On Sunday, I was trying to decide between buying a specialized notebook case or a messenger bag.Ã‚Â I opted for the latter because it has a lot more space to store papers, books, other knick knacks that are useful for the work I do.Ã‚Â The faux leather or real leather on some notebook cases were tempting....
Monthly Archives: January 2007
I'm grateful to Andy Crouch, for pointing out in last Sunday's sermon, the three operative verbs
in the description of the 12-year old Jesus at the temple. See Luke 2:46 (NRSV):
"After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the
teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." At the
university, do I sit, listen, and ask questions?
See two of Andy's online projects:
As I was looking for how to link to Luke 2:46, I found a number of
useful links to help me find Bible passages, especially for the the
Berkeley Asian Americans; Orhan Pamuk as a writing son
Little Asia on the Hill is a fascinating NYT article about the huge number of Asian-American students on the Berkeley campus.
This morning, I read Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture: My Father's Suitcase, an essay that stirred up deep emotional wells in me as a writer and a son. A choice quote:
- The writer’s secret is not inspiration—for it
is never clear where that comes from—but stubbornness, endurance. The
lovely Turkish expression “to dig a well with a needle” seems to me to
have been invented with writers in mind. In the old stories, I love the
patience of Ferhat, who digs through mountains for his love—and I
understand it, too. When I wrote, in my novel “My Name Is Red,” about
the old Persian miniaturists who drew the same horse with the same
passion for years and years, memorizing each stroke, until they could
re-create that beautiful horse even with their eyes closed, I knew that
I was talking about the writing profession, and about my own life. If a
writer is to tell his own story—to tell it slowly, and as if it were a
story about other people—if he is to feel the power of the story rise
up inside him, if he is to sit down at a table and give himself over to
this art, this craft, he must first be given some hope. The angel of
inspiration (who pays regular visits to some and rarely calls on
others) favors the hopeful and the confident, and it is when a writer
feels most lonely, when he feels most doubtful about his efforts, his
dreams, and the value of his writing, when he thinks that his story is
only his story—it is at such moments that the angel chooses to reveal
to him the images and dreams that will draw out the world he wishes to
build. If I think back on the books to which I have devoted my life, I
am most surprised by those moments when I felt as if the sentences and
pages that made me ecstatically happy came not from my own imagination
but from another power, which had found them and generously presented
them to me.
As I was writing the first chapters of my mashup book, I was drawn to
reading a tribute in the NYRB by Robert Darnton to Clifford Geertz (The New York Review of Books: On Clifford Geertz: Field Notes from the Classroom). Is using "thick description" the right way to write my book?
For example, in expounding the esoteric notion of the hermeneutic
circle--the conception of interpretive understanding favored by the
philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer--Cliff did not begin with an exposition
of Gadamer's general principles and a theoretical account of
descriptive as opposed to causal explanations in the human sciences.
Instead, he asked the students to imagine themselves explaining
baseball to a visitor from Outer Mongolia whom they had taken to a
game. You would point out the three bases, he said, and the need to hit
the ball in such a way as to run around the bases and reach home plate
before being tagged out by the defense. But in doing so, you might note
the different shape of the first baseman's glove or the tendency of the
infield to realign itself in the hope of making a double play. You
would tack back and forth between general rules--three strikes, you're
out--and fine details--the nature of a hanging curve. The mutual
reinforcement of generalizations and details would build up an
increasingly rich account of the game being played under the observers'
eyes. Your description could circle around the subject indefinitely,
getting thicker with each telling. Thick descriptions would vary; some
would be more effective than others; and some might be wrong: to have a
runner advance from third base to second would be a clear mistake. But
the descriptions, if sufficiently artful and accurate, would
cumulatively convey an interpretation of the thing itself, baseball.