For a decade: 33 theses, reflections, quotes

In yesterday’s post on This Space, Steve commented in passing that Time’s Flow Stemmed recently celebrated (25th January to be precise) its tenth anniversary. While I did mention the milestone on Twitter I forgot to mark the occasion here, so in observance of this blog’s first decade, over five-hundred years after Martin Luther apparently nailed his treatise to the door of Wittenberg’s church, I offer my own 33 theses, random reflections and treasured quotes:

  1. “The work of art may have an ideology (in other words, those ideas, images, and values which are generally accepted, dominant) as its material, but it works that material; it gives it a new form and at certain times that new form is in itself a subversion of ideology.” – T. J. Clarke
  2. Prose fiction is the art of excess. It is better when large, loose and baggy
  3. Poetry, on the other hand, is the place for concentrated lyrical expression
  4. “Consciousness is only attainable after decades of being honest with yourself followed by more decades of honest observation of the world. Even then, consciousness is mostly illusion.” – John Rember
  5. Attention to form is the greatest force for literature
  6. “This, therefore, is the praise of Shakespeare, that his drama is the mirror of life; that he who has mazed his imagination in following the phantoms which other writers raise up before him may here be cured of his delirious ecstasies by reading human sentiments in human language, by scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world and a confessor predict the progress of the passions.” – Samuel Johnson
  7. Literary interpretation is inherently unstable
  8. Free indirect style is the novel’s most useful contribution to literary endeavour
  9. “If you enjoy the opinions you possess, if they give you a glow, be suspicious. They may be possessing you. An opinion should be treated like a guest who is likely to stay late and drink all the whiskey.” – William Gass
  10. There are good and bad books, artistically and possibly ethically
  11. There are also good and bad readers
  12. “I’ve described my experience of reading as immersion in a peculiar kind of fictional space. Above all, what fascinates me about that space is the idea that it might be infinite; that the world opened up by a book might exceed that outside it.” – David Winters
  13. Reading is selfish, but an essential aspect of enlarging life and the self (or illusion of self)
  14. Reading should be social; conversing about what you’ve read augments the pleasure of reading
  15. “Writing and reading are not separate, reading is a part of writing. A real reader is a writer. A real reader is already on the way to writing.” – Cixous
  16. The Death of the Author is a delusion
  17. “In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.” – Nietzsche
  18. We will never know the people in our lives as profoundly as we can know the characters in a novel
  19. “As for those people who will not welcome this kind of writing, which they call obscure because it is beyond their understanding, I leave them with those who, after the invention of wheat, still want to live on acorns.” – Joachim du Bellay
  20. Difficulty in fiction is normally pleasurable
  21. Form shapes critical thinking and enhances perception
  22. Rereading is richer than first time reading as it eliminates the distraction of suspense
  23. Most literary criticism discerns in its subjects the evidence its theories predict
  24. The problem for writers of fiction in Britain in the 20th and, so far, in the 21st century: how to write and publish brilliant, sublime prose in a country and culture that shrinks with horror from intellectualism
  25. Coetzee’s Disgrace is a rare example of a great book adapted into a great film
  26. Virginia Woolf is Britain’s last great and important novelist
  27. More than well-structured narrative, it is the texts on the fringes I keep coming back to, notebooks, diaries, letters, fragments, what Genette called pre-texts
  28. All the roots of Western literature may be found in Aeschylus
  29. Greatness and perfection are not necessarily the same thing
  30. “My writing wasn’t entirely about the books ‘under review’ so much as my internal ‘reading experience’.” – David Winters
  31. “How can you, after Proust and Joyce and Kafka and Faulkner, sit down and write a novel?… Answer: you have to. And the you have to is a private cancer, a private tumour of the soul.” – George Steiner, Paris Review interview
  32. I find it hard to endure writing in the third person
  33. ” . . . deepening what there was in her of sweetness and listening – for this was her nature.” – Lispector

To those that read Time’s Flow Stemmed, whether for a decade, or as a recent discovery, I offer my profound thanks. I used to explain that I wrote here for myself, but that is the worst kind of deceit, a self-deceit. I am thrilled that this blog has readers and offer an apology that I am even further from understanding literature than I was at the beginning.

 

12 thoughts on “For a decade: 33 theses, reflections, quotes

  1. Congratulations on this anniversary, and thanks for the theses: fascinating. If you don’t mind I’m going to quote no. 20 in a piece I’m trying to write at my place about Nabokov’s Pale Fire. It fits perfectly. Your end point is the dilemma of all readers: the hermeneutic circle. I was required, as a student, to read Frank Kermode’s The Genesis of Secrecy; it blew away most of my existing critical apparatus. Here’s an extract from a review at the NYTimes, 1979, with a quotation from Kermode via Mark’s gospel that has stuck in my memory since:
    ‘St. Mark’s Gospel, Mr. Kermode’s primary text, conceals the Good News it proclaims. Mark’s Christ tells His followers that He speaks in parables so as to hide from outsiders what it turns out His 12 insiders cannot understand either. He speaks in parables, that is, “so that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear but not understand, lest at any time they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.” This tough text Mr. Kermode takes as prototypical, so you can see what he thinks interpreters are up against. Their texts invite them to sin with a promise of redemption; worse, the promise is in the form of a conundrum designed to consign interpreters to their evil ways.’
    Keep up the good work, and help keep the rest of us on our (literary) toes…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yours is one of the few reading blogs I visit on a frequent basis, and while I was not with you from the beginning, I have read in all your archives. Through you I have discovered wonderful writers (I would never have started reading George Steiner without your many posts on his work, and now I own the majority of his work), and I have also discovered wonderful book bloggers in reading through the comments on your blog. I look forward to more years to come of your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Combinational delight: Nabokov, Pale Fire - Tredynas Days

  4. Warm congratulations on ten years of a terrific blog, Anthony, and thank you for these ten years of planting such seed-like insights that just seem to grow and expand one’s understanding and appreciation of the literature and ideas you discuss.

    Theses are made to be wrestled with, and the list above is going to provide a lot of fun, healthy wrestling for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

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