Saturday, July 01, 2023

Conversion of Nervous Force Into Phrases'

Like dogs, wolves recognize familiar human voices

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Why Writers Have Difficulty Talking About The Working Class

“There’s a class issue that we don’t always talk about in writing and publishing, where you need to be able to afford this life. The average annual income authors earn from their writing is around $10,000. - The Walrus

This unflinching book illuminates the perilous stories of an extraordinary cast of characters in a Europe we prefer not to dwell on

Conversion of Nervous Force Into Phrases'  If forced to pack one novel by Conrad when marooned on that mythical desert island, this is it. In such a state of solitude, the last thing one needs is ideals. Conrad’s great political novels – Nostromo, The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes –are studies in failed ideals. In a letter he wrote to H.G. Wells in 1903, while working on Nostromo, Conrad says: “[F]or me, writing—the only possible writing—is just simply the conversion of nervous force into phrases.” Most of Conrad’s sentences are charged with energy and are seldom inert.


Conrad’s letters, by the way, are wonderful. In an 1895 letter to Edward Noble, an aspiring English novelist who also wrote sea tales, Conrad writes:


“Remember that death is not the most pathetic—the most poignant thing—and you must treat events only as illustrative of human sensation—as the outward sign of inward feelings—of live feelings— which alone are truly pathetic and interesting. . . . To accomplish it you will have to cultivate your poetic faculty—you must give yourself up to your emotions (no easy task) you must squeeze out of yourself every sensation, every thought, every image—mercilessly, without reserve and without remorse; you must search the darkest corners of your heart, the most remote recesses of your brain;—you must search them for the image, for the glamour, for the right expression. And you must do it sincerely, at any cost; You must do it so that at the end of your day’s work you should feel exhausted, emptied of every sensation and every thought, with a blank mind and an aching heart, with the notion that there is nothing—nothing left in you.”

Irony is often a means of evasion, the last resort of the cowardly and unprincipled. It can also be a covert moral weapon. There’s nothing bullies and louts detest so much as mocking laughter. Swift understood this, as did Evelyn Waugh. The Polish style of irony as practiced by Herbert in his poetry and this 1985 interview is straight-faced and deadly. Herbert was a prickly man. Marius Kociejowski, who knew him in the 1980’s, characterized the poet as “the spiritual leader of Solidarity, although its members would no more be able to contain him than could the Communist regime.” A veteran of the Nazi and Soviet invasions, of the worst the twentieth century could dish out, Herbert possessed few illusions. He tells Trznadel:


“In times of terror every moral gesture is a risk – that’s obvious -- but it is also surprisingly funny. As if a knight in armor walked on stage in a contemporary play. A comic effect. Even today, when we agree that one should declare oneself on the side of truth and freedom, it sounds somehow embarrassing. But there was and is no other way. Freedom is always tragic. A free man is lonely.”


This shouldn’t be confused with self-pity. Herbert writes in his poem “A Life” (perhaps about the Stalin text cited above):


“Someone recommended a classic work — as he said

it changed his life and the lives of millions of others

I read it — I didn’t change — and I’m ashamed to admit

for the life of me I don’t remember the classic’s name”

Freedom Is Always Tragic'

MARK JUDGE: Please Don’t Banish Jesus from Alcoholics Anonymous.

It has taken me a while to admit this, mostly because I am so reluctant to criticize a fellowship that saved my life when I stopped drinking over three decades ago. But the elimination of the “Our Father” does in fact bother me. Not only because I believe Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but because Christianity played a crucial role in the formation of AA. Had Judaism or Islam played such a foundational role in the Twelve Steps I would also want that tradition honored. The truth is, however, that Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, and was effective, because of Christians.

AA has its origins in the evangelical Christian Oxford Group. In fact, AA co-founder Bill Wilson credits the Oxford Group for the methodology of AA: “their large emphasis upon the principles of self-survey, confession, restitution, and the giving of oneself in service to others.” Even before the Oxford Group was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Wilson wrote to Jung in 1961 to express his “great appreciation” for his efforts. “A certain conversation you once had with one of your patients, a Mr. Rowland H. back in the early 1930’s,” Wilson wrote, “did play a critical role in the founding of our Fellowship.”