Tag Archives: Writing

When the Sword is Mightier than the Pen

“PEN’s survey allowed participants to ofer long-form comments on surveillance; PEN also invited members to share their thoughts and personal experiences via email. In reviewing the responses, themes emerged centering on writers’ self-censorship and fear that their communications would bring harm to themselves, their friends, or sources:

1. PEN writers now assume that their communications are monitored.
2. The assumption that they are under surveillance is harming freedom of expression by prompting writers to self-censor their work in multiple ways, including:
a) reluctance to write or speak about certain subjects;
b) reluctance to pursue research about certain subjects; and
c) reluctance to communicate with sources, or with friends abroad, for fear that they will endanger their counterparts by doing so.”

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Creativity a Byproduct of Mental Disorder?

“intelligence doesn’t have much effect on creativity: most creative people are pretty smart, but they don’t have to be that smart [...] But if high IQ does not indicate creative genius, then what does? [...]

What differences in nature and nurture can explain why some people suffer from mental illness and some do not? And why are so many of the world’s most creative minds among the most afflicted? [...]

As research methodology improved over time, the idea that genius might be hereditary gained support. [...]

For many of my subjects from that first study—all writers associated with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop—mental illness and creativity went hand in hand. This link is not surprising. The archetype of the mad genius dates back to at least classical times, when Aristotle noted, “Those who have been eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia. [...]

Among those who ended up losing their battles with mental illness through suicide are Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, John Berryman, Hart Crane, Mark Rothko, Diane Arbus, Anne Sexton, and Arshile Gorky. [...]

The creative [...] and their relatives have a higher rate of mental illness than the controls and their relatives do. [...] 

Why does creativity run in families? What is it that gets transmitted? How much is due to nature and how much to nurture? Are writers especially prone to mood disorders because writing is an inherently lonely and introspective activity? What would I find if I studied a group of scientists instead?”

And the answer is: theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/06/secrets-of-the-creative-brain/372299/

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Writers as Activists

“If [...] creative writers, researchers, playwrights, artists and film-makers care more for how the posterity is going to judge their work and their times, then they should not care for publishers of the Establishments, funding agencies, interviews to corporate media, acceptance by ‘refereed journals’ and the so-called international awards, but should consciously orientate their work for directing the struggle to face its due target and for giving confidence and optimism to the masses”…

From:  tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=37252

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Writers Must be Involved in Every Struggle

“The indispensability of every struggle revolves around the collective intellectual pool … an “intellectual” is a person who produces literature – that is, a novelist, poet, dramatist or any other branch of literary genre. I think it is generally true that in all cultures writers have a separate, perhaps even more honorific place.

What are the responsibilities of the intellectual?

Writers and journalists have often been called upon to act as defenders of free speech … and sometimes have had to pay for their words with exile or with their lives. But their role is vital, especially in rousing opposition to dictatorial or otherwise illegitimate regimes. It is the job of the intellectual to give a voice to those who are unable to speak. As I see it, intellectuals are those who have diverse wisdom and foresight, who apply their intellect and forward-looking visions for the purpose of awakening society. They help to divert the masses from what is unwise and wrong toward what is righteous and the good.

Immanuel Kant believed that intellectuals must get involved.”

From: kashmirlife.net/vol06-issue12-3-60030/

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The novel will survive criticism

“The novel, more than any other genre, is capable of containing large, developed, consistent images of people, and this is one of the reasons that anyone reads novels. The novel [...] can give form to a set of attitudes regarding society, history, and the general culture of which the novel is a part, and this too is a reason for reading novels. But the criticism which results from this motive runs the danger of treating fiction as a document, evaluating it less as art than as culture exhibit and ideological force.”

“It is difficult to think of another area in which the same assumptions have any currency, assumptions which imply that to describe, to define, and to generalize are somehow to sap the vitality of the subject. It is difficult to think of another area in which they are less appropriate. The novel is rich enough and intricate enough as a genre to demand the combined insights of formalist criticism and cultural history in understanding its tradition, and it is vital enough to survive any amount of theory or criticism, even if that criticism is badly done.”

From: sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=59080

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Novels as Weapons of Propaganda

“During the Cold War, the CIA loved literature”…

“Books were weapons, and if a work of literature was unavailable or banned in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, it could be used as propaganda to challenge the Soviet version of reality. Over the course of the Cold War, as many as 10 million copies of books and magazines were secretly distributed by the agency behind the Iron Curtain as part of a political warfare campaign.”

Doctor Zhivago, “The book, by poet Boris Pasternak, had been banned from publication in the Soviet Union. The British were suggesting that the CIA get copies of the novel behind the Iron Curtain. The idea immediately gained traction in Washington.”

“The newly disclosed documents, however, indicate that the operation to publish the book was run by the CIA’s Soviet Russia Division, monitored by CIA Director Allen Dulles and sanctioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Operations Coordinating Board, which reported to the National Security Council at the White House. The OCB, which oversaw covert activities, gave the CIA exclusive control over the novel’s “exploitation.”

“The “hand of the United States government” was “not to be shown in any manner,” according to the records.”

Read more: http://m.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/during-cold-war-cia-used-doctor-zhivago-as-a-tool-to-undermine-soviet-union/2014/04/05/2ef3d9c6-b9ee-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html

To be sure the CIA has its tentacles in the American publishing world, too: http://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

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Writers for the Revolution

…”what a work of art must do. And that is to tell the truth in a way that raises the intellectual, spiritual and emotional capabilities of their audiences. It need not be the literal truth; it can be a deeper one that lies at the core of the human heart.”

“Poetry, according to T.S. Eliot, “in proportion to its excellence and vigor, affects the speech and sensibility of a whole nation.”

“That’s true not only of poetry but all the literary arts: poetry, fiction, drama.”

“They can enhance our perception of our social milieu — what that milieu actually is and what it can and should be. Thus literature becomes a force for political development and reform. And if the writer perceives that his social milieu requires not just reform but a revolution, then the writer must harp on the need for a full-blown revolution.”

From: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/el-indio-telling-truth/

Abandon Politics to Release Your Inner Artist

“There is a serious academic contention that one of the reasons that Russia produced so many brilliant writers during the nineteenth century was that the structure of government (under a centralising Tsar, with an oppressive and tight circle of advisors) denied most young men, even the well-connected like (Count) Tolstoy, any hope of a career in politics. Thus the creativity that might have gone in to policy-making and progressive political change instead went into literature, as a (relatively safe) space where political and social ideas could be explored, without too much interference from the censors. If nothing else, a return to the text might provide better outcomes than a resort to war. Defend the study of arts and humanities – it is the ‘finding place’ for the complicated, messy and dangerous world that we all have to inhabit together.”

From: http://shiftinggrounds.org/2014/03/a-message-from-sebastapol/

Cold War and the Battle of the Pens

“Were there similarities between the literature on both sides of the Iron Curtain?”

“Definitely. And the phrase itself is an interesting place to start. It is commonly assumed that the term was first used by Winston Churchill in a speech in Fulton, Missouri on March 5th 1946, but in Patrick Wright’s book “Iron Curtain” (2009) he traces the origin to 18th-century theatre. The iron curtain was a safety curtain that came down between the stage and the audience in case of fire. It was the divide between stage and audience and the whole political rhetoric of cold-war literature and its narrative discourse was marked by this profound opposition between self and other, good and evil, democracy and tyranny.”

“The idea of theatricality was the very essence of cold-war literature and discourse—the manipulation of language and information, the difference between appearance and reality, and the way the information was projected to the audience didn’t necessarily have roots in reality.”

[...]

“There wasn’t a definitive “end of cold war” response in Soviet literature because the dissident literature, samizdat (self-published) and tamizdat (published over there), proliferated gradually. In the 1980s the Western spy novels all featured good guys from the West and bad guys from the East and they were still very popular. Margaret Thatcher read Frederick Forsyth’s “The Fourth Protocol” (1984) four times. But by this time there was also a huge influx of “real” fiction, serious literature reflecting on the reasons for the cold war and near nuclear disaster, the metaphysical opposition of East and West—post-modernism. This was a natural response to the cold-war situation, given the manipulation of language and the pervading atmosphere of counter-intelligence.”

Read More: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/03/quick-study-olga-sobolev-cold-war-literature

Genre Boundaries are Fluid

“why do we divide books into genres at all? At some level, we needn’t. Looking at a book purely as an example of a genre can limit your understanding of both the book and the genre.”

“We are generally conditioned to think that ‘genre’ applies to books that are detective stories, or romances, or science fiction tales, books that follow a certain set of rules and are possibly limited by them. On the other hand ‘literary fiction’, the stuff which isn’t a part of these genres, is supposed to be completely unbounded by these kinds of elements, but many people argue that actually literary fiction is a recognisable genre of its own with certain common traits: social realism, an interest in the epiphanies experienced by individuals and an emphasis on prose craft. But you can find these qualities in genre fiction; crime fiction can engage with society in a very serious and real way, a fantasy novel can be about an individual’s own concerns and insights, science fiction can be beautifully written.”

“It is also good to be aware of the limits of genre, to know that genres can be fluid and that you should always look beyond genre boundaries in your reading and even in your writing!”

From: http://www.newindianexpress.com/education/student/What-is-a-Genre/2014/03/17/article2113810.ece1