Holiday Fragment: Opening up Chinks

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A writer has to open up chinks in the walls of cliché that surround each scene. Sometimes the walls are lead, sometimes they’re paper. Reading good books thins the walls or at least tell you where to look for the hairline fissures.

When stuck, apply books to walls (heads tend to get headaches).

 

 

 


This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are based on excerpts and thoughts from my literary diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Ad Nauseam.

 

 

Holiday Fragment: The Microcosm of Your Next Story

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Repeating words in a description indicates a poor vocabulary or a poor imagination. Of the latter: the real world does not repeat itself because it is infinitely rich, this too should be the apparent case of any fabricated world.

Fictional worlds are often found ballooning at the edges of other work. While editing one piece of writing or reading something entirely different, capture those tantalising ideas that pop up—as iridescent and evanescent as foam-bubbles—they could form the microcosm of your next story.

 

 

 


This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are based on excerpts and thoughts from my literary diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Startled, the Armchair.

 

Holiday Fragment: Motivation

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As an independent unit of life, man faces two limits: that of body and that of mind.

Any instance of human activity ceases either because of a hard biological limit (I broke my arm therefore I cannot paint), or because the discomfort becomes too great (no one is buying the paintings therefore I shall not paint).

The latter is a soft limit that can be stretched through training (perseverance can be learned: maybe I should continue painting anyway?).

However, if the soft limit stretches so far it meets the hard limit, you get the bodily smack-down of madness or illness: you will go no further.

The difference between the soft and the hard limit is measured in effort.

A personal anecdote

A long time ago my high-school sociology teacher delivered a blow to my pride that set me in my place for life. I had asked him for a reference. He wasn’t too worried about keeping what he wrote a secret, indeed, he encouraged me to look at the form, right there, in front of him.

Only one point surprised me: he’d scored me 4 out of 5 on “General Effort”.

Tell me my facts are wrong, tell me my form is poor, but how dare you tell me I didn’t try to the utmost of my ability?

I brought this up in diplomatic tones, and I witnessed the first and so far only instance of someone’s eyes glinting.

Silence.

Then a grin.

Then he said: “Well, if you’re honest with yourself, do you try as hard as you could be trying?”

You only get so many of those self-searching moments where circumstance, mood, and honesty join in a bitter-sweet union. This was one of them.

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Holiday Fragment: New Year’s Resolution

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Welcome to 2018.

May you spend today, and every other day of the year, full of good cheer.

Quiver Quotes resolves to continue diverting its readers and even, occasionally, inciting moments of divergent-thinking. The word continue belies reality: this is no proposal of stasis because each hard-won, minuscule writing improvement in one post incentivises my next post like the head of the ouroboros chasing its own tail. But unlike the ouroboros, I daren’t let one end catch the other, so the circle never completes but instead is a dense, slow, and shallow-inclined spiral that eventually goes up and up and up. (Or so I imagine; do let me imagine.)

What is your New Year’s Resolution?

 

 


This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are based on excerpts and thoughts from my diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Charged With Eternity: Quirks and Perks.

Holiday Fragment: This Past Year

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Do you trust your fellow WordPress users to chose the best post on Quiver Quotes? According to the dubitable measuring stick of “number of people who clicked like” the most meritorious of this year’s posts with a total of 60 button-presses is:

The Art of Writing: Quirks and Perks: We all are rich and ignore the buried fact of accumulated wisdom, says Ray Bradbury. A fitting end-of-year sentiment: do not think of how you are becoming older, but of how you are becoming wiser. Then, if you are so inclined, mine your experience for jewels to be burnished with words. The generations to come may appreciate it.

The runners-up:

The Woman and the Painter: John Banville’s vivid description (ekphrasis) of a woman sitting for a sordid painter captured the eye of my readers. Homer, Shakespeare, Keats and Borges get a mention too. I admire Banville’s style and have written numerous posts about his work, so his appearance on this list is no surprise.

Style: Quirks and Perks: Style is an increment in writing, says E. B. White. Ah, I’m glad he made this list too, for a copy of Strunk & White lies at the foundation of my writing. Even when I forsake pith in favour of flourish, I abjure in order to (I write to) and the fact that (I delete it).

The Unnatural Act: A post on what I termed the metaphorical itch. Nice to have one’s invented “speech figure” make the cut as well. I suspect it’s actually the attractive illustration and the quirky subject of surrealism that helped insinuate the post into the dark favours of my readers. Or could it have been my attempt at grotesque surrealistic prose?

I love all my baby-posts equally but I tend to forget the earlier ones, so as personal favourites I’d probably class any of the ones I wrote in November. If I’m pressed to say which ones, then I enjoyed inventing meld words in Poetry of Hyphens: Elements and imagining flash-fiction in Poetry of Hyphens: Exotic. 

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Holiday Fragment: On the Complement of a Language

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Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice is a novel in the form of a multiple choice exam. (Highly recommended—it’s a reading experience unlike any other.)

Given this precedent, I format my thoughts below as questions from an as of yet unwritten exam-novel. I don’t know the answers, you might.


Question: 

Each language has a number of phonemes (distinct sounds).

Define a phonetic complement of a language to be all the sounds not used by that language.

  1. Are there languages living in the phonetic complements of each other?
  2. If not, is it possible to construct a meaningful language in the phonetic complement of any given existing language?
  3. If so, given a sufficiently well-defined framework of phonemes achievable by the human vocal apparatus, can we construct a set of pairwise disjoint languages that completely exhaust all possible phonemes?

Rider: Each language has a number of morphemes (smallest meaningful units of language). If the morpheme complement at a given time t (we have to freeze time as languages evolve) is defined to be the collection of unused morphemes of that language, how would you go about constructing a new language using the same phonemes but contained in the morpheme complement?

Explain.

 

 

 


This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are mostly excerpts and thoughts from my literary diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Life Without Parenthesis …

Holiday Fragment: To Pedestal an Author

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When reading a well-known author, first put them on a pedestal justified by their reputation, by laudatory secondary literature, by personal awe and impersonal envy.

Then study the statue you’ve erected. (Rub your neck occasionally.)

You may take the statue down from the pedestal only when you feel you understand its flaws, and when improving on those flaws haunts your dreams (even if you have little evidence that you are able to do better).

Pedestal a new author.

Repeat.

Repeat until the time that passes between putting up and taking down a statue becomes small enough to be negligible (the duration of reading a magnum opus and sundry). At that point you have become:

  • an objective critic,
  • a supreme author,
  • a blind man (a fool),
  • some or all of the above.

This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are mostly excerpts and thoughts from my literary diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: The Softness of Pillows: Quirks and Perks.

Holiday Fragment: Literary Orts

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When my post World Building ballooned, I had to omit a fun little essay I’d prepared: the words in italics are all the literary words from Forsyth’s Horologicon (picked out from around 300 general, old-fashioned words scattered throughout his book) and then fitted into a compressed, sensible-ish narrative. Of course, I do a much poorer job than him at generating coherency and humour, but do give me some credit for effort.

Although, in a week or so, there’ll be a post on effort, so perhaps don’t judge me yet.

For those who didn’t read the previous posts: Surfle is the cutest puppy. He’s imaginary.

 


— deep breath now, this is how Christmas will unravel for you —

On Christmas Eve:

Tacenda are things that ought to be left unsaid (like aspiring secrets), especially if they’re some nifandous atrocity. But if pressed to confess your crime (who ate the Christmas cake early?), you may attempt to obnubilate the details in a bluster of words, or if your confederate is present (Surfle), then the two of you can constult and play at being fools. If that also fails, you may try to discept by differing, disagreeing, debating (it wasn’t my imaginary pet, but yours). Lastly, you can accuse your colloquist of searching for your dirty laundry because they’re secretly a rhyparographer who writes about distasteful topics (how you keep all the wrapping paper from last year labelled with names so you can reuse for a different relative this year).

Don’t forget to interjaculate at every opportunity. Defined as to interject an ejaculation. (Best done at the dinner table with your mouth full.)

On Christmas Day:

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Holiday Fragment: On Communication

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An efficient expression courts silence.

Tacit encodes social axioms. Foreigners bane: Culture is tacit.

Everyone should know how far their tongue bends.

 

 

 


This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are mostly excerpts and thoughts from my literary diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Tolkien’s Fox.

Holiday Fragment: To Journey Through a Text

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Today’s is the first in a series of posts under the heading Holiday Fragments. With a few exceptions, I will offer a number of short-short excerpts from my literary diary. Some may be thought-seeds, some dumb-duds: you decide.

I usually guard my unfinished fragments as if they were golden apples likely to cause the next Trojan war. But time erodes their personal value, and as the end of the year approaches, I’m clearing house to make way for a shiny new crop.

 


To Journey Through a Text

The length of a text does not determine whether it is a novel, a novella, a short story, or a vignette. It is the subjective length (and quality) of the reader’s journey that measures the weightiness of a work and therefore determines its classification.