Friday, November 11, 2005

I'm fascinated by the firsts of things. Or maybe I should say the origins. Like the first person ever to have come up with the idea of a novel, and then sat down and wrote it, and succeeded at that. There probably wasn't one first, but many simultaneously, but still, the one who became known for it (you can see my history of literature is limited), how'd HE get the idea?(sorry, but I'm just guessing it was a man)? I mean, some days when I'm struggling with a short story or something (which is most of the time), and I read one done by a master, like Joyce or Conrad or Calvino, I think "Who was teaching them??" Where'd they GET it? Divine Gift? Master teacher? Guru? Booze-Muse?

I guess it doesn't matter. I was just thinking about it. About how at various times in a civilization there are protocols and methods and accepted standards for things that must be learned. Any time I teach a class or write an article on craft at the back of my mind I'm always thinking, "says who?" I mean, sure, says E.M. Forster, The Chicago Manual of Style, and the masses who turn out when a particular formula is reached, but's weird. It's a big feedback loop isn't it? A product/idea/set of standards is put forth, and the people, we feed back what works for us, and then we say, "give us more of that!" At least in America, where everything is driven by the dollar, then the consumer machine spins its gears and gives those sparkling masses what they are asking for. Do they know why they ask for what they ask for?

There's a science at work here, right. What is this, the study of knowledge itself. Is that epistemology? Crap. I really wish I had been born a little smarter.



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