Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Letters from/to a young writer (2/4)


Dear George,

My sincerest apologies for the delay.  Now that I have another four years away from the bumbling back and forth of politics, I'm finally finding some free time.

Thank you again for the response amidst the warzone of a semester it sounds like you're having, though I bet that barn would have eventually needed an interesting design choice or two; I hear even the pearly gates have some graffiti.

I definitely sympathize; college life in the States is a bit different from The Social Network: a little less free time and a little more backstabbing. For the mildly ambitious, that is. The collegiate system is entirely accommodating if the life-goal is just a piece of paper and a few keggers; I on the other hand have set myself up in a situation requiring the production of two in-depth research studies (one for Linguistics and one for Environmental Economics), along with a whole slew of essays and final examinations.  This on top of a weekly op-ed I do for the school paper, my newly appointed position as poetry editor for the university's recently rebooted literary review, and a 15 hour part-time job filling out Excel spreadsheets. I say all this only to show my sympathy though, not to attract any.  I can only imagine how much of a laugh a PhD candidate must get from this sort of to-do list.

While I have made sure to leave time to read, the last few books left on your list (Eugenides, McGregor, and Pamuk) are being used by other classes (most disappointingly Pamuk, after watching the interview you attached), so I am not permitted to check them out of the library until next semester. Rest assured, they will most likely be digested come late Spring.

In the meantime, I've taken to my "Books I've always wanted to read but never had the time for" list, and am currently between The Sound the Fury and On the Road (I completely agree with your misanthrope-caution, so I figured these two would balance quite well). I've also made sure to wread (sometimes I find it nearly impossible not to read something), and I've tried to write down what comes out of it. I, at least, always seem to take for granted the dynamic force a simple act of "writing it down" has on the thought process, understanding, feeling, etc.  It also makes good fodder to throw onto my anonymous stream-of-consciousness-like-blog.

I can't thank you enough for the detailed explanation in response to my inquiry. The counter-article definitely puts Smith's into perspective, and the follow up adds a real-world narrative I was unaware of. Like any good explanation, it triggered at least a dozen spin-off questions, and when I began composing them in this message, I realized most were due to being uninformed rather than being confused, and your workload would probably appreciate it if I found sources elsewhere and rehash them. I would like to start a dialogue around this when you get some free time though, if you don't mind.

I would also ask about some brief future-tense guidance regarding a project I'm looking at next semester. I have to participate in a "senior economics seminar" - essentially a class dedicated to a thesis for my Economics major. I was considering either comparing and contrasting the publishing industry and the recording industry in their respective switches to the digital medium, or the implications of the recent suit over ebook pricing (behind paywall), but I was unsure of either's relevance, present state in discourses, etc.

As mentioned, you don't have to return an articulate and in-depth response at the present (especially given the vagueness of what I just proposed), but I was wondering if you could help point me in the right direction when that time comes.

All the best, as always,
Ryan Celley



Dear Ryan,

First of all, apologies for the month-long delay in replying. I could say get used to it, but hey, it's not personal, it's a lifestyle choice. Also, by the sound of your own workload, I'd be better off welcoming you to the club. As long as the endeavours are spiritually fulfilling, who can blame you?

Dialogue away about lyrical realism, realisms in general! And if you only hear hollow echoes in the digital cavern, remind me and I'll come back to you quicker than if I'm left to my own devices in the shadows. But this isn't part of a coherent discourse, as far as I'm aware - the ideas in discussion have only been around seriously for a decade or so, at least in public presentation. Someone may well be joining the dots, but that hasn't filtered through to me except in the kind of broad and insufficient sweeps by Smith and others.

I'm more interested in your Environmental Economics thing than the ebook thing, by the way. Because they are fundamentally connected, right? Since you wrote, I assume you've heard the big stories about Penguin/Random House. Google things like 'Amazon is trying to kill us' and you'll get some alternative perspectives. But what's the bottom line? Metabolism and commodity production, intangible enclosures acts, intellectual property and the assertion of power structures in digital contexts...

Yeah, man, they're onto us, which is why it's safer to go undercover as a conspiracy theorist, until we can blow the lid on the whole caboodle, but in the meantime, some more reading:

Robert Spencer, Ecocritism in the Colonial Present (free online PDF, possibly)


Lewis Hyde's Common as Air

Vive la [something or other]!



Part 3 tomorrow.

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