In this sketch from Monty Python’s 1973 album, “Matching Tie and Handkerchief,” a crowd gathers to watch Thomas Hardy begin his latest novel, The Return of the Native, while an announcer provides a running commentary.
Here’s poet Wislawa Szymborska in her Nobel Lecture, talking about how the lives of artists or scientists can make great films, but not poets:
But poets are the worst. Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic. Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines only to cross out one of them fifteen minutes later, and then another hour passes, during which nothing happens … Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?
It’s one of the singular features of our little social-technological moment that people all over the world whom we otherwise would never even be aware of can effortlessly impinge upon our minds and lives and desktops. We probably see fewer people in person these days, but our lives are populated by an entire chorus of disembodied presences, amplified and directed by the Internet, as if we had all begun to suffer from a mild form of schizophrenia.
Yesterday Matt Thomas tweeted a mashup of the first line from The Old Man and the Sea and the last line of The Great Gatsby. Then he tweeted one with the first line of Moby-Dick and the last line of Gravity’s Rainbow. I thought this mashup needed to become a genre, so I gave it a hashtag: #firstlinelastline
Writer’s block is a modern notion. Writers have probably suffered over their work ever since they first started signing it, but it was not until the early nineteenth century that creative inhibition became an actual issue in literature, something people took into account when they talked about the art. That was partly because, around this time, the conception of the art changed. Before, writers regarded what they did as a rational, purposeful activity, which they controlled. By contrast, the early Romantics came to see poetry as something externally, and magically, conferred.
Jenny Holzer took over the empty marquees that once advertised events at 42nd street theaters. Instead of coming attraction, however, the public found “truisms” – statements by Holzer that had the authorities ring of proverbs. But instead of confirming accepted practices, these comments often seemed to come out of left field. Holzer reordered the world along the lines according to her uncanny “uncommon sense.”
A whodunit which is actually a sendup of working at a modern newspaper. Fun read. Hiaasen in the NYTimes:
The Florida in my novels is not as seedy as the real Florida. It’s hard to stay ahead of the curve. Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life.
The cop or, more frequently, the reporter isn’t trying to restore chivalry to a world gone corrupt. It’s too far gone already. He is merely trying to assert ordinary decency in a world gone crazy: women shouldn’t be abused; nature shouldn’t be endlessly exploited; cockroaches shouldn’t be placed in yogurt cups to scam the justice system for payouts. Where in the noir tradition crimes took place, melodramatically, at night, here they take place, matter-of-factly, in the middle of the day.