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  1.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #11
    Retired Staff Frank LeRenard's Avatar
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    I do apologize I can't find any of the old examples I remember. It's frustrating, but it turns out the New Yorker's search engine is complete bollocks and sorts things randomly by date instead of in some kind of logical order.

    I do remember reading a lot of the vignettes in your book, and I did actually read the one you just posted that you describe here, though I didn't leave a comment. But I figured those were, again, vignettes, more for either practice for you or some kind of zen contemplation for the reader (in other words, yes, I guess you could call them tone studies).

    The only reason I get annoyed by these stories, then, would be because I'm conflicted about what the author's intent actually was. I know when it comes to modern art, I have often heard the explanation that there was no goal in mind other than the artist using the piece to express whatever emotions might have come while he/she was painting, but I've just never bought that. You use the example of instrumental music, but I see there being the same sort of division here; some instrumental music is almost literally just noise (some Japanese artist... don't recall the name, specializes in this type of thing), while others are clearly written to tell a story ("A Child's Garden of Dreams") despite the rather arcane kinds of sounds the piece contains.
    In terms of the kinds of stories I'm talking about, then, I can understand writing such a piece as a study (like doing a sketch in art), but I feel like it's just going to be incomplete if you simply leave it that way. In which case, I fail to see the point of spending much time analyzing or even praising such a piece. And if it really is just about evoking some emotion or other, that implies that analysis would be missing the point anyhow. But I still see people treat pieces like this as though they contained some miraculous hidden meaning and were works of utter genius; maybe you're telling me I should be mostly annoyed by those who come up with such opinions, and not the artists or writers themselves who produce the works since their intent is something else entirely. Am I close?

    And then Fay is telling me that the author's intent doesn't matter if someone does manage to find some lasting truth despite that the author never put one in there. So it's all very complicated.

    Also, I like the direction this discussion is going. I posted it over on FAF too, but half the time I feel like everyone's too afraid of me there to disagree or try to correct me on something.

  2.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #12
    Didn't try, Succeeded Fay V's Avatar



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    I will say this. If meaning is found despite the intent of the author, it doesn't make the author a genius. Conan Doyle isn't a genius for writing something that could fit modern points as well. It's coincidence, but that doesn't mean I can't get meaning out of it. My knowledge of Jurassic park makes his Lost World more amusing, but he's not psychic.

    On the other hand, Jules Verne purposefully worked on his scifi and his understanding of science was genius for his time, which I can appreciate more now, regardless of his intention at the time. Sometimes intent ages like a fine wine, something something comes out that wasn't intended but still works well in new context.

    People that write colors and shapes with no intent and are called a genius are basically the equivalent of someone drawing random dots, then lining it up with some star pattern and saying it was aliens. The pattern is still there, I can still find meaning, that doesn't mean there's a genius behind the meaning I find.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank LeRenard View Post
    I do apologize I can't find any of the old examples I remember. It's frustrating, but it turns out the New Yorker's search engine is complete bollocks and sorts things randomly by date instead of in some kind of logical order.

    I do remember reading a lot of the vignettes in your book, and I did actually read the one you just posted that you describe here, though I didn't leave a comment. But I figured those were, again, vignettes, more for either practice for you or some kind of zen contemplation for the reader (in other words, yes, I guess you could call them tone studies).

    The only reason I get annoyed by these stories, then, would be because I'm conflicted about what the author's intent actually was. I know when it comes to modern art, I have often heard the explanation that there was no goal in mind other than the artist using the piece to express whatever emotions might have come while he/she was painting, but I've just never bought that. You use the example of instrumental music, but I see there being the same sort of division here; some instrumental music is almost literally just noise (some Japanese artist... don't recall the name, specializes in this type of thing), while others are clearly written to tell a story ("A Child's Garden of Dreams") despite the rather arcane kinds of sounds the piece contains.
    In terms of the kinds of stories I'm talking about, then, I can understand writing such a piece as a study (like doing a sketch in art), but I feel like it's just going to be incomplete if you simply leave it that way. In which case, I fail to see the point of spending much time analyzing or even praising such a piece. And if it really is just about evoking some emotion or other, that implies that analysis would be missing the point anyhow. But I still see people treat pieces like this as though they contained some miraculous hidden meaning and were works of utter genius; maybe you're telling me I should be mostly annoyed by those who come up with such opinions, and not the artists or writers themselves who produce the works since their intent is something else entirely. Am I close?
    I wouldn't want to speak on behalf of the writers or the fans of the writing by saying "yes they might be missing the point" or "the artist intends to study the tone of the work rather than give his ideas a 'meaning' or 'thesis statement'". The intention of that post was wholly to suggest you look at the works in another way, in a way that specifically DOESN'T look for meaning, with a rather large and self important handful or references to my own work

    If I'm a slight incoherent I should mention I had surgery performed on my mouth a few days ago and have been on (albeit weak) pain medication since. My apologies for any confusion

    To further my point though, who is to say that a written piece NEEDS an apparent meaning? I feel these works might only feel incomplete because you're coming into them with the expectation of there being a meaning, through your written upbringing (taught by others and self) you've established a paradigm that says writing MUST have a meaning, and that a story should basically be a fictive essay. This is a fine bias to have as it's so excusable, there has been writing like this since the advent of the story, and arguably "to teach a lesson" was the PURPOSE people started telling stories in the first place.

    So then I admit that to look at writing in a different way is a bit decadent, going against the original purpose of the whole craft, but I mean it HAS been a couple hundred thousand years since the advent of language and "literature", so it could use a bit of freshing up ;p

    I made the comparison to instrumental music because such tracks don't always have a narrative. Sometimes you have tracks that tell a story (like Swing of the Clock by Solatrus. Note the progression in tonal sounds and how it relates to the album's concept of "time"), but other times you have tracks that are simply there to convey "good vibes" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yam3CuYQ-E4), and that's how I think you should look at the idea of tonal writing.

    (I specifically say "good vibes" because that is a feedback I have received, specifically on a sketch I wrote called "Gabriel". The goal of that work was specifically to set a mood, not convey a meaning)

    My argument is that perhaps writing CAN ride on just "good vibes". There's a camp of thought in artistry that claims art is not the value or meaning we put into an artist's work, but the emotional response it invokes in us. I don't see why that can't apply also to literature
    you
    But I understand if you still don't appreciate that line of thinking. I don't want to and wouldn't ever force you to change your ideas in regards to writing. I'm seeking to explain that by opening your mind to different approaches, you will be able to understand a larger amount of work and be able to learn from it, even if you don't appreciate them

    Also, I like the direction this discussion is going. I posted it over on FAF too, but half the time I feel like everyone's too afraid of me there to disagree or try to correct me on something.
    yes yes yes, I love having dialogues with you~

    I feel like your experience with writing shouldn't be seen as intimidating, hardly so! That you are such an authority when it comes to writing (on the furry level at least) should be considered super inviting in regards to debate and discussion. To think of the things people could learn, bouncing their ideas off of you! :3

    Quote Originally Posted by Fay V View Post
    People that write colors and shapes with no intent and are called a genius are basically the equivalent of someone drawing random dots, then lining it up with some star pattern and saying it was aliens. The pattern is still there, I can still find meaning, that doesn't mean there's a genius behind the meaning I find.
    What are your thoughts then, for example, on the famous artist "pollock"? Could it perhaps be argued his genius was not in his ability to give meaning to his work, but in his ability to arrange paint splatters such that they are appealing to the human eye?

    This I suppose ties in as well with what I am saying to MLR
    Last edited by Tybby; 08-28-2013 at 12:18 AM.

  4.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #14
    Retired Staff Frank LeRenard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tybby View Post
    To further my point though, who is to say that a written piece NEEDS an apparent meaning?
    Oh, I don't think a piece does. But there are two things I tend to look for in a story: one is a story (a narrative, i.e. something happens to the characters involved), and if that doesn't appear to exist then I tend to look for a meaning. I guess I've always felt that if a piece of writing doesn't have either of those things, there's little I can get from it. Emotions are rather fleeting things, after all, and unless there's something else there to anchor those emotions down, they end up just passing right through and forget the story after a day or two.

    It might just be the way I think, that I don't approve beyond a certain level of abstraction. I do feel that there is such a thing as nonsense. Which actually leads me to the following:

    What are your thoughts then, for example, on the famous artist "pollock"? Could it perhaps be argued his genius was not in his ability to give meaning to his work, but in his ability to arrange paint splatters such that they are appealing to the human eye?
    I don't find Pollock's paintings appealing to the eye at all, and I know a lot of other people who don't either. So the problem I see with that type of art is that it's so completely based on the subjective perspective of it that it can't ever really present any lasting meaning to humanity or culture as a whole. I feel like the guy is famous for being a pioneer, but not for much else. Maybe subconsciously this is why so many people just detest modern art; if you fail to see the aesthetic appeal, there's simply nothing else there you can grab on to, and the piece becomes utterly worthless for you. You can't even appreciate the artist's skill or ability; you could reproduce a Pollock painting by giving a toddler a can of Dr. Pepper and access to a couple buckets of multicolored paint (I exaggerate, of course, but this is why the only way to tell an authentic Pollock from a fake is by dating the canvas).
    Now, tonal writing will never quite suffer that problem; it requires a skill with language to actually create tones. But maybe you see what I mean; if you don't like the tone for whatever reason, what else is there to be found? And even if you do like the tone, is the point just to take a hot bath?

    Maybe I am missing something, but I just feel like the better achievement is to create a tone for the reader within the context of an actual story. Much of the art of writing is to get everything to work together: tone, characters, plot, suspense, etc., and it seems to me that the greatest writers are the ones who can do all that flawlessly. Maybe I use that definition because it includes everything from the screenplay of Hot Fuzz (one of the tightest, most flawless scripts I've ever seen despite that it's a parody of buddy-cop action movies) to Flaubert's Trois Contes (from an author who was known to spend days carefully selecting each word in one sentence).
    You know... it's nice to see each moving part function independently, to make sure they all work, but the real theatre doesn't start until the whole machine starts working.

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    I think though that you're missing a core part of my argument

    In my work James Sunderland for example, there definitely are characters, and there definitely is a plot. All these pieces are working together, just not towards the end that you would prefer. And while emotional responses might SEEM like a fleeting end, there is definitely a science behind human aesthetic (one which pollock understood. He specifically knew how to arrange the colours on his canvas such that they would be appealing to the human eye). Whether or not literally everyone enjoys your work or not shouldn't be an issue anyway, and is a problem that isn't exclusive to this brand of writing; drawing comparison to that song I linked, not everyone is going to be receptive to that kind of music.

    I'm really glad you mentioned Flaubert, because there is an example of a writer whose main focus WASN'T "meaning". There might be meaning of his work, just as there are characters and plot in James Sunderland, but the focus of the narrative was "rhythm". Flaubert stressed over every single sentence because he specifically wanted the rhythm of his work to be its strongest suit. Detractors would often say of him "Flaubert spent his mornings doing nothing, and his evenings writing about it" as a critique of how his work focused on its rhythm as opposed to his content. Their problem was that they were looking for the wrong things in his work, instead of appraising its value on the technical level as would have been appropriate, they looked at the plot and characters.

    (As an aside, when I mention "plot" and "character" based stories, I am referencing the two more common styles of writing. The most prominent is "plot based" writing, which is the root of most genre-fiction. The writing there puts most focus on the chain of events that transpire generally archetypal characters, such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Bible. The last of which is a great example of a plot-based piece that intends to convey a meaning through its plot, and also serves as a reminder that even when the focus is on the plot, a work can still be considered technically superb

    The other more common approach to writing being what we call the "character study", where while there is a plot, meaning, etc, the main focus of the narrative is in exploring the pathos of specific characters. These are works like Breakfast at Tiffany's {the book and the movie}, Girl, Interrupted and Lady and the Tramp {to name some popular examples}

    The way to tell of course what the focus of a work is is by measuring the proportions of different aspects, the weight an author puts into these separate parts of the machine)

    And I honestly think you're having the same problem. You're still looking at literature as if there HAS to be a meaning to the work, you're acting as if (in your last statement specifically) a focus elsewhere would lead to imbalance and "each moving part" not "functioning independently"

    But writing never involves each moving part functioning independently. There will always be one aspect that the author focuses on (whether they are cognizant of it or not) and all other aspects will be subservient to this main, acting as the shoulders upon which its litter spells (<- apologies for archaic language here)

    I wouldn't ask you to start liking this kind of writing, but there is nothing wrong with broadening your perspective on literature. I mean, that's how we grow as people, we question WHY we think certain things and then try to optimize our perspectives. There's a lot to learn through the study of tonal work, whether you like it or not (a phrase I also repeat when recommending people study The Bible), and I feel like you are hurting yourself by refusing to accept that this other paradigm is, if not viable, at least at home in some niche

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    also as an aside, because of Flaubert's focus on rhythm, you lose quite a bit of the work when you read the English translation

    kind of like listening to Chopin played on the recorder

  7.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #17
    Retired Staff Frank LeRenard's Avatar
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    I do think it's viable in some niche, but my question is more what the lasting value of such pieces might be. I agree that works that focus on just one aspect (tone or rhythm or whatever) CAN end up as great works of literature, but it's usually only because they have something else that's more universally appealing and longer-lasting than just tone alongside whatever the work might have been focused on. Tone and language and such help (a lot, if you can get it right), but they're not complete by themselves, is what I'm saying. Maybe what I'm asking you is, how often are books remembered simply for sounding pleasant when read aloud?
    I'm coming at this from a reductionist sense (which is something I do frequently, since my education is in the sciences). Take the extreme case; a work that means nothing, has no characters, and no plot, but which uses a lot of creative language so that it sounds musical when read. If you do not like how it sounds when read, will the piece stick in your mind? I'm arguing that the answer is 'no', because the entire work is hinging on the musicality; there's nothing else to back it up. If you do like how it sounds, how long will it stick in your mind? Again, I think the answer is 'not long' because there's nothing else there, and just tone isn't enough to keep a story going. You will remember that it sounded good, but nothing else.

    But this is getting way too theoretical, because I don't think there really are pieces like that out there (although some, as I mentioned, come pretty close), and I don't think that's the kind of thing you're talking about. Probably the more important aspect of your argument is the idea that you should come at every work as though the author/artist/etc. knows what he/she is doing. So I'd want to ask, if you do come at ALL works in this way (which is a very respectable and humble thing to do, by the way), is there a way to tell that a work fails? In other words, Tybby, are there 'bad' works out there, and how do you tell them apart from the good ones? And I'm asking for your specific thought on that, not a general 'you'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tybby
    also as an aside, because of Flaubert's focus on rhythm, you lose quite a bit of the work when you read the English translation

    kind of like listening to Chopin played on the recorder
    I did read Flaubert as part of a French Lit class, so we read it in French. I admit every sentence sounds quite nice, but I also recall some thoughtful concepts, allusions to older works (lives of Saints, mostly, in Trois Comptes, although it's been a while since I've read them), and other such things. So again, while Flaubert focused mostly on tone, that's not the only thing he focused on. And keep in mind, he was also writing his stuff at the same time as authors like Hugo and Melville and such (though Melville wasn't exactly popular back then... but whatever). The accepted style seemed to be more melodramatic and blunt (I don't know if you've ever read the full edition of Les MisÚrables, but it's laden with hundreds of pages of exposition about various political/social/architectural/etc. issues of the day), and Flaubert just didn't do that (since he liked to conserve words).
    Or maybe my French professor was just talking out his ass in explaining the works to us. I don't know.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank LeRenard View Post
    I do think it's viable in some niche, but my question is more what the lasting value of such pieces might be. I agree that works that focus on just one aspect (tone or rhythm or whatever) CAN end up as great works of literature, but it's usually only because they have something else that's more universally appealing and longer-lasting than just tone alongside whatever the work might have been focused on. Tone and language and such help (a lot, if you can get it right), but they're not complete by themselves, is what I'm saying. Maybe what I'm asking you is, how often are books remembered simply for sounding pleasant when read aloud?
    I'm coming at this from a reductionist sense (which is something I do frequently, since my education is in the sciences). Take the extreme case; a work that means nothing, has no characters, and no plot, but which uses a lot of creative language so that it sounds musical when read. If you do not like how it sounds when read, will the piece stick in your mind? I'm arguing that the answer is 'no', because the entire work is hinging on the musicality; there's nothing else to back it up. If you do like how it sounds, how long will it stick in your mind? Again, I think the answer is 'not long' because there's nothing else there, and just tone isn't enough to keep a story going. You will remember that it sounded good, but nothing else.

    But this is getting way too theoretical, because I don't think there really are pieces like that out there (although some, as I mentioned, come pretty close), and I don't think that's the kind of thing you're talking about. Probably the more important aspect of your argument is the idea that you should come at every work as though the author/artist/etc. knows what he/she is doing. So I'd want to ask, if you do come at ALL works in this way (which is a very respectable and humble thing to do, by the way), is there a way to tell that a work fails? In other words, Tybby, are there 'bad' works out there, and how do you tell them apart from the good ones? And I'm asking for your specific thought on that, not a general 'you'.
    The lasting value though is in the aesthetic, which is something completely accepted in regards to music and other forms of visual art. Who is to say that writing can't cleave to aesthetic the way the other arts can? I remember quite clearly for instance albums and paintings I like, not for their meaning or characters but for their tone.

    In regards to "will a book be remembered if it sounds nice", well, yeah. But that's a rather large statement. Most people who think a book "sounds nice" will be referring to the subject matter of the piece, or something else that suited their personal reading biases. The goal here then is quite similar, to write something that is designed to be aesthetically pleasing on the technical level, rather than on the content level (Which would be most pop fiction).

    Whether this would appeal to a large group of people however, Tybby Frank, doesn't make me no nevermind. A huge influence of mine would be an electronic pop artist from the UK named Imogen Heap, who was said to be "an artists artist" (by a work relation of hers in her documentary "Everything in Between") because while her work is pleasing on the basic level, there is a huge amount of technical prowess that (at least, this person felt) only musicians or the musically trained would fully appreciate. I might be taking this a bit personally but we only really have my work to study as examples of this kind of thing.

    And before I take it any farther I feel like you were kind of implying that what you were complaining about in the OP wasn't "tonal writing" as I put it, and I suppose then I've sidetracked the discussion heavily. I'll keep in mind we've had this dialogue though and try to find examples of works that focus on tonality, because I don't think I'm pioneering a new thing when I'm writing these pieces (or at least, I'm not arrogant enough to assume so).

    To end on a comparison though, I feel like you're taking too strong a utilitarian approach to writing. What I'm talking about is like a sunday drive through the countryside, you look out the window and take in what you see and the experience is very visceral, and I feel like you're arguing "but what's the point if you don't go to the mall / the store / work / somewhere you need to be"

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank LeRenard View Post
    Or maybe my French professor was just talking out his ass in explaining the works to us. I don't know.
    Are you being sarcastic with me Frank because let me tell you

    you being smarmy does not turn me off at all

  9.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #19
    Retired Staff Frank LeRenard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tybby
    To end on a comparison though, I feel like you're taking too strong a utilitarian approach to writing.
    Maybe I am, but that could also just be where you and I differ on this subject. I happen to get bored by things that appear to serve no concrete purpose, I guess. Call me Mr. Spock.

    Are you being sarcastic with me Frank because let me tell you

    you being smarmy does not turn me off at all
    I actually wasn't. My education in these matters is undergrad level from several years ago, so that means just barely above 'knows nothing at all'.

    Did you have an opinion on what makes a work bad, though? I was curious about that, which is why I asked.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank LeRenard View Post
    Did you have an opinion on what makes a work bad, though? I was curious about that, which is why I asked.
    Anything stylistically bland; modern prose is so anti-artistic it's grating. I like to read books and say "wow what that author did there was really smart, making that subtle comparison / using a tmesis / whatever". When I am reading I am always looking at the technical aspects of the book, meaning to appreciate its craftsmanship.

    I also really dislike it when writers preface their own work. I absolutely hate it, especially when they choose to spend the foreword bragging about their credentials, ugh

 

 

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