Het Einde, Jeroen Theunissen

De boodschap die Jeroen Theunissen — okee, de verteller van diens roman Het Einde — ons aan het slot meegeeft: (in parafrase): blijf nee zeggen, blijf je verzetten, dat is wat de mens tot mens maakt. Ga door. Blijf geloven in een ander happy end dan die ons worden beloofd. Het staat er zo bijna plompverloren in een boek dat ook verder de grote thema’s (rampen, klimaatverandering) niet schuwt en intelligent inhaakt op het huidige theoretische discours, dat ik toch moest denken aan het einde van Beckett’s Unnamable. (Is dat logisch?) Het Einde gaat over het einde van een liefde (vriendin verlaat hoofdpersoon), het einde van een leven (dromen van upload in cyberspace), en het einde van een tijdperk (global warming). En dan dus het slothoofdstuk met bovenstaande strekking.

Dit is serieuze literatuur, die serieus genomen wil (en moet) worden. (Al valt er te lachen). Ik heb genoten van dit boek — het is fijn om een roman te lezen die zo nadrukkelijk inhaakt op het heden en hedendaagse problematiek, waarin dromen van het uploaden van een bewustzijn, het andersglobalisme, de ideeën van Kurzweil en uit de ecologie, vanzelfsprekend voorbijkomen. Het bevalt me stukken beter dan het meeste van de huidige romanproductie (en zeker beter dan het geschrijf van Peter Verhelst — aan wiens laatste roman Theunissen een beschouwing wijdt in de Yang). En toch weet ik het niet. Ik ben niet volledig overtuigd. Om uit te vinden wat er aan scheelt zal ik het boek moeten herlezen (en dat boek ligt in Kanne, terwijl ik nu in Amsterdam ben). Het valt niet logisch op z’n plek mijn — niet ge-expliciteerde — idee over wat een goeie roman is. Te karig? Toch te gestoffeerd? Een te makkelijke verwerking van ‘hippe’ theorie — Kurzweil, Lovejoy?

PS & BTW: wat is dat toch met die mode van de hardbacks? Ik heb echt liever een ingenaaide paperback dan een geplakte hardback.

nl,reading matter | July 29, 2006 | 13:55 | comments (0) |

Culturele dieptepunten…

In de categorie “het moet allemaal niet al te moeilijk zijn, hoor, want dat is niet leuk” laat Neerlands dichter Ingmar Heytze — okee, niet het grootste intellectuele licht van de lage landen — hedenochtend in Volkskrant optekenen dat ie niet door Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (euh, in de vertaling uiteraard) is heengekomen, geen zin heeft in de Safran Foers, maar wel de Harry Potter’s en Dan Browns in een ruk uitleest. Wat een treurigheid. Nu heb ik niks tegen ontspanning (ik lees zelf zo goed als alle boeken over wielrennen), maar als zelfs een dichter ons niet eens meer komt vertellen dat er iets te winnen valt (namelijk: genietingen! verdomme!) door het lezen van, nou, voor mijn part Joyce, Beckett, Foer, — weetikveel — in plaats van Dan Brown en de Pottersen, waar blijf je dan? Zo’n dichter neemt zichzelf en zijn beroep niet serieus. (In evenmin zijn positie als hij door de krant wordt geinterviewd). Punt. En trouwens, tevens symptomatisch voor de VK zo’n stukkie.

Pff. Waar maak ik me druk over? Wat is er tegen een krant met de diepgang van de Libelle of de Nieuwe Revue?

nl,Uncategorized | July 27, 2006 | 15:39 | Comments (13) |

Locke, commonplaces and methods of retrieving knowledge

(Damn, just lost a long post because Safari crashed… Here I go again).

I read John Locke’s A New Method of a Common-Place-Book a few days ago. (E-text here: http://oll.libertyfund.org/Home3/Book.php?recordID=0326). I was quite excited to find out it only deals with his method of indexing and retrieving previously ‘stored’ notes; his ways to deal with paper-techniques to extends one’s own memory.

Actually Locke’s method shows that his commonplace books were no commonplace books anymore, but notebooks. Commonplace books belong to the Rennaissance, and to a world in which rhetorics are predominant. Notebooks belong to the new world of modern science. One deals with constructing arguments the other with arriving at scientific truth. One still puts (human) memory in the centre; the other values reporting and writing down. (To put it bluntly). What I find exciting is to see the co-development of storage & publishing techniques (paper not really being scarce anymore in Locke’s time) and techniques of writing, noticing and researching.

Interesting in this respect are the theories of Richard Lanham about economies of attention and the return of rhetorics in the world of the electronic word (as his book, froom 1993 (!) is called): http://www.rhetoricainc.com/.

A long an thorough paper on Locke’s methods of commonplacing is Richard Yeo’s John Locke’s New Metod of Commonplacing, (2004): http://www.phil.mq.edu.au/staff/jsutton/Yeo.doc. Here’s my digest in quotes.

(All this I find interesting because of the (for me) implied reference to blogging: making notes, research, indexing, use of keywords, referencing, working/writing/publishing methods — and the relation to rhetorics & the use of commonplaces — read: samples).

“I argue that on his own account, Locke extends and complicates the previous functions of these notebooks, making them part of a system for managing information that could be adapted to suit individual purposes.”

“In his influential De Copia (1512), Erasmus offered a manual of examples, advising that themes, quotations and maxims from classical texts be entered under various loci (places) to assist free-flowing oratory.”

“By 1704, the year of Locke’s death, Jonathan Swift (who kept his own commonplace book) regarded the worst applications of the method as part of a syndrome of techniques—including abridging, epitomizing, and indexing—all offering easy ways to skim a book. He dubbed this syndrome “Index learning.” Such abuse of commonplacing was disastrous: “By these Methods, in a few Weeks, there starts up many a Writer, capable of managing the profoundest and most universal Subjects. For, what tho’ his Head be empty, provided his Common-place-Book be full.” The reputation of this humanist legacy had further to fall: by the nineteenth century the term “commonplace” degenerated to refer to ordinary, unremarkable facts or observations—the very opposite of its early modern meaning.”

“yet Cicero stressed that the good orator needed knowledge, not just rhetorical skill: “A knowledge of a vast number of things is necessary, without which volubility of words is empty and ridiculous … the whole of antiquity and a multitude of examples is to be kept in the memory.” This is why the natural powers of memory needed to be augmented, a demand inflated by the humanist passion for “copious” embellishment of material.”

“Bacon affirmed the role of a “good and learned Digest of Common Places”: “The great help to the memory is writing; and it must be taken as a rule that memory without this aid is unequal to matters of much length and accuracy.””

“Between 1500 and 1700 there was a subtle shift in the function of such notebooks: from being repositories of the material that individuals sought to memorize, they came to be seen as ways of retaining information that could never be memorized”

“Thus although material is placed under an appropriate category, or subject, its position in the notebook is determined by alphabetical combinations. Such compression and scattering of related material is tolerable because the index operates as a finding device⎯provided that the maker of the commonplace book remembers the Head under which particular material has been placed.” (Concerning Locke’s notebooks).

“This “topical man,” as Locke pointedly calls him, has a memory full of “borrowed and collected arguments” but usually mixes incompatible elements because he has not thought these ideas through. This stance anticipates several passages in Some Thoughts where Locke ridicules the collection and memorizing of quotations, “which when a Man’s Head is stuffed “with, he has got the Furniture of a Pedant.””

“Locke rarely made marginal notes in his books. Instead, on the inside back cover he noted the pages containing something that he entered in one of his commonplace books. When picking up this book on a subsequent occasion, he then knew that there was already a commonplace book entry.”

“In these ways, Locke’s adversaria and his library catalogue were linked, and so the commonplace method was now part of a sophisticated system for research and information management.”

” For Locke, however, commonplace books are not catalysts for related, yet memorized, material; instead, they are a means of reducing dependence on memory, retrieving references, and avoiding unnecessary duplication in note taking. His method allowed one to forget, thus relieving the memory, and yet also providing a means of finding required material at a later time.”

“Locke used commonplace books in new ways, expanding their scope and transforming them from a rhetorical storehouse into a research tool and a crucial component of his system for managing information.”

” Traditionally, commonplace books contained personal collections of publicly accepted knowledge. The material they stored, usually drawn from the classical corpus, comprised generally accepted tropes, maxims, and quotations that could be applied in oratory and written compositions. Such commonplace material was effective because its status was unchallenged and its authority could, with appropriate skill, be transferred to the particular case being argued.”

“Thus although such commonplaces were collected by individuals in unpublished notebooks, they were intended for public use and relied on widely endorsed values. Indeed, it was assumed that these notebooks could be shared and read with benefit by other educated individuals.” (This is an interesting relation with blogs I’d say…)

“Nevertheless, his [Locke’s] method of indexing does suit a world (described in Le Clerc’s introduction of 1706) in which the ambit of reading and study is expansive, and future topics not easily anticipated. Confessing his own habits, Locke acknowledged a tendency to “change often the subject I have been studying, read books by patches and as they have accidentally come in my way, and observe no obvious method or order in my studies.” Given such a pattern, we can see why he confronted the problem of allocating pages in a notebook.”

“I think that Locke’s account of memory shows why commonplace books are necessary for the proper ordering and retention of ideas; his concerns about disorderly and confused ideas entail the need for methodical collection; and his views on personal identity suggest a role for commonplace books in reinforcing a biographical sense of self.”

“Locke did not see the practice of making entries in commonplace books as a way of improving memory. ”

“In 1704 Locke’s French translator, Pierre Coste, reported that the great philosopher advised that “whenever we have meditated any thing new, we should throw it as soon as possible upon paper, in order to be the better able to judge of it by seeing it altogether; because the mind of man is not capable of retaining clearly a long chain of consequences, and of seeing, without confusion, the relation of a great number of different ideas.””

“The commonplace books gave Locke dedicated pathways to his library and saved time in finding passages previously read and noted. The emphasis was on retrieving, rather than recalling, information, but the indexing still required the user to remember the Heads that were chosen when particular entries were made.”

“The stress was not on quotations under generally shared Heads, but rather on referencing entries back to books, ideally those in a personal library.”

All quotes from Richard Yeo, ‘Locke’s New Method of Commonplacing: Managing Memory and Information’, in Eightteenth Century Thought, 2, (2004) 1-38.

en,quotations,ubiscribe,writing | July 27, 2006 | 15:08 | comments (0) |

Koichi Makigami + Oorbeek

Excited & nervous: on sunday Oorbeek will indeed perform with Koichi Makigami, the wonderful Japanese vocalist, (overtone) singer, improvisor, jew’s harp-player: . See: http://www.muziekgebouw.nl/mondharpfestival/. The concert is at the BIMhuis and starts at 15.00.

en,free publicity,music | July 27, 2006 | 13:47 | comments (0) |

Vriezens Gewrichten II

When I write in reference to Samuels long poem Gewrichten that “I’m tempted to work out the algorithm, the schema, the form, that has generated this particular joining of words” I don’t say that in this way one will capture the meaning or all of the effect of the poem. It’s just a start, as in reading a sonnet, it’s a start to note the form(at): 14 lines, volta, rhyme &c. — and how this informs the effect and the meaning of the poem.

Samuel — who reads my blog — delivers an explanation of his method in the comments: ” I’ll give you the key clue: *every* line appears twice, once indented and once not indented, although in about a quarter of the cases there´s a minor change in the wording. Half of the poem was written as is, the repetitions were done later largely by chance but with an eye to continuity. And there are 480 lines in total. HTH!”

Hmm, so I count badly. (Hey, it was too hot!). 480 makes more sense.

As to reading speed again: quite quickly I found out that Gewrichten forces one to pause for a second after each line. If one does, the musicality ‘comes out’ — the macrostructure builds… Maybe pausing after a linebreak is normal for a lot of readers of poetry — I always think they are slow readers, spending time with each word. But that’s not my way of reading poetry. I start with reading quick through all the lines — often even reading on at every linebreak, for continuity, for getting the sense of the syntax, the rhythm of the sentence (not the line). That way of reading often helps me to understand poetry (afterwards I will spend more time, re-reading, if I like the poem, of when it keeps escaping me). So I had to force the pause after linebreaks (or the poem forced me) … only in the middle, when some lines can be read together, I could speed up.

en,reading matter,writing | July 27, 2006 | 13:40 | comments (0) |

RFID workshop at Mediamatic

Upcoming workshop at Mediamatic, from 11-13 september: RFID, Internet of Things: http://www.mediamatic.net/artefact-11944-en.html. There’s a reading list online at http://www.mediamatic.net/article-9691-en.html.

One of the features speakers is, yes, yours truly. Next to Julian Bleecker, http://research.techkwondo.com/ and Timo Arnall, http://www.elasticspace.com/.

en,free publicity,research | July 27, 2006 | 13:17 | comments (0) |

Writing, literature & art

“So, yes, writing is my first love and there’s nothing better than really good literature – but art has one advantage in that it provides an active space, a space of becoming-active. You can actually do the thing rather than just represent it. Not if you’re a painter, of course – but in process-based art you can, and that’s a really powerful thing.”

Tom McCarthy, interviewed at http://www.readysteadybook.com/Article.aspx?page=tommccarthy

en,quotations,writing | July 26, 2006 | 10:14 | comments (0) |

Reassembling the social & Gewrichten

Visit to the bookstore yesterday made me buy Latour’s Reassembling the Socialhttp://www.ensmp.fr/~latour/livres/XII_tdmANT.html. Sort of outline of Actor Network Theory (ANT), a term that Latour is now happy to use. Sociology as tracing associations. I read the introductory chapter sitting on the beach of Zandvoort, of all places, early evening, trying to forget the blazing hot sun.

Also read Samuel Vriezen long poem ‘Gewrichten’ (‘joints’) that’s published in this month’s Yang, http://www.yangtijdschrift.be/.. First it seems as if the poem is just loose sentences and bits of sentences, but reading through them, pausing after each line (and each line is clearly a unit), a rhythm develops. Also some lines are repeated. (Samuel is a composer as well & I have been so lucky to be part/performer of his composition Motet; one of his pieces that deals with the rhythm of syntax — that is syntax of language). In the centre of the poem the lines that follow each other do sometimes form sentences together, or at least, can be read as sentences. If I counted right the poem consists of 496 lines, knowing a bit how he composes, and knowing a bit about his taste in poetry, I’m tempted to work out the algorithm, the schema, the form, that has generated this particular joining of words. But I could ask Samuel of course… Needless to say: this is the type of poetry that I love. Art made of language. Not anekdotes put in poetic phrases. (Excuse my wobbly English).

Samuel blogs — in Dutch — at http://blogger.xs4all.nl/sqv/

Blogging als reading practice, rev.

“In Human Life: Illustrated in My Individual Experience as a Child, a Youth, and a Man (1845), one of his published writings in which diary entries were frequently excerpted, Wright confessed that “writing a journal does me good. I can let off my indignation at the wrongs I see and hear. I am far happier when I write a little every day. I take more note too, of passing events, and see more of what is going on around me. I live less in the past and future, and more in the present, when I journalize . . . It saves me from many dark hours to write down what I see and hear and feel daily. My soul would turn in upon and consume itself, if I did not thus let it out into my journal.”

Right, this time it’s the quote as it appears in W. Caleb McDaniels article at http://www.common-place.org/vol-05/no-04/mcdaniel/index.shtml.

Also copy-pasted this bit — as it connects changes in technology to changes in reading & writing behavior; in the 19th century USA:

“Yet by 1850, this scarcity of print had given way to a bewildering abundance—a rapid growth no less impressive in its own time than the exponential proliferation of blogs in the last few years. Newspapers began to crop up not just in major urban areas but in smaller towns, and as print became more abundant, it was also diffused more widely and rapidly, thanks to a transportation revolution fueled by steam, railroads, and internal improvements like roads, canals, and an expanding postal service. These changes were, of course, not unique to the United States, but even foreign travelers to the young nation were awed by its burgeoning print culture.”

blogging,en,ubiscribe | July 25, 2006 | 10:28 | comments (0) |

Another article to read

Ann Blair, “Note-Taking as an Art of Transmission” in Critical Inquiry 31, pp. 85-107 (2004).

Of course that’s online, but it’s behind one of those academic fences that one only can pass if one pays a small amount. (How I hate that…). Luckily the Critical Inquiry is available at the Jan van Eyck library.

en,reading matter | July 25, 2006 | 10:13 | comments (0) |
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