Fractured Compass

June 17, 2006

On Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Filed under: What I Saw and Read — roundapple @ 8:30 am

One day, many years ago, I began reading One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Anos de Soledad) by the Colombian author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Gabo). The feeling I got then was a wondrous sense of discovery, like entering into a world I never imagined. Gabo has a way with words and situations which only his Spanish (or should I say Latin American) heritage allows. There never was a moment of dullness or torpor in those few days I read the novel. The prose had a cadence that seemed like poetry. The melodramatic became magical because of words and rhythm. The leftist orientation didn’t sink in because words kept lifting up the story, or stories, in the air where it/they were kept afloat. The characters with long Spanish names seemed like second nature by the middle of the book. And the ending (the last few paragraphs) was a tour de force, a coda that you would read again and again for its melancholy, grandeur and sense of loss.
Flowing lines that meander like a maze. Contrast that with the equally outrageous but succinct fictions of one other great Latin American writer, Jorge Luis Borges. Borges seems so obsessed with the logic of the possible and the imagined but writes in terse, equally effective prose.
Together with the Russian expat Vladimir Nabokov, whose Pale Fire (more than Lolita) is an acrobatic performance on tightrope, they are the trio that makes you think there is more to reality than the real. (Did I forget Kafka whose stories border on insanity?)
Reading his autobiography, LivingTo Tell the Tale, Knoft, 2003), today you get a sense of how he did it. You wonder at the stories that made up his life. Snatches of supposed real-life stories that sound surreal populate the book. As if this was one more episode or a retelling of One Hundred Years. Yet the feeling is one of being planted on solid ground, and you ask yourself whether all this can be true. Of course, it doesn’t matter if they are fictions. It doesn’t matter even if Gabo seems to have developed a sense of his own self-importance or hubris in his old age. With his achievements, he can be excused that and almost anything else.
He has recently published another work of fiction (Memories of a Melancholy Whore) which I hope to read.


The Primacy of Prepositions

Filed under: What I Saw and Read — roundapple @ 8:29 am

In the heyday of Heidegger’s influence, authenticity became a key word – and living authentically became a catchphrase of existentialism, the art-nouveau bastard child of Husserlian and Heideggerian thinking. Even now that Heidegger and Nazism seems almost a blase topic, there are still Heideggerians among our midst and perhaps wired within our own neurons.
That this cannot be helped is explained by the thinking human’s fascination with Being and beings. There was a time when I read, word for word, every sentence of Being and Time, after reading commentators on Heidegger, hoping to catch a revelation or even a glimpse of Authentic Being.
Then came a period of eclipse, and a year ago, I decided to read again Being and Time, after reading Safranski’s biography of Heidegger. But what Time and a little age can do to Being! What stood out was the almost comic preoccupation with being and Being compounded with prepositions. Philosophy becomes the obvious, perhaps too obvious. Because how else can you conceive of being or Being or Who-ness or What-ness, in consciousness or thinking, except with Where-ness or With-ness or For-ness, or any preposition for that matter. Being or being, necessarily compounds itself, in our mind, with prepositions the moment you think about it or place it in the world. Taken in itself, it flirts with nothing or Nothing (as Jean Paul Sartre’s interminably long Being and Nothingness dissolves Being into Nothingness), Otherwise, it’s substance or essence. Both Spinoza, whose more static substance philosophy leads to a movement towards an overarching Ethics, and Heidegger whose premise is to put being or Being in context, may be right depending on your moods. Both are equally dangerous when extrapolated into practice. Attractive philosophy leads to A Separate Peace or A Separate Ethics or A Separate Revolution which can prove popular or hip although, almost always, never lasting. Authentically dangerous to health or to others.
In the context of textual exegetical debate, the preposition in the text of Scripture can be the skandalon, the literal stumbling-block to consensus, the crucial hinge that links and at the same time allows a door to swing in or out depending on who turns the doorknob.
The only safe philosophy (or exegesis?) maybe armchair or academic philosophy: either Anglo-Saxon Philosophy of Language, or Franco-American (which in its Derrida guise is its Strange Bedfellow) Deconstruction, because the former is mere diversion and the latter dissolves philosophy itself and much else besides, leaving No-thing. Notice how italics, hyphens, prepositions, and Caps seem all-important and how all I wrote is Non-sense.

Journler Once Again

Filed under: Computers and the Net — roundapple @ 6:35 am

I used Phil Dow’s Journler application for sometime, then got busy with other things. Now Journler is back as version 2 with a vengeance. It is one of the most useful, cleanest and finest-looking journal application you can ever find for your Mac.
It has a slew of new features, including better blogging support (just in case exposing your thoughts to the outside world is your cup of tea), better integration with iLife (including a one-click iWeb button), the ability to add subfolders and organize them in hierarchies, embedding of media (including PDF’s, audio and video), and alising (enabling it to find your media even if you moved it).
All in all, this software is better than others sold in the market for would-be writers.
I should say best because Journler is free, though Phil Dow would gladly accept donations.
In his weblog, he wrote that he entered it in Apple’s 2006 Design Awards contest in the category “Best User Experience.” I certainly hope he wins. As a guy who has given his talent generously to developing a well-rounded application, he deserves to win.

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