not.” And there’s a bit of haggling, and finally they decide “Okay, we’re going to hang your estate in the French museum. For the first time, we’re going to have an exhibit dedicated to impressionist art.” There were only seven painters in that exhibit that Caillebotte had collected. Who were those seven painters? Manet, Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Sisely, and Pissarro….
And if you ask art historians today, “Who are the seven canonical French impressionist painters?” they will name the exact same seven. The Caillebotte Seven! What’s amazing about this story is that it suggests a single death in the early 1890s publicly consecrated the impressionist canon.
He argues that luck and distribution have as much to do with works becoming both popular and important as anything.
Hopefully popularity isn’t the only reason we make art!
31 minutes to listen, but you can skip the jibber-jabber of the first 5.