Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Geoffrey Gates' blog is named 'Perpetual Locomotion', which derives from a book he wrote, and published, A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion. Today he linked to me and I decided to use this event as a launching pad for a small hypothesis.

First, though, it's salutory to inspect the rate of posting there: seven posts since establishing the blog in July 2006. My blog has run over 730 posts in a period just a few months longer. His Sitemeter counter is registering two visits per day.

Most posts are to mark a significant event and generally the blog is not a run-by-run ouverture of the creative process (he's working on novel two now). Although I frequent Gleebooks, who stock(ed) the novel, I've not seen it. Or read about it; no reviews have appeared in the mainstream press, afaik.

Which brings me to the hypothesis: Why are we so critical? What does it mean to be critical? What basic need does it meet?

Given the opportunity, most people want to air a view, regardless of the topic. This is why vox pops always deliver reasonably good content for TV stations with an 'issue' to inspect. They are guaranteed several perspectives, and will probably choose the one that delivers most evidence of disaffection.

My opinion (if you're even slightly interested) comes from study done this year, particularly two units concerned with the art of PR. A highly-loaded acronym, I vow. What is the 'public sphere' and how did it become so important in recent decades? Why is it so disappointing for me to see a writer's blog so little (a) visited and (b) updated?

I believe that we are:

  • Social animals, and
  • Conditioned by genes to use language

Given these characteristics, it is inevitable that we live our lives within one or more narratives. The story may be different at different times of our lives, but the need for an over-arching narrative (PR theorists call this 'grand strategy') is so convincing I'm tempted to shut down my Facebook site.

My sqeamishness is due to my tendency to say what I think. Given the plethora of fora frequented by individuals with similar narratives as me, the opportunity to participate in them is almost overwhelming. But it's not politic to air a view in public. In fact this, I believe, is the reason for the current popularity of (a) celebrity and (b) sport.

Neither make any ideological claims (overt at least) on us. Within the narratives that play out in these arenas of aspiration, we may even discuss important topics with work colleagues, total strangers met at the train station, or our home-loan provider.

No danger. And it's fun to speculate in terms anyone can understand (we are nothing if not democratic!) as to whether failure can be turned into dazzling success. Or vice versa. Possibly Geoffrey Gates hopes I can help him to move beyond the dismal evidence of seven posts in two years, and win readers.

Given my own Sitemeter daily total, however, that's unlikely. And here's another thing: my blog is full of opinion (my opinion). Many people (myself included) prefer facts to another's spin. For this reason, I rarely read the op-ed page of my daily broadsheet.

At university, furthermore, you are almost forced to be critical. It's part of the paradigm of study: to question the foundations of everything you encounter. This bias (age-old) may, however, become outmoded given the current impulse of universities to think of themselves as vocational training institutes, rather than loci of higher learning.

To take that paradigm, though, and subscribe to its tone and method in the workplace, is quite another issue. Possibly, we need to stick with Paris Hilton and Toma Lomu, and eschew the more meaty fillings provided by books of history, literature, essays, and criticism. It is in these that I have always found my crucible of desire to fill most sweetly.

Yet I was told, by the man who makes my furniture, that those of his friends who are most 'academic' usually watch programs traditionally poo-poohed for having little substance. Is this the 'postmodern' paradigm kicking in? Are we to attune ourselves to commodities (culturally speaking) and ignore serious writers such as Geoffrey?

For myself, I love CSI: Miami (I posted on it in April) because of the super-saturated colours. The original CSI, set in Las Vegas, is not as sweet on the retina. Then we've got, more recently, CSI: New York, starring Gary Sinise. This version is more hard-boiled, issues-driven, 'serious' (Serious Sinise - a new nickname). Three flavours of the same basic product (Jerry Bruckheimer; also responsible for Cold Case).

Channel Nine's Damages (I also posted on this Glenn Close vehicle) is spun as a 'serious' item and the aesthetics reflect that.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dean,

I was interested to read your blog entry today, with its starting point as a discussion my own blog, the rarely visited and even more rarely written-in account of my own creative process. If I can correct one small point - there are eighteen entries, rather than seven. I actually thought I was doing pretty well.

Rest assured that my linking of my blog to yours was not done out of any commercial self-interest. My novel was published by an independent publisher (Interactive Press) with a grant from OzCo. It is distributed by Tower Books, but faces all the competition one might expect a small publisher to face in a large scale market. Last time I checked, it was in Gleebooks - in the Australian literature section. If it has sold out that is a small victory. Perhaps they could re-order it for you? "A Ticket for Perpetual Locomotion" did receive one mainstream review, in January 2006, in the Sydney Morning Herald. The reviewer was not particularly generous, comparing my work unfavourably to Borges. An odd way to put someone down: who wouldn't be dwarfed next to the South American giant? I suspect the reviewer hadn't read the book very closely anyway - he mixed up the names of two of the main characters and appeared to be more interested in his own puns than the book itself. Remember the review of the Spinal Tap album 'Shark Sandwich'? It wasn't too far off that. I did reproduce it on my blog (February 5, 2006) with a minor defense.

Yes, it would be easy to become bitter at the lack of attention when one has spent a long time writing a serious (also comic) novel to little public attention, but isn't it only in French films that life is otherwise? So, I encourage you to keep on with your own writing. You are obviously very prolific, you engage seriously with texts, and no doubt you have regular readers who enjoy your views. My own blog serves a different purpose or no purpose at all: it provides a forum for me to remind myself that I have one small novel published and I should be working on another.

So I say, write as little or as much as you like on blogs. It doesn't really matter. And that should be quite liberating.

Kind regards,

Geoffrey Gates.

Matthew da Silva said...


I wasn't being overly critical of your blog but the thing I find (despite my small hit-rate) is: no posts, no visitors. I try to do a post every day. It's pleasant. The anonymity I use here is due to flaming elsewhere. It's less controversial to keep things close to the chest.

I will look out for your book as I will go to Gleebooks tomorrow to pick up a few things. The problem with this world is: there are so many making claims on our time.

I recently took to writing haikus: brief, efficient, not time-consuming. Then I graduated to the classical Renaissance sonnet. It's virtue is (a) the canonical love-element that insinuates itself into the very form used, and (b) a fuller narrative is possible.


Anonymous said...

I measure my thoughts
With anonymous postings
Trial by Sitemeter

Matthew da Silva said...

A writer without
A reader is a blind bull
Elephant, raging