It evidently isn’t blogging that is dead, but what used to be called the blogosphere died some time ago. How I used to loathe that term, but it now represents a wistful glance in the rear-view mirror. At its peak, it represented an inter-connected series of blogs of shifting, but broadly mutual interests. Each blog nourished each other through commenting on each other posts, a carefully curated blog-roll, shared arguments and occasional memes.
There is little point in nostalgia. Facebook and then Twitter emerged as easier sites to share opinion and recommendations. There is, at least since Teju Cole, little artistic expression on Twitter. Writing on those platforms doesn’t, unlike blogging, feel like a creative project. I kept a Twitter presence to follow the journeys of a few readers who over some years shaped my own reading experience, but it is so easy to get dejected by the rolling news, the banter and the trivial. My @timesflow account became primarily a way of driving readers to individual blog posts.
The nuanced conversation and complex interconnected social relations that characterised the blogosphere seem to have transferred in part to podcasts, at least in terms of the literary conversation I once found between bloggers. To be honest, I didn’t envisage back in 2009 what a marvellous world this blog would open up for me, both in terms of meeting literary-minded people in person, or just exchanging emails and messages. Social media remains a viable way to “meet” like-minded people, so I’m sure I’ll maintain a presence in some shape and form.
This is all a rambling way to explain that I have decided to end Time’s Flow Stemmed. On this site I found a voice, maybe became a better writer, definitely became a better reader. I’ve no regrets or sadness. Through blogging, I’ve met many wonderful people all over the world and hope to continue the conversation in the future. I still have a great yearning for conversation about literature and what makes a human, though I’m not sure yet what form that may take.
Thanks to everyone that followed part or all of my reading life, especially those that subscribed, and those that joined the conversation. If I start anything new I’ll post an update on this site.
‘I can only sense that Emily Dickinson has just arrived, without being an intruder (. . .). I turned to Emily Dickinson, then — to speak is not inevitable; she worked without talking, and, by the end of the day, they had almost forgotten she existed; there could only be seen, rootless, the result of her work.’
Maria Gabriela Llansol, from Um Falcão no Punho, (1985)
‘Llansol also links Emily Dickinson to the Brontë sisters: the American poet appears in her room after Anne, Emily and Charlotte have sent her an invitation letter to confirm their common interest in menageries.’
From The International Reception of Emily Dickinson, (2009)
‘It is no wonder that you are there, half-naked, leaning over what I write. You make a triangle with your legs, you stand on your foot, but not as a ballerina. (. . .) But if you lay down a foot on my breast and raise your arms, letting your hair fall down, I think it is a writing foot split into fingers, searching for my emotion. Provoking me. In the end, I bit it. This is my retribution as a living writer.’
Maria Gabriela Llansol, from Onde Vais, Drama-Poesia, (2000)
‘The wayward few, as I call them, take for their subject-matter scenes and events never reported in any fictional text but likely to have taken place in the vast zone of possibility surrounding not just every page but the merest sentence on that page. And the mental space that I mentioned just now extends so far in every direction from every fictional text that the wayward ones, as I call them, are able to write as though the content of many a seemingly separate fictional text adjoins, or is entangled with, the content of many another such.’
From Gerald Murnane’s A Million Windows, p. 23
It might be that no one writes about the virtuality of fiction better than Gerald Murnane. I don’t know his work sufficiently well yet. The absence of wide acclaim is unsurprising, these quirky fictions are not the stuff of the mainstream. This is writing for the wayward few. His distinctive, idiosyncratic style, beyond its stylistic signature, seems utterly sui generis. I understand better what fiction does to me (for me?) for reading Murnane.
‘(Surely a person is able to sample the experience of eternity without having to read fiction? I found just now a passage that I copied more than thirty years ago from the translated writings of Alfred Jarry: “It is fine to live two different moments of time as one: that alone allows one authentically to live a single moment of eternity, indeed all eternity since it has no moments.”)
From Gerald Murnane’s A Million Windows, p. 17
It seems that Gerald Murnane’s way of viewing the world is born of astonishment. Herbert Read quotes Picasso, upon viewing an exhibition of children’s drawings: “It took me many years to learn how to draw like these children.” My reading of Murnane is provisional, based on the essays in Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs and the novels, Barley Patch and recently Tamarisk Row, yet what seems possible from my reading is that Murnane’s astonishment is that of a child.
This is not to detract in any way from the sophistication of his vision, but his way of capturing reality with an immediacy and sensitivity that reveals the wonderment in the mundane. Picasso’s apparent obsession with drawings that have the properties of a child’s perspective I think was something different, an inherent conservatism perhaps, that glorified what he saw as primitive art, a retreat from the idea of progress rather than an opening up of vision.
In Tamarisk Row, Murnane’s vision, his astonishment, offers a way of seeing the world that is familiar, but long repressed. Something hidden is brought to light and, as a consequence, offers an opportunity to come away with an expanded perspective. Taken at surface level, the narrated story of a slice of a young boy’s life is simple, but what Murnane does is to emphasise the immanent strangeness. This is what the world looked like before being stifled by the experience of adulthood.
My intention this year is to read more or less chronologically through much of Murnane’s writing, interspersed perhaps with Clarice Lispector’s stories, another writer that for different reasons never fails to have a profound effect on the world around me.