Olga Tokarczuk: Tender Narrator

Olga tells about the stories of first person narrative and the elusive parable in this speech for the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature:

https://www.nobelprize.org/uploads/2019/12/tokarczuk-lecture-english-2.pdf

That we have largely lost the parable from view is a testament to our current helplessness.

And on the misfortune of genres:

The general commercialization of the literary market has led to a division into branches—now there are fairs and festivals of this or that type of literature, completely separate, creating a clientele of readers eager to hole up with a crime novel, some fantasy or science fiction. A notable characteristic of this situation is that what was only supposed to help booksellers and librarians organize on their shelves the massive quantity of published books, and readers to orient themselves in the vastness of the offering, became instead abstract categories not only into which existing works are placed, but also according to which writers themselves have started writing. Increasingly, genre work is like a kind of cake mold that produces very similar results, their predictability considered a virtue, their banality an achievement. The reader knows what to expect and gets exactly what he wanted.

The layers of lived experiences:

Life is created by events, but it is only when we are able to interpret them, try to understand them and lend them meaning that they are transformed into experience. Events are facts, but experience is something inexpressibly different. It is experience, and not any event, that makes up the material of our lives. Experience is a fact that has been interpreted and situated in memory. It also refers to a certain foundation we have in our minds, to a deep structure of significations upon which we can unfurl our own lives and examine them fully and carefully. I believe that myth performs the function of that structure. Everyone knows that myths never really happened but are always going on. Now they go on not only through the adventures of ancient heroes, but rather also make their way into the ubiquitous and most popular stories of contemporary film, games and literature.

Story and plot and asking why:

I am also convinced by the distinction between true story and plot made by the writer and essayist E.M. Forster. He said that when we say, “The king died and then the queen died,” it’s a story. But when we say, “The king died, and then the queen died of grief,” that is a plot. Every fictionalization involves a transition from the question “What happened next?” to an attempt at understanding it based on our human experience: “Why did it happen that way?”

Literature begins with that “why,” even if we were to answer that question over and over with an ordinary “I don’t know.”

Reading is quite a complicated psychological and perceptual process. To put it simply: first the most elusive content is conceptualized and verbalized, transforming into signs and symbols, and then it is “decoded” back from language into experience. That requires a certain intellectual competence. And above all it demands attention and focus, abilities ever rarer in today’s extremely distracting world.

A story always turns circles around meaning. Even if it doesn’t express it directly, even when it deliberately refuses to seek meaning, and focuses on form, on experiment, when it stages a formal rebellion, looking for new means of expression. As we read even the most behavioristically, sparingly written story, we cannot help asking the questions: “Why is this happening?,” “What does it mean?,” “What is the point?,” “Where is this leading?” Quite possibly our minds have evolved toward the story as a process of giving meaning to millions of stimuli that surround us, and that even when we’re asleep keep on relentlessly devising their narratives. So the story is a way of organizing an infinite amount of information within

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We are all―people, plants, animals, and objects―immersed in a single

space, which is ruled by the laws of physics. This common space has its shape, and within it the laws of physics sculpt an infinite number of forms that are incessantly linked to one another. Our cardiovascular system is like the system of a river basin, the structure of a leaf is like a human transport system, the motion of the galaxies is like the whirl of water flowing down our washbasins. Societies develop in a similar way to colonies of bacteria. The micro and macro scale show an endless system of similarities.

Our speech, thinking and creativity are not something abstract, removed from the world, but a continuation on another level of its endless processes of transformation.

Not death, destruction or agony but joy

I am a paradox of patience and impatience. I endure hours and decades of odd behavior and unfortunate choices while I detest the sluggishness of the status quo in politics, the imbalances of economics, and the persistence of racism and sexual violence.

So, it is with some reluctant intrigue that I read this discussion on Kurt Vonnegut by Suzanne McConnell:

You do not have to experience death or destruction or agony to write. You simply have to care about something. Perhaps what you care about is joyful. 

I have waited and procrastinated. I have doubted self and squandered storylines and anecdotes. At times, I have dreamed of a story that does not dwell in the hatred and violence of humankind. I aspire to read more and write some such writing as the spoken word carries heft and the written word carries power. The power to continue, perpetuate or the ability to break from broken habits and cultural norms and storied tropes.

Trope: 1. any literary or rhetorical device….

Hope and Fear

Dying people don’t lose hope; it just changes. First, you hope for a mistake…. Next, you hope for a cure. A new treatment. A miracle! Hope is a lot like fear; both are based on what might happen. Hoping for a cure and fearing that there isn’t one are versions of the same thought: I’m not going to die.

Sallie Tisdale in Advice for Future Corpses. Page 82

From: letter to white teachers of my Black children

You need cultural knowledge and skills.

Dominant culture in US suppresses conversations around race … for numerous reasons, most of them related to the maintenance of the power status quo.

Proximity does not equal awareness… And colorblindness is not a thing. While it’s right to treat children equitably, it’s also important to understand how race shapes lives in a racist system.

We all breathe in the smog of oppression, and the only way to expel it is to read, listen, reflect, ask questions and become better as a result of what we learn. I’m here asking you as educators to help lead the way. By improving equity in schools, by becoming truly inclusive learning communities with an effective anti-racist curriculum, we improve both individual lives and equity and justice in society. I’m here for you and I’m rooting for you. As Lilla Watson said, “… your liberation is bound up with mine.”

All the while listening to Curtis Mayfield, the get cut off. These and more concepts at: https://teachingwhilewhite.org/blog/2019/6/21/a-letter-to-white-teachers-of-my-black-children

Delta Land Stolen Taken Lost

Vann Newkirk II in the Great Land Robbery, September 2019 issue of The Atlantic:

A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America. They have lost 12 million acres over the past century. But even that statement falsely consigns the losses to long-ago history. In fact, the losses mostly occurred within living memory, from the 1950s onward.

No longer left or right

But politics of life or politics of death, according to Gustavo Petro, Senator in Colombia and presidential candidate in 2018:

I think that was a relatively logical way and a relatively realistic way to describe politics in the 20th century, but today politics is divided between the politics of life and the politics of death. Climate change worldwide separates us into two major sides. 

Death gets the bigger budgets: war, starvation, homelessness, illness, incarceration.

***

And investment in military spending begets occupation leads to resentment and radicalization, evident by the Pentagon’s own researchers who noted that the number of groups, the number of incidents and the number of countries consumed by violence have risen since the formation of the African Command Center in 2002.

Two Wolves

Two wolves were in the house and they kept trying to pick me up. Running around and I was getting away from them. They were brown in color with round shaped heads. I did not feel safe. How did they get in? How did they get out? I think they were two wolf spirits.

Globalization’s Four Progeny

Writing on England in the mess of Brexit, Alexander Cockburn writes on counterpunch that:

globalisation has produced political crises all over the world which differ in some respects but have certain common themes such as de-industrialisation, increased inequality, immigration, and the alienation of large parts of the population

These four define the political, economic and social tumult filing many countries and most nations. I studied Geography from Form 3 through 5 and the push and pull factors that we used to categorize migration provide scaffolding for the waves of people moving across land, continents, and bodies of water. These four elements compose a self-perpetuating cycle where inequality begets alienation that causes immigration resulting in more de-industrialization, which completes the loop by resulting in more inequality.