Monday, October 26, 2009

Thoughts on Hybridity~


“My form is always an odd amalgam taken from painting, sculpture, theory, film, music, poetry, dance, mathematics, even fiction sometimes.” ~Carole Maso


There’s all this talk about getting rid of the “I” in our work. About staying away from personal material and first person narration. I suppose the idea is that somehow we ourselves aren’t interesting enough to write about and that to do so is self indulgent and boring.

Well, sometimes, yes. But also sometimes, no. Like Maso. She is unequivocally my favorite writer. And what’s more, my favorite works of hers are the essays she writes on her own experience. I have found a home inside her writing and through the telling of her stories, I’ve connected with my own.


“If its expression concentrated itself in the individual, completely saturating him with substance and experience garnered from its own loneliness, hen precisely this speech becomes the voice of men between whom the barriers have fallen.” ~Theodor Adorno


“The desire of the novel to be a poem, the desire of the girl to be a horse. The desire of a poem to be an essay. The essay’s desire, its reach towards fiction. And the obvious erotics of this.” ~Carole Maso


As I put this piece together, I realized most of the quotes and ideas I was turning to had to do with writing. This is a project on hybridity Allie, I kept reminding myself. And then, one light bulb moment later, I realized that to me, writing (the act as well as the product) is a hybrid. It is an amalgamation of thought, dream, language and the individual…not to mention the innumerable influences gathered simply by living. So really, what this project has become are a sampling of the things that have influenced me and then things that first jumped to mind when I asked myself what HYBRID means to me. And I share them not because I think they’re soooo important, and not only because I’m assigned to present and this is what I came up with, but because I relish other writers thoughts on themselves, their lives, and how their practice takes form and grows. I seek out and enjoy essays centered around an interesting “I” and feel perplexed when we sit around and pooh pooh writers who focus on themselves like they are self indulgent and limited for doing so.

Because it’s actually pretty hard to connectively write about one’s own experience. Or to connect to oneself in the first place. The “I” focused writing that flops is the stuff that’s penned without proper introspection, investigation, self exploration. Because just like a critical paper, just like a report, writing about the self takes research, if only the living of life and the feeling of feelings.


“We write to find what we believe or want to believe or think we believe” ~George Oppen


“You write it all, discovering it at the end of the line of words. The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illumines the path just before its fragile tip. You probe with it, delicate as a worm.” ~Annie Dillard


Annie Dillard. I read her for the first time in high school. Her An American Childhood is, in a way a memoir, but also, a collection of essays investigating the nature of memory. Of child’s time. Of the intersections of philosophy and feeling.

She writes with tactile care the details of growing up and I, reading her at the port of embarkation from my own childhood, internalized her words. They became part of my body and my work so that now, years later when I pick up her books, I find her memories have interwoven with mine.

What I’m trying to say is that good writing about oneself can pull readers closer to themselves and merge the gap between author and audience….create, in a way, a hybrid.


“Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?” ~Annie Dillard


“Cinema is not a series of abstract ideas but a phrasing of moments.”~Jean Luc Godard


Jamila said...

BRAVO, and thank thank thank you.
I've always struggled with the condemnation of "biographical analysis," insofar as you suggest... that the work is the output of a mind, that mind a hybrid of those thoughts and that personal experience. Tiptoeing around biography, the PERSON at the root of thought is no way to appreciate their ideas. Rather, I think, the immersion in that person, as best as we can understand, can only enrich the meaning and value of those thoughts, and subsequently lead us to the so-called universals our professors want us to reach.

Any writer would acknowledge this. Why critics and analyzers of writing don't - I don't know, I've always suspected jealousy. :)

Jennifer Styperk said...

Thank you for these! I love Carole Maso and being reminded of her thinking on writing is very helpful. Have you read BREAK EVERY RULE? (Perhaps that is where you are getting her quotes.) While I haven't read it in awhile, AN AMERICAN WOMAN IN A CHINESE HAT really spoke to me--style, content, character, the sense of being foreign and outside of language.