josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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25 Jul '12 07:19:17 AM

What does a writer keep a journal for?

The translator of Musil's Diaries offers more than one interpretation:

'One has the impression that Musil felt that all these authors failed to put in the preparatory studies, the intense observation of human beings, the background training of mind and pen, the deskwork, the back- and mind-breaking effort that was the cross a creative writer ought to bear in order to achieve the standards demanded by Geist—that mental-spiritual continuum in which the greatest writing took shape. Vital to such preparatory studies was the regular work in the Diaries.'

Another follows a description of Musil's slow pace in writing and meticulousness in (extensive, repeated) revision, and a description of how he was 'unusually sensitive to the eyes of others resting on him':

'Musil appears to have felt that writing for publication was worse even than exposing face, clothing, posture to a cameraman. It was exposure of a more intimate kind—of the mind at work. In the Diaries, Musil works not for the public but for himself, his critical threshold is lowered, he writes fluently, spontaneously. He is no longer the buttoned-up, tautly organized author of essays, or reviews, or chapters of the novel, hyperaware that the eyes of the Viennese or Berlin reading public are upon him; this is Musil in relaxed, private mode—he quite often makes mistakes, misspells, gets names wrong; he occasionally lets himself go to the extent that he produces misshapen sentences, his syntax is awkward, even ungrammatical—in short, he is reassuringly human when no one is looking!'

25 Jul '12 12:33:54 AM

'... in small works there is no point in having a mix.'

24 Jul '12 08:31:18 PM

Philosophy inspires little conviction. It is what philosophers do that convinces. And what they do, now, primarily, is write. So I study how they write. The forms that writing takes are emblems of the varieties of conviction: the book, the poem, the sentence, the essay. 'A paper' seems like a form to which conviction is alien. It is a prop in a venerable pantomime, a kind of professional accessory, like a bureaucrat's reports or a detective's case files or a scientist's lab book. Nobody loves a paper.

24 Jul '12 05:06:46 AM

'Few philosophers will still defend this view' is not a philosophical reason.

23 Jul '12 06:50:24 PM

It's not that I dislike 'Sweet Home Alabama', I just don't like it when people like it.

20 Jul '12 06:25:38 PM

Cavell's writing is deeply humane; but unsociable.

He does what he can to be inviting to the reader, but - probably unintentionally - does little to help the reader become a writer, a talker. (I mean: a vector for Cavell's thoughts, carrying them into new conversations, venues, adapting them to new occasions.)

This is one affinity his writing has to literature, which also sometimes hopes to, or does not see anything wrong with, leaving the reader quiet, with nothing (yet) to say to others.

But philosophy is so often sociable.

19 Jul '12 08:30:09 PM

You get the impression that Wizard Rifle think that Lightning Bolt are awesome, maybe sort of annoying, definitely not heavy enough, and decided to do something about it.

19 Jul '12 06:17:43 PM

'... a shift in what we are asked to let interest us...'

18 Jul '12 06:24:27 PM

Maura's best phrase on Idler Wheel is unobtrusive: 'how those emotions came to be'.