Sunday, May 27, 2018


With the second chapter the novelist begins to introduce new characters and develop those initially introduced. The plot is set on its course. Plot and character development is akin to theme development in music. A composition opens and either remains a basic pattern of theme with its distinctive melody or lyric plus a chorus or refrain; or the piece begins to develop its complexity with variations on the theme, new themes that may or may not be related to the opening theme, or a change of tempo is introduced to allow the listener to collect their thoughts or to provide the listener with a bridge to the next theme development. The simpler composition is most commonly that of popular music including folk and rock and various other genres. The more complex construction is usually found in classical music.

Novels come in all shades of complexity. Detective fiction, for example, is usually fairly simple in its conception much like the popular song. A work of literature such as Dickens' novel Bleak House is a good deal more complex with interwoven themes and subplots that enrich the plot and take its many characters hither and yon and back again. The simpler forms are often referred to as page-turners; the complex work requires a bit more concentration.

The Blind Geisha
I - 2

A Dawning, Black Tea, Pungent Bitter Tears

Elizabeth came awake in the darkness. Disoriented, she pulled her quilt to her chin, blinking eyes, dry cough. Upstairs, she thought. Still upstairs. Slowly turning her head, she saw the large, luminous numbers on the clock face. 3:09. The old trundle bed groaned as she turned to her side. She had dreamt of Micki. The inexplicable death of her friend haunted her. Tears welled in her eyes. She turned the quilt and blanket and sheet back across the bed and swung her legs to the floor, feet feeling for slippers, hands on thighs, shoulders slumped.
So irrational, these emotions. A shake of head. Friends since high school. Co-valedictorians. How proud we were. Then traveled together. They had worked at Portland State together, Michelle teaching French and Elizabeth in English. Nontenured, underpaid, they had shared an apartment on the hillside south of the campus with a fine view of Interstate 5. Then I took that position at San Francisco State, and she had gone to New York. To dance. Follow your heart, she had said. And four years later she died, a suicide.
And I went to Stanford.
Standing, she took her glasses from the nightstand and walked slowly, shuffling her feet, to her small desk and sat. Silly thing, the desk. An escritoire. Much too fancy. It did fit the space. Just under the sloping roof, the window just to her right with the horizon and brilliant light.
She would work. She would not sleep. Sleep was through with her for this night. Perhaps later. She lit the slender taper in its brass holder, a dancing frog with arm extended holding a candle. She smiled to see it. Mementos. Evoking emotion after all the years.
Mori was a dancer. No. Not quite right. She was, of course, but geishas were so much more. Most people think of geishas---no, no: geisha. Will I never learn? No plurals in Japanese. No plurals. And no gender. Like old people. A shake of head, hand swiping a comma of lank hair over her ear. People think of them as merely courtesans, prostitutes with wealthy clients. Like most generalizations, not quite right. No. And did they even exist in the 15th century?
She turned to her book stand and opened her reference book, her well thumbed copy of Nelson's character dictionary. The kanji for geisha was comprised of two characters: a woman and a branch or some sort of support. Curious. Elizabeth took a 3 x 5 card and a wedge tipped pen and drew the jukugo, the four compounds that translated geisha:

芸者 (check this) geisha
玄人 expert, professional, geisha, prostitute
女郎 girl
内芸者 geisha

She smiled to think of her own translation: a woman who bolsters male egos. And that business of the obi. Where had she found that? Geisha always tie their obi in the small of their back, and they need help to do this properly. Once tied, the obi stays tied. The prostitutes who aped the geisha tied their sashes in front. Their obi, obviously, are tied and untied many times during the course of their working day. Poor dears.
Mori was a geisha. Supposedly. We only have that scoundrel Ikkyu's word for it. The woman does not exist except in the man's poetry, and one ink drawing of the two of them. A better rendering would be helpful. Mori remains a plump, shadowy figure. Would her obi be tied in front or back?
Grace tells me this business of the obi only applies to modern times. In the past, everyone, men and women, tied their obi in front. Changing fashion in the 18th century caused the shifting obi. A clue, perhaps, for a detective story. Who was that fellow? Inspector something or other. The Wages of Zen. Otani, that was the man. Inspector Otani. File a missing person report. Looking for a blind geisha. Last seen in the 15th century. Wearing drab, worn kimono. Mori her name. Just Mori.
And why blind? How blind? Curiouser and curiouser. She chewed on the temple piece of her glasses, watching the flicker of the candle. Read from the stained brown pages of the old manuscript:

... from earliest times, walking the beach hand-in-hand with my mother remembered only as a middle aged woman, already blind ... looking from the corner of her eye, the furrows of a frown etched in her brown face ... Kurumi was her name. The haze from the whalers fire pots down the coast blowing out to sea. The old woman could smell the tang, a heavy, almost musty odor, as those rough fellows rendered the blubber all those miles away; I smelled only the sea wrack and salt and wisps of smoke from cooking fires. They made perfumes, it was said, from the huge beasts ... Early morning. Black tea, pungent and bitter.

Grace did not care for the manuscript's title: Mekura no Geisha no Monogatari. Tales of a Blind Geisha. She thought it a bit grand for the simple story it told. And the hand that wrote the kanji for that title seemed different than the hand that wrote the story. "This manuscript of ours is rather short and larded with casualisms and colloquialisms," she had said. "Title is rather grand."
"So what do you think?" Elizabeth had asked. "What was it Bashō called his travel journals? Kikō, was it?"
"Something like that. Kikou, maybe. Same difference. Usually translates as 'traveler's journal'. But did Ikkyu write this for her? Was she literate? Did she dictate the story to him? Or was she just a story teller?" Grace had smiled and shrugged her shoulders.
Elizabeth sighed and carefully slipped on her glasses.
So much to do.

She had dozed. The sound of the car on gravel had woke her. There came the heavy clunk of a car door closing, then footsteps on the gravel path. It would be Grace. She knew that walk. The kitchen door open and closed, bells chiming; and Grace called out, "Bess?"
"Upstairs, dear."
At the foot of the stairs, Grace said, "I've some groceries. I'll just get things put away and be up."
"No hurry."
"Did I wake you?"
"No no. Up early again. Just dozing. Just ..."

Elizabeth sat in her rocker. How often she spent her afternoons in the comfortable chair, gazing at the sea, or the distant line of the horizon. Was the chair a replica of Jefferson's rocker? She didn't know. It was called a Jefferson style mission rocker, but ... the leather cover on its cushion had been replaced with faux leather which pleased her. The oak was often cleaned and polished; but showed its wear and tear. Older than she was, this chair. By fifty years or more. She smiled to think of it.
"Ikkyu might well have tagged it with monogatari," Grace said. "Don't you think? He was impudent enough."
"That could be it. Or someone else who thought to make it a bit grander, more valuable. A 20th century gambit."
Grace stood, stretched, and moved to the window. She gently pulled the curtains aside. Crows in the the branches of the pine. Beyond, the now hushed sweep of wave at ebb tide. Shiomachi, she thought. 'Awaiting the tide.'

... early morning, shouts, confusion, a woman's scream ... I was still just a child. A man poked his head into our hut, the salt maker, he yelled at my mother, grabbed her arm; but she broke free, gathered me in her arms. Fire swept quickly through our little village. Smoke blowing up the hillside, the temple bell in the distant village clanging, clanging ... wood and paper now ashes, couples shifting the cooling debris, the whalers still sitting on the beach, too late ... I sat on the hard sand with wavelets tickling my feet building castles, patting the coarse wet sand ... I ate a pickle ... my mother was dead ...

Kurumi. That translated to 'walnut'. Grace drew the kanji:


Complicated for such a simple thing. Old and moon and tree and ... what? Omen? Sign? Did Mori's mother simply look like a walnut and so acquired the name? A nickname? Or given? It is a woman's name. Grace found many "Kurumis" listed in her Japanese names dictionary. Different kanji than walnut, but ... A given name become a nickname?
So many questions. Too few answers. She should just fictionalize the whole business and be done with it. The manuscript had arrived two months ago. Well traveled, the package had gone to Stanford first, then back to her colleague at Tohoku in Sendai. Emails went back and forth and hither and yon, as emails will; but the sheaf of yellowed paper had finally arrived. A photocopy of a handwritten copy? Ikkyu's hand? They agreed that the title was spurious. They disagreed on the translation of what seemed to be the original heading. Grace thought Slack Water was more literal and faithful to the intent of the story. Elizabeth thought a more impressionistic rendering better served Mori's brief autobiography: Awaiting the Tide. And this title also provided the connotation of waiting for opportunity to knock. Middle aged, now nearly blind herself, was Ikkyu her 'opportunity'?

...sweeping the stone path, an old man---the niwashi, the gardener? a curt nod, as I looked away to see him, he looked again to see me ... a glare? no, not severe; stern, face set, but something mischievous played about his mouth : a cat stalking a thrush through the azaleas ...

In the corner of the window, a spider's web. Unusual, thought Grace. Bess cleaned this room herself, did not want Mrs Alston to bother as all too often books and papers and cups littered every surface. Too high? Just missed it? Grace reached up easily, intending to sweep the web away with her hand; stopped herself, reached above the window and ran a finger along the top of the casing.
"What are you doing, Grace?" Elizabeth looked amused.
"You saved the web."
"I did."
Lithe. And lissome, thought the older woman. A good head taller than I am. Such a beautiful child. Cooped up here with me. "Have you done anything more with those kanji for 'geisha'?" she asked.
"I have. Several pages. Nothing definitive. Fairly certain 'geisha' as a title didn't become common until 1550 or so. Shirabyōshi, usually translated as 'white rhythm', had been in use for centuries as a name for the women who dressed in white and performed street dances. Geisha developed from that beginning. The kanji reflect different views of these women; and they were no doubt all those things and more. Certainly a kept woman; but how she was kept makes all the difference. And by whom."

I had come to Shuon'an to conduct a tea ceremony for the abbot. Two sisters of the trade and I came from Nara by the old road. The temple was beautifully restored by a priest named Ikkyu, iconoclastic fellow who by reputation enjoyed his wine and his women. He was shorter than I imagined, and we giggled behind our fans to see him sweeping the stones so earnestly ...

"And how is your 'whom', dear? Will he be coming down this weekend?"
A shake of the head, her lopsided smile, the left side of her mouth arcing up, silly grin, self-effacing, somewhat rueful. "Has a delivery," she said.
"Yes. Oh."
"Where to this time?"
Grace looked to the window. "Tahiti," she said.
"That Bernard," Elizabeth said, pronouncing the 'd'.
A glance from Grace.
"I said it wrong, didn't I." Elizabeth tapped the side of her head with her knuckles.
"It's nothing," Grace said.
"No no, you get that blank look on your face when you're ... not angry, but ... but frustrated. The animation leaves your eyes. Is it the pupils contracting? I don't know. You stand more erect. A hundred little things.
Grace smiled. "Well ... "
"I am sorry."
"You never once misspoke when he was here."
"Yes, I know. Bernard. French. No 'd'. Dementia creeping in. Soon be blithering. Ship me off to Nova Scotia."
"Oh pooh."
"Well, perversity then."
"You didn't care for him, did you. Not really."
Elizabeth turned her head to the window. Caught just so, the brightness through the glass took on depth; contrasted with the shadows on the walls, she imagined a tunnel of light, infinite and alluring. Her fancy was that wisdom awaited at the far end.
"I was disappointed for you," Elizabeth said. "He is always here and gone, away for months at a time, leaving you ... I thought ... I think you deserve better."
Grace put a hand on Elizabeth's shoulder. "Bernard with a 'd'," she said.
"Bernard with a 'd'."
Grace stood over the older woman, sunlight beginning to fill the room.
"So irrational, our emotions," Elizabeth said.
"Aren't they just," Grace said. She patted the shoulder of her friend.

Monday, May 21, 2018


The Blind Geisha is a novel structured on the concept of synchronicity. Begun last summer, the story awaits an ending. The conception itself leans on the concerto, a common genre of classical musical in which one solo instrument is accompanied by and often contends with an orchestra. The composition is usually in three movements with the cadenza or climax near the end. The cadenza typically contains a virtuoso solo passage.

Most novels, I think, behave in a similar fashion: A protagonist who vies with the other elements of the narrative until a resolution is reached (or not). The Blind Geisha has its three 'movements' with each divided into five parts. I have placed the 'cadenza' at the beginning of The Blind Geisha. My intention is to have parts 1, 6, and 11 serve as short stories, able to stand alone, as well as integral parts of the short novel. What follows is part One of the first section.

I - 1

Learning Stillness In The Falling Snow Of Tiananmen Square

She sat in her rocking chair at the window writing. The woman was visually impaired, legally blind. Macular degeneration was the culprit. Incurable. She was resigned. Through her window she saw a mottled picture of grays and points of black, straight lines, and glare. Turing her head just so brought a good deal more clarity. Typical of the disease. She saw the distant horizon, some vacancy that was ocean. She was 81 years old.
I will finish this project. Grace is a godsend, she thought. And the new laptop. She typed: synchronicity. She had looked it up. Again. In Wikipedia was this:

Synchronicity is a concept, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences" if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.

And the 1934 Websters had, under synchronism and among several definitions, this:

3 art. a A representation in the same picture of two or more events which occurred at different times.

Two or more events which---I'd really prefer 'that', she thought, but nevermind---events which occurred at different times.
"Grace." Her voice, like the rest of her, was now frail and weak. No, no. That's wrong. A tautology. Have always frailed with ... ah me, failed with tautologies. "Grace," she said again.
Grace came quickly, quietly. She was a tall young woman. Chinese. Willowy. "Yes, ma'am."
"Look up 'which' and 'that' for me, would you dear. Check with both Mr Bernstein and Mr Fowler."
"I have the Bernstein here," Grace said. "Shall I read it all, ma'am?"
"No, no. Scan and give the relevant bits."
Reading quickly, Grace stopped and read, quoting:

The preference expressed here for the use of that for the defining clause and which for the nondefining clause does not rest so much on any ground of clarity, however, as on the ground of doing what comes naturally.

"So what do you think? "Two or more events which occurred' or 'two or more events that occurred'?" She looked up expectantly, a bob of nose.
"'That' seems natural. Yes? Both are clear. 'Which' is the more literary. Poor Mr Webster, overcompensating again."
"As men must do, it seems."
A smile from Grace as she pulled Modern English Usage from the reference shelf. "And here you are, Bess. Leave it to Henry," quoting:

What grammarians say should be has perhaps less influence on what shall be than even the more modest of them realize; usage evolves itself little disturbed by their likes and dislikes.

Elizabeth held up her hand. "My sentiments exactly. Give me five."
And Grace gently patted her hand.
Synchronicity had insisted on this book about the dancer Mori. And Michelle's death. And Grace. And the autumn of her years. She had thought to write her memoirs; but she felt such an affinity for that 15th century Japanese woman. So little known about her. Ikkyu's consort. All we know comes from his poems. Woman defined by man. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Lately, the many men, noble and otherwise, and the many women, brilliant or dull or both, who had decorated her life came so easily to mind. She had traveled. She had gone to Greece. She had made her journey to South Africa. Two years ago she had gone to China.
Strangely, she thought, the loss of habitat troubled her. Insularity seemed to lead ineluctably to extinction of species. For all her adult life, she had lived alone.
Her walls were lined with books. Intuitively, she understood the delusion. She rejected convention, yet understood the need to adhere to rules and ritual as foundation. She understood the paradox, intellectualized the concepts. Emotionally, she clung to denotation. She read again certain poems of John Donne. And of Yeats. She read Joyce. And then retreated to the emotional haven of Shakespeare’s comedies. And, of course, the Japanese, Ikkyu and Bashō; and the Chinese, Li Po and Po Chü-I
She had taught English. Beside tautologies, tenses troubled her. The different forms that verbs might take to indicate time were many. The past perfect indicative active---use had plus the past participle---seemed to look down its nose. She would edit. Of late, she had been startled by the frequency of passive voices in her work. Writing had become a burden, it was true; but editing, paring down, discovering the hidden agenda of word and phrase, still pleased her.
My three boxes of foaled springboks, my poet’s phrase, now just so many words on so much paper. She had played the iron flute.
Once she had delighted in words tumbling across a page, and always first wrote in pencil. Metaphors tickled her fancy. Implied comparisons gave density to a word, a phrase. Allusions, as well. Like pictures they became. A name for that device. Not the simile, the inverted order. Misplaced words. Reader lost.
You ramble, jiějie. Older sister they called me. Ni hao? Wo hao. Quite fine, thank you.
Learning stillness in the falling snow of Tiananmen Square.
He had been given orders for China. In high school he had a penchant for languages. French and Spanish and now, it seemed, a smattering of Egyptian. He wrote few letters. One came from California. He had returned from North Africa by ship, by train, by bus, on foot, hitching, to Fort Ord near Monterey. Standing formation in sea fog, he wrote, as numbing as chasing chimera in desert wastes. Be home soon.
Dick Tracy. And me Tess Trueheart. Somewhere in a trunk in the attic his letterman’s sweater. Mothballs.
You ramble, jiějie.
Learning the tears of mountain gong, wispy cloud.
She had studied Chinese; and, since her return, had taken up calligraphy. The ideograms were both expressive and aesthetic. Writ large she could just make them out. The economy of the characters pleased her. Chinese grammar and syntax were a revelation. Simple, yet succinct. A certain elegance to its structure.
How are?
I fine.
Or bu hao, not fine.
The Chinese did not travel well. The English sounded like gibberish. Somehow appropriate.
He had driven 729 miles to give her his grandmother’s wedding ring, a simple band of gold. He had come to her parent’s door, the same yellow house he remembered, the house on 33rd Court, the cul de sac. Her mother wished him to stay. He had come so far. So good to see him again after so long a time. Her father said, feed him and send him on his way.
Portland. 1954.
He would call, he promised. Soon. He would. Had he told her? Had he? Going to China. Sometime soon. He’d write, he would.
Chimera. Life’s vagaries. Stevens’ line: Death is the mother of beauty. Typically male and melodramatic.
The phrase always seemed Freudian to me. The father off pumping gas—pumping Ethyl, too, that old joke—and the son usurps. Uslurps. My colleague, the too clever poet. Office down the hall, our cubbyholes. Barely room to blink. We always aspired to a window. Handsome man. His collection of Japanese erotic art. 18th century watercolors by an artist named Mitsunobu. Mr. Knobby. A mnemonic device and the odd name came to mind as easily as regret. The Jack Daniels and Coke from paper cups. Bach fugues. Should have perhaps. Messy. Complicated.
Simplicity engenders elegance.
My retort to Wally S. An insurance salesman. Oh my.
Her novel went slowly. Mori's sad chronicle. Fragments were adding up, she noted. She counted forty or so with the tale barely begun. And vague allusions as well. One has lived with these words for so long, taught their meaning, emphasized their significance that to deny them for their faint echo seems a bit too perverse. My admiration always found the writers who challenged their readers. My pedantic advise to eschew audience: the writer herself is all the audience one needs. My bits of pedagogy.
She dozed sitting in her rocker with her lap and legs covered by the old wool blanket she had purchased in Knossos for $2.00. Athens had been a disappointment. The Occident. Linear. Against the Oriental gyre. Nine headed dragons oh so much more intriguing than that one eyed fellow. That oaf.
She awoke. Sunlight through the shrubbery. The yellow legal pad and her No. 2 pencil had slipped to the floor. She retrieved them. She reread her lines.
Bits indeed, she thought.
Fragments. Fragments to shore up against the ruins. Was that Eliot’s line? I always thought him overrated. Difficult to have much faith in bankers. Pound’s the fellow. Ironic name. Does the argument divide at the diaphanous veil separating order and chaos? Or is it personal? Such disparate characters. And Dylan’s curious line: Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot fighting in the captain’s tower.
As a device, fragments slip uneasily onto the side of the angels. Run-ons, however, are devilish. Runaways more like. Eluding intelligibility. Molly Bloom notwithstanding. That telling line of Joyce’s during a conversation about Finnegan’s Wake, quoted in a letter, Joyce saying, ask me now, in a week I won’t remember.
But even Joyce could not hold the center. Wittgenstein’s odd notion: The world we see is the words we use. How remarkable when one considers the world we see. How elusory both world and words can be.
He did not go to China. Dick Tracy. My soldier boy who fought in the deserts of Egypt then home and drowned in the bay on some sailing lark, fallen over the side, washed up on the rocks of Alcatraz.
Perhaps a metaphor to ferret out of that. Or not.
Out that night with the man I could not live without whose name I no longer remember, drinking, girding my loins to bare them, tonight the night and up the back stairs of the men’s dormitory, Reed College, or perhaps a window or whatever and talking, the neat formulas across the page, the numbers, talking and drinking, a mathematician when all I wanted was to be done with syntax and to be wholly kissed and then waking at some dog’s crowing dressed and rumpled and sick.
Bu hao.
He would not wake, or feigned sleep.
Life is a sloppy business.
The appeal of Chinese letters. The comfort of beauty.
The difference between literature and science is control. Perhaps the pretense of control. No matter. I am an old woman and quite skeptical of this business of cognition. The distinction between letters and numbers holds. Whether 2 + 2 = 4 or Mr. Hawking’s clumsy yet formidable business that proved the existence of the residual radiation of black holes, the numbers afford a modicum of control.
Words offer no such comfort.
Professor Emeritus of Humanities.
You’ll have to change my title,” I had said. “I’m not man enough for the job.”
Remembering that Latin entry Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakespeare, the smell of eucalyptus that pervaded the campus of Leland Stanford Junior University, the pale spring light, my sharp protest, “Had he no mother?”
In reply, fragrant smoke curling from the pipe’s bowl matching the soft intonation and precise articulation, Professor Sherwood’s particular phrase, “Ah, well then, connotate, my dear, connotate. Consider.”
Not man enough.
And friend Charlie had replied, “You will more than make up for any gender deficiency with merit.”
A substantive makes us look for the reality that corresponds to it. Or its antithesis. If not a dog, then a cat. The reality sends us in search of explication, analogy.
I had lost the ring.
Some prosaic metaphor that thin band of gold given to me by my soldier boy oh so long ago, his grandmother’s wedding ring now lost in the mysteries of dormitory plumbing, the stained white porcelain bowl, not precious as some pictured urn, but common, not mystery filled as some baptismal fount, but dull, like my mathematician, dull and grimy, seeing a soiled collar and oily hair, the soap filmed faucets, the eternal drip of the spout, the dreaded vacant eye of the drain, her vision blurring with sudden tears, folding over cross arms, clutching herself, seeing then the eyes of unborn children, her throat filling, the wrench of her stomach
(I‘ll leave the period off what difference to a duck and cover I will I can I must I’ve paid my dues damn it my pound of that word again oh damn them damn it all I have damn damn all these words to hell with these fractious damn syntax damn life is but a metaphor damn death I think I am no period no parenthesis I am a gesture of my brain no better than an eyelid’s flutter I am

Saturday, May 12, 2018


The novel is a literary genre whose history is 1000 years old; and this history is not without its controversy. Lady Murasaki, a well placed court figure in a Japanese emperor's retinue, is said to have written the first 'novel'. The Tale of Genji, is a long narrative with some development of character, plot, and place. Whether this story is the first novel or not is in dispute. Cervantes' classic, Don Quixote, a work from the 16th century is another early example of the form.

From the Encyclopedia Britannic comes this definition: A novel is an invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience, usually through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting.1

The novel is just one of several forms that literature might take: poetry, drama, short prose, and non-fiction are other common genres. In the Greek classic tradition there were but two types: tragedy and comedy. Our penchant for division is inexorable. These days we further split the categories into subcategories and, no doubt, there are categories of the subcategories. Splitting hairs seems to be what our feeble intellects prefer. While this discrimination can be useful in understanding the nature of the beast we are dealing with, such labeling can also be detrimental when it comes to a clear view of the work. Clarity is often obscured by sentiment.

Meet an old man with a young wife and what do you have? Cradle-robber. Gold digger.

from The New Yorker
Samuel Beckett, Paris, April, 1979. Photograph by
Richard Avedon. © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Someone who picks up a novel by Samuel Beckett inevitably comes to the reading with preconceived notions. Disappointment follows. This will be especially so with his early 'novels.' Tedious, boring, repetitious are three of the kinder epithets often applied to Dream Of Fair to Middling Women (1932), his first novel, as well as to Murphy (1936). The reason for this criticism may be quite simple: Beckett's intention was never to write a conventional novel. He was convinced that Joyce had worked the form for all that it was worth. He wrote:

"I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, [being] in control of one’s material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realized that my own way was in impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding."2

His prose smacked more of drama than not. Reading Beckett's 'novels' with this in mind produces a different outcome.

Are they then anti-novels? Literature noir? Prose-drama? None of the above? Ultimately, these are just more labels. The key point here is this: Avoid conceptions, labeling, discrimination. Yes, you must stop on the red and go on the green. But ... And whether the discussion is about Samuel Beckett or The Muppets, best to remember that inevitably an object labeled 'cigar' is always just an object labeled 'cigar.' Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.

2  Samuel Beckett, as related by James Knowlson in his biography.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


A year ago, I began this weblog. The description for CONVERSATIONS was this:

CONVERSATIONS is a weblog ('blog' is an ugly word) for wordsmiths. The site is also a vehicle to give my books (my ideas?) a hearing. I have selected a 'free' platform to begin this project. Advertising, apparently, will happen. If this becomes intolerable, I will simply stop. My goal with the weblog is to post weekly some 300 words of intelligent 'conversation' without error or inanity.

After a brief hiatus, the conversations begin anew. Thus far no advertising has appeared. The reason for this is probably due to the paucity of active readers. No point in wasting copy if no one is there to snap at the bait.

This works for me. The usual advice to writers is to find an audience and tailor the verbiage to suit the reader. Advertising makes this point admirably. Ad nauseam. My advice for writers (and for all other sapient creatures) is to use intellect guided by experience to satisfy one's self (or, oneself if you prefer) as one creates not only written work but a life as well.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
photograph taken from OSHUNews article 11/08/2016

The basic premise, of course, is that we create our own reality. As noted in the second installment of CONVERSATIONS, Wittgenstein it was who wrote: In most cases, the meaning of a word is its use.1 This phrase from Philosophical Investigations, published after his death in 1953, is often given as: The world we see is the words we use. Wittgenstein may or may not have written or spoken that version of his famous dictum. In short, we create our own reality.

So. What is to follow over the next few weeks is a discussion of the novel in general and Samuel Becket's novels in particular. In addition, I intend to begin serialization of a work of my own that has begun but not yet ended. The Blind Geisha may or may not be a novel. It is intended to be a novel, but one never knows.

1Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Anscombe translation, Basil Blackwell Ltd, Oxford, 1958, # 43.