It seems I’ve turned my blog into a self-help channel … Here are some advices from Virginia Woolf:
How Should One Read a Book?
In the first place, I want to emphasise the note of interrogation at the end of my title. Even if I could answer the question for myself, the answer would apply only to me and not to you. The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions.
If this is agreed between us, then I feel at liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can possess. After all, what laws can be laid down about books?
I have finished and delivered my essay on Woolf, hopefully the text will be strong enough to take on a life of it’s own.
But I am still enjoying Woolf – tremendously! She will definitively be coming along to Thailand. In a more relaxed mode, I let her thoughts sieve in, fertilizing my tired brain, expanding my mind. I never knew a more funny, intelligent and inspirational voice than hers.
Just see for yourself:
Most commonly we come to books with blurred and divided minds, asking of fiction that it shall be true, of poetry that it shall be false, of biography that it shall be flattering, of history that it shall enforce our own prejudices. If we could banish all such preconceptions when we read, that would be an admirable beginning.
I’m reading How to Write a Personal Essay By Leslie Jamison. It’s a great text, and this strange statement by Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor sort of caught my mind and imagination:
there are many different infinities—there’s an infinity between zero and one, and another one that counts everything beyond. Both ranges are endless, but they map different terrains
– a beautiful formulation of something completely incomprehensible …
I’m reading Anne Truitt’s Daybook: The Journal of an Artist. It’s a beautiful and very insightful portrayal of the artist at work. Truitt worked in several medias, and I believe her Daybook will be of interest to all people making a creative living. Through reading Truitt one actually gets access to the creative process as it unfolds. Here is a short excerpt:
An eye for this order is crucial for an artist. I notice that as I live from day to day, observing and feeling what goes on both inside and outside myself, certain aspects of what is happening adhere to me, as if magnetized by a center of psychic gravity. I have learned to trust this center, to rely on its acuity and to go along with its choices although the center itself remains mysterious to me. I sometimes feel as if I recognize my own experience. It is a feeling akin to that of unexpectedly meeting a friend in a strange place, of being at once startled and satisfied-startled to find outside myself what feels native to me, satisfied to be so met. It is exhilarating.
These days I’m struggling with my essay on Woolf. Today I will keep these words by Truitt in mind:
The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one’s own intimate sensitivity.
I believe these words to be true for the writer as well.
Anne Truitt (1921 – 2004) was a major American artist of the mid-20th century. Critics have often associated her with both Minimalism and the Washington Color Field artists, although like many artists she rejected reductive classifications. Along with her art Truitt was noted as a teacher and as an author of memoirs: Daybook (1982), Turn (1986), and Prospect (1996).
In the beautiful conversation between Ann Hamilton and Krista Tippett, which I wrote about earlier this spring, Hamilton is formulating very nicely some of the yet unfinished thoughts I have been struggling with the last couple of months. As I see it, she is figuring out some of the things I hoped that Alain deBotton would grasp – but didn’t. Here are some clippings from the above mentioned conversation:
WHERE IS IT THAT WE CAN GATHER AND BE ALONE TOGETHER?
- What are the circumstances for we ? – that I can enjoy the pleasure of something I’m seeing here, knowing that I’m also sharing this pleasure with the person next to me.
- There is an interesting kind of intimacy with this total stranger, which the situation makes possible. And that this can change our whole day. We are alone together.
- Maybe too much togetherness makes us really nervous.
- Finding our own presence, our own gestures, in relation to a larger presence or being: across time, space and cultures.
- As an artist working today: How can we create a circumstance in which those kinds of processes in joining and acknowledging can occur.
- Labor is a kind of knowing. An evidence of someone else’s body in the object.
- The museum can be (like) a sacred place, soaked in beauty. A place where air and time feels different – calm.
ANN HAMILTON: the event of a thread (2012), Park Avenue Armory, New York
I find the idea of the sacred, as formulated by Hamilton – not as a relation to God, but to a greater, collective non-individual being, incredibly fruitful when thinking about art. Being alone together, being quiet together, letting our body connect to something outside of logic – this is what religion used to do for us, but for many of us no longer have the power to do. But I wonder; can art? These are the things I like to study.
- sometimes it’s even worse to try to connect with oneself
From Virginia Woolf’s beautiful garden studio in Sussex
I’m home after a week in London. I have already written a critique of Bill Viola in St Paul’s and of Marina Abramovic in Serpentine (non of the texts is hitherto published, so my judgement has to stay a secret). But the most difficult task for me, as a writer, is to make an essay on Virginia Woolf, related to the exhibition at NPG. The text is right now spinning somewhere in the ether between my mind and hand. But how is one to write well about someone like Virginia Woolf, such a self-opinionated woman, such a great master of words?! Is there at all anything new to contribute – .
I’m sort of beginning to feel the trueness of Gene Fowler’s words:
Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead
Journalists gather at the opening of the exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, at the National Portrait Gallery, London
In these lines of Baudelaire:
Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté
in which the inattentive reader sees only a cascade of words, I see the perfect definition of the work of art. I take each one of these words separately, next I admire the garland they form and the effect of their conjunction; for no one of them is useless and each of them is exactly in its place. I should quite willingly take them as titles of the successive chapters of a treatise on æsthetics:
- Order (logic, reasonable disposition of the parts);
- Beauty (line, dash, profile of the work);
- Luxury (disciplined richness);
- Calm (tranquilization of the tumult);
- Voluptuousness (sensuality, adorable charm of matter, attractiveness).
André Gide – Journal 1918 (Detached Pages)