Saturday, March 24, 2007

Write a Book Review, Win Books

While searching for another reference, I came across this opportunity to win free books from Alibris. All you have to do is write a book review...and then win the random draw. Click here to get to the entry page.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Rapid Reply to WT's Untitled Pome

this yearly trek

thru arctic freeze
is no adventure
no historic quest
north pole is not
my ultimate goal
no byrd no peary
no franklin northwest passage

dull day grey
is tiresome
the cycle makes me
weep for change
sun is relief
all too brief
in february march
of ontario southwest passage

(Meanwhile, Larry sez, hey, what up wid dis blog? He & WT, WT & He, rappin to deyself! Ain't no otha pieces of DoveTale to avail?)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Arthur Koestler's a Bleedin' Genius!

By way of preamble, Larry has to say that he sometimes struggles with what to post on Dove Tale Writers, mainly because, after all, he does have Mental Blog to maintain. (As if it's some sort of dependent child huddled in the corner unobtrusively clamoring for attention. If he could claim a tax deduction, or get the child tax credit, wouldn't that be great? Coupla hunnerd bucks a month to feed the blog its bits and bytes...)

Anyway...he tries to keep his Dove Tale posts within the parameters set by the hosts--DoveTalers all--so, something literary or related to writing or the writing life (of which he knows little since he doesn't write but types very well), however tenuous the connection.

Having said that, he can tell you that he debated this one. But his decision was made for him by the appearance in what he's been reading of the phrase "dovetailed into the familiar." How could he not post to Dove Tale with that before his eyes?

He's been reading (again) a book by Arthur Koestler entitled Janus: A Summing Up. It's hard to describe what this book is about without rewriting the book or creating an inordinately long review, which Larry doesn't want to do. Suffice it to say that Koestler sums up and pulls together some of the themes he wrote about in previous books, with the emphasis on one of his main theories. This is the theory of the holon, a word he coined, which means that organisms (social, political, physical) are both complete individual entities and integral parts of larger entities at the same time, and following different sets of rules depending on which aspect is predominant at any given time. Thus the title: Janus. Two-faced. You follow? Larry doesn't either. Read the book...

Larry first encountered Arthur Koestler in his famous novel Darkness at Noon. Wikipedia says:
Koestler's most famous work, the novel Darkness at Noon about the Soviet 1930s purges, ranks with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four as a fictional treatment of Stalinism.
Can't argue with that, eh? Both Larry and HWSRN come by their political obsessions honestly. Steeped in it since their early teens...Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Eldridge Cleaver...(all Yanks, you'll notice...)

Larry's first copy of the book looked just like that photo. Now it looks like this because somewhere he picked up a used hard-cover copy:

Except he can't find it. Perhaps it was confiscated by the Yoni School as seditious material. More likely it's in a box in the barn where they keep the hyper-literate horses and a Shetland pony for short potes. Now Larry will obsess about this because, after all, it could be a first edition! Larry has been known to acquire such things by accident.

As you can see, Larry loves to blog cuz he can be a ramblin' man, and if you dare to edit him he will pout with great vigour.

But back to the task at hand...Some years later, Larry discovered these two books by Koestler: The Act of Creation and The Ghost In the Machine. He swallowed them both in one gulp, as they are part of a trilogy, Janus being the hat trick. These two works are an intellectual tour de force in which Koestler mines the fields of physiology, biology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology and who knows what else. Larry's not sure, but he thinks that Koestler was, in fact, the one who coined the phrase, ghost in the machine, which has become part of the lexicon. In that book, he examined the development of the brain and came to the conclusion that humans are psychotic because the modern brain developed without making proper connections to the ancient brain. We became intellectually powerful enough to destroy the planet without becoming emotionally powerful enough to stop ourselves. A rather pessimistic conclusion, but he also discusses the possibility that this can be overcome, since we are smart enough to invent/discover mind-bending chemicals/drugs which could alleviate this flaw.

In any case, Larry's so impressed with these books that he recommends you go out right now to the bibliothèque or or wherever, get copies and read them. They're eminently readable and actually not too technical.

But now, after Larry's droned on and on and on about ancient history and long-forgotten reading habits, let's get to the main point of this post. First of all, Koestler states something that we probably all know, or should:
Drama thrives on conflict, and so does the novel. The nature of the conflict may be explicitly stated or merely implied; but an element of it must be present, otherwise the characters would be gliding through a frictionless universe.
Larry sez the fruitfulness of Koestler's writing is demonstrated by the fact that this passage inspired his pome, Frictionless Universe.

But now Larry wants to quote a (unfortunately long) passage from Janus:

With due respect to Shakespeare's 'All the world's a stage', one might say that the ordinary mortal's life is played on two alternating stages, situated on two different levels -- let us call them the trivial plane and the tragic plane of existence. Most of the time we bustle about on the trivial plane; but on some special occasions, when confronted with death or engulfed in the oceanic feeling, we seem to fall through a stage-trap or man-hole and are transferred to the tragic or absolute plane. Then all at once our daily routines appear as shallow, trifling vanities. But once safely back on the trivial plane we dismiss the experiences of the other as phantasms of overstrung nerves.

The highest form of human creativity is the endeavour to bridge the gap between the two planes. Both the artist and the scientist are gifted -- or cursed with the faculty of perceiving the trivial events of everyday experience sub specie aeternitatis, in the light of eternity; and conversely to express the absolute in human terms, to reflect it in a concrete image. Our ordinary mortal has neither the intellectual nor the emotional equipment to live for more than brief transition periods on the tragic plane. The Infinite is too inhuman and elusive to cope with unless it is made to blend itself with the tangible world of the finite. The existentialist's Absolute becomes emotionally effective only if it is bisociated with something concrete -- dovetailed into the familiar. This is what both scientist and artist are aiming at, though not always consciously. By bridging the gap between the two planes, the cosmic mystery becomes humanized, drawn into the orbit of man, while his humdrum experiences are transformed, surrounded by a halo of mystery and wonder.

Needless to say, not all novels are 'problem novels', subjecting the reader to a sustained barrage of existential conundrums. But indirectly and implicitly every great work of art has some bearing on man's ultimate problems. Even a humble daisy has a root, and a work of art, however lighthearted or serene, is ultimately nourished through its delicate capillaries by the archetypal sub-strata of experience.

By living on both planes at once, the creative artist or scientist is able to catch an occasional glimpse of eternity looking through the window of time. Whether it is a mediaeval stained-glass window or Newton's formula of universal gravity, is a matter of temperament and taste.
Janus: A Summing Up
by Arthur Koestler, p.146-7

So there.

Larry makes no comment.

He has been dovetailed into the familiar.

Update March 17/07:
Koestler also spends a good many pages demolishing Darwinism, evolution, natural selection. He says random mutation has been proven to be irrelevant and natural selection is a tautology. Larry hasn't gotten to the part where he provides an alternative explanation (except that it's "a mystery" and far more complex than earlier scientists imagined) but it probably has something to do with his holon and hierarchical organism theory.

Larry's not scientifically adept enough to judge this argument, but to him Koestler is pretty compelling. Larry wonders if the Intelligent Design proponents know about this, and hopes they never find out cuz then we'd have a helluva mess on our hands, eh?