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On Stories

On Stories, by Richard Kearney

Yesterday I finished reading an excellent exploration of the ‘power’ of narrative.  On Stories by Richard Kearney explores the story from a philosophical perspective.  Kearney’s insights are not simply literary but also address such things as psychology, counseling, politics, and life in general.

Here is an excerpt:

“But let me return briefly to our genealogy of storytelling. What both historical and fictional narratives have in common is a mimetic function. From Aristotle to Auerbach, it has been recognized that this involves far more than a mere mirroring of reality. When Aristotle defines mimesis in his Poetics as the ‘imitation of action’, he means a creative redescription of the world such that hidden patterns and hitherto unexplored meanings can unfold. As such mimesis is essentially tied to mythos taken as the transformative plotting of scattered events into a new paradigm (what Paul Riceour call the ‘synthesis of the heterogeneous’). It has little or nothing to do with the old naturalist conviction that art simply holds a mirror up to nature.” (12)

Whatever you make of this excerpt, let me just say that the ideas expressed in it and elaborated on throughout the rest of the book are ones that will shape the art (everything from writing to painting to photography)  that Lauren and I produce over the coming years.  So there’s a little insight into one way (of many) in which we’re thinking when we produce art.

How We Are Hungry

How We Are Hungry, short stories by Dave Eggers

About two weeks ago I finally finished reading Dave Eggers’ collection of short stories How We Are Hungry. I say finally because I started them quite sometime ago but had to take a break about half way through. Nearly all the stories are heavy and dark; for a few of the stories it is difficult to find the point in them at all… which is probably the point.  But I recently picked the book back up and was glad I did. 

It is interesting also to note that all of these stories are unified under the title “How We Are Hungry.”  Perhaps the last two paragraphs submit a possible clarification to this title, a clarification that has been hinted at throughout many of the stories, if not all.  Spoiler Alert… Here are the last two paragraphs:

     “The one big surprise is that as it turns out, God is the sun. It makes sense, if you think about it. Why we didn’t see it sooner I cannot say. Every day the sun was right there burning, our and other planets hovering around it, always apologizing, and we didn’t think it was God. Why would there be a God and also a sun? Of course God is the sun.

     Everyone in the life before was cranky, I think, because they just wanted to know.”  (217-218)

This quote, of course, makes much more sense in light of the story in which it exists, which I won’t spoil anymore of for you here.

Note:  If this book were a movie it would be rated “R.” It contains heavy and sometimes upsetting material. For a more clean experience of Eggers’ writing read The Wild Things, which is the next book on my “to read” list.

The Art of Biblical Narrative

The Art of Biblical Narrative, by Robert Alter

Finished this one for class last month.  I wanted to write a full review but think I’ll just move on.  Let me just say that I really enjoyed it.  Here’s an excerpt:

“The monotheistic revolution of biblical Israel was a continuing and disquieting one. It left little margin for neat and confident views about God, the created world, history, and man as a political animal or moral agent, for it repeatedly has to make sense of the intersection of incompatibilities–the relative and the absolute, human imperfection and divine perfection, the brawling chaos of historical experience and God’s promise to fulfill a design in history.” (154)

We really appreciated this TED talk and thought you might too.  It’s about 18 minutes long, so beware.  Well worth your time though, in our opinion.

Graduation happened to me over a year ago. I can’t believe it came and went so quickly.  The tassel that dangled on one side of my head quickly passed to the other; and in that blur a new chapter began.

I could go into much detail about all the changes that took place after that:  marriage, important life decisions, work, etc…  But there was one subtle change that I did not anticipate; one that covertly transformed my life into something very different from what I had grown accustomed to.  In a sentence: I stopped making art.

For those of you readers (whoever you may be) who do not know me, I was an art major in college.  Graphic Design to be exact.  I did not have any previous art education before college so that first year of college was like exploring a whole new world. And in that world I discovered much of who I am and who I would like to be.

I had found something that I could lose myself in for hours. When I finished a piece, whether it was good or not so good (ok, bad) I had that feeling of “Yes, this is what I am supposed to do”. It was a good feeling.

But when the busyness of “grown-up life” hit me, I stopped.  This fact was alarming, and I have found myself somewhat paralyzed by this change of lifestyle.  I spend any free time I have thinking and dreaming about art, envisioning the many things I would like to do. But I rarely execute those ideas.

Then I started reading a book called Art and Fear (recommended by my friend and fellow artist Josh Granberg). It touched on some very important things that I really needed to hear.

Art and FearListen to this quote.  “Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again — and art is all about starting again.”

Isn’t that great news? It gave me just enough courage to start again. And to keep starting again every time I have to stop.

So, I have begun again. A bit slower than my rigorous college pace, but I am moving.

I have not yet finished the book Art and Fear. But when I do, I plan on writing a book review.  So, more later. ;o)

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