“To write well about the elegant world”

Champorado (Taken on October 1, 2008)

Champorado (Taken on October 1, 2008)

17 June 2013
3:48 PM
Manila

M.–

To be fair, I think, in some instances, I have the advantage of timezones. Since I am ahead of you, I can start late in writing and it will still get to you on time, so don’t worry too much about it. Have you seen my evening posts of late? I believe a lot of them were written during the wee hours, way past bedtime. I think there was a letter that I wrote at 4AM–so technically, not an evening post.

My morning has been quite hectic. This is the first time that I’ve really sat on my desk with an intention to work. This being a Monday, the first task was to check my emails, which I haven’t been doing a lot of these past few weeks. And it’s what–past four in the afternoon now, and I still haven’t reached inbox zero. I don’t know if I’ll still be able to get any work done at this rate, but, oh well–I don’t like Mondays anyway.

Things on my mind (forgive me if they’re in bullets–these are stray thoughts that still need further reflection):

• The idea of myth-making. I was reading a review of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (which I liked by the way–the film and the review), and an argument has been made about the director’s storytelling:

The political debate that Zero Dark Thirty has provoked looks set to be the film’s greatest legacy, and cases can be (and have been) made for both sides of the argument. One might accuse Bigelow of myth making, of spinning a notorious and painfully contemporary event in to an American yarn worthy of the medium, while an equally valid reading might claim the opposite. That the political decisions of those from outside of the immediate scenario (the orders of the President etc.) are never shown serves to imply a detachment of sorts, with the influence felt and the response in turn the action seen. It’s an American tale of the modern age: one told through the actions of the nation abroad. America itself is rarely seen.

It makes me wonder about how we tell our own stories–the stories of our lives and others. Not just in our writing, but in our own conversations and interactions with people. How much of the things we say is truth, and how much of it is myth. How we weave words and ideas and events to create our own identity, how this pushes our story forward. What is added, and what is taken away? When we write in letters, or when we write our poems–does this affect our way of telling what happened?

There is a lot to unpack here, and I don’t think I’m ready to do so at the moment. But it’s a thread that I would like to pick up again in the future.

(I don’t want to gloss over the film, by the way, and would like to talk about that, too. Someday.)

• That house in Amsterdam is beautiful. I mean–really. I sometimes find myself asking, whenever I see beautiful houses–what must I do to be able to live here? Or at least have that kind of space for writing? I am past the idealism of ‘waiting for inspiration’ when it comes to writing. I don’t think that’s true anymore (was it ever?), and still chide myself for believing so when I was much younger (I was very impressionable). Writing is work. And I know that day in, day out, I have to sit on my desk and write. Still, I cannot deny the desire of a spacious room, with a big window and ample sunlight, and a desk dedicated for my life’s work.

• On one of my letters, you asked me if I love philosophy. Yes. Yes! On some days I regret not being a philosophy major (and a creative writing major, and a lit major, and an art major…it goes on). Then again, I would probably suck at it (I fear I do not think eloquently enough for it). I loved all my philosophy subjects back in college–I took those offered in my mother tongue. It was phenomenal. There’s just something about receiving all these ideas in a language I was born with. Nevertheless, I feel that I have also lost something by not studying them in English. (The texts were all in English, of course, but the discussions were in Filipino.) I’ve always wondered what it would’ve been like, the other way around, hence the philosophy course I took via Coursera. I need more of this in my life, and I hope we can talk more about it. I like Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Barthes, Nietzsche. There’s more. (Also I wouldn’t pretend to know a lot about this, so just send me links whenever you feel like it.)

• The premise for that letter actually was what I’ve been feeling lately: the need to be, the need to do. Especially the need to do. I need to make things again. To create. More creating, less curating–I read this somewhere before, and it felt so true. It’s just–there’s so much here, in my head, and I want–I want them to have representation. I want them to be out of my head and placed onto paper (to write them), out loud (to speak of them), or be on my desk (to create them). Does this make sense?

• On the other hand, with all that I’ve been reading, I feel that I’m not reading enough. That there’s so much out there that I still need to read. And this–wanting to get back to my books, to words–sometimes I feel like it’s the very thing that is disconnecting and/or alienating me from the actual world I’m living in. I don’t know how to reconcile all my feelings yet, so I’m living in this state of perpetual longing to devour, and it’s warring with the despair I feel at not having a concrete output with all the things that I’ve consumed so far.

• Maybe this is why the other day I was thinking–what if I start another blog, where I dump all my thoughts on everything I read and listen to and watch? (It might also solve my dilemma of where to go if ever I decide to delete my Goodreads account.) Have you ever wanted to talk about something so exhaustively, that it reaches the level of wanting to make a dissertation about it? (Call me crazy.)

• Speaking of Game of Thrones, are you all caught up with the episodes then? It’s finished for the meantime, and there’s a long wait until Season 4. But there are the books, and in my opinion I could subsist on those for years. The books and the television adaptation is one of the many things that’s making me think of starting a blog in the first place, because I want to talk a lot about it. (More: Hannibal and Breaking Bad, two excellent shows that I need to discuss more in depth, Man of Steel and its failures and successes as a superhero movie, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which I still haven’t finished [but only because I’ve been savouring it, and gosh, does it hurt], the Sherlock Holmes cases, James Joyce’s Ulysses, etc.)

• Isn’t it funny, I thought to myself, how I can have so much to talk about, and yet in person, out and about, I rarely open my mouth?

• Speaking of letters: Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985. He says of writing letters:

A fine thing it is to have a distant friend who writes long letters full of drivel and to be able to reply to him with equally lengthy letters full of drivel; fine not because I like to plunge into captious polemics nor because I enjoy getting certain ideas into the head of some idiot from the Urbe, but because writing long letters to friends means having a moral excuse for not studying.

He also writes to Cesare Pavese:

To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being just as Proust, Radiguet and Fitzgerald did: what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.

You can read more excerpts on Brain Pickings.

It’s almost six in the evening. It’s raining outside. What I wrote when I took the photo above:

1 October 2008
3:10 pm

I walked out to smoke on a Wednesday afternoon to the sound of rain. And I wanted to witness that forever – the sight of water flowing down the side canal, a little bird sitting on a window rail, waiting out the weather. Going in I smell champorado. How I wish I could pass my life holding a bowl of sweet chocolate rice porridge, sitting on the front porch spotting puddles.

I think the word for this is yearning. Or nostalgia. For things that have already left you, for things that you remember wistfully, even if it hasn’t happened yet.

Yours,
T.

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