Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Personal and the Individual (Leonard Michaels)

Nothing should be easier than talking about ways in which I write about myself, but I find it isn’t easy at all. Indeed, I want to say before anything else that a great problem for me, in writing about myself, is how not to write merely about myself. I think the problem is very common among writers even if they are unaware of it. Basic elements of writing–diction, grammar, tone, imagery, the patterns of sound made by your sentences–will say a good deal about you (whether you are conscious of it or not) so that it is possible for you to be writing about yourself before you even know you are writing about yourself. Regardless of your subject, these basic elements, as well as countless and immeasurable qualities of mind, are at play in your writing and will make your presence felt to a reader as palpably as your handwriting. You virtually write your name, as it were, before you literally sign your name, every time you write.

Read more in Partisan Review 1/ 2001 VOLUME LXVIII NUMBER 1

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street

Bartleby, the Scrivener (1853)

by Herman Melville (1819–1891).

I AM a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.

Read/download story here.

Sense and sensibility

For centuries, science and philosophy have grappled with the mystery of our inner life. But, argues David Lodge, it is literature that has provided the most accurate record of human consciousness.

Read article.