Tuesday, March 04, 2008

More about The Thing

Further to my last post about The Thing, I've just got this email through:

Hello THING subscriber,

By now you will most likely have received issue 3 of THE THING, by Kota Ezawa. If not, that means that it is coming very soon.

You will most likely also have noticed that issue 3 is in a variety of languages. And most likely you wondered why on earth we would send out THE THING in so many different languages. We just wanted to make sure that you all knew that all of these different languages are an integral part of issue 3. And we are very serious and very excited about the way the whole issue is activated because of this.

We overheard Kota speaking to an interviewer at the wrapping party about the use of multiple languages in this issue, and we thought it was the best way to address this. When asked why he wanted to incorporate the different languages, Kota mentioned that as a kid he remembered listening to the song “I can’t get no satisfaction,” by the Rolling Stones. He said that he didn’t know what the words meant but that he really appreciated their sonic quality. For him (at that time) the meaning was not as important as the way the words and the music activated the space.

We suspect that there will be many of you who, like Kota, are satisfied with not knowing what the text means and are interested in the way issue 3 activates the space between object, text and interpretation.

And we also suspect that many of you will be interested in it from this same standpoint but still want to know what it means. So within the letter to the editor that was packed in each issue, we included a link (in English) to lead you to the translation. If you looked for it, but couldn’t find it, it was most likely because your mind said, “this is Mandarin. You can’t read Mandarin. Stop reading.” So for those of you who would prefer to cut to the chase, we are including the link right here: issue3@thethingquarterly.com

One of the things that excites us about issue 3 of THE THING is that it is about a process of coming to an understanding. It’s not about what it actually means. Put another way: the work involved in interpreting the issue is the point of the issue.

I'm really interested in this, because I think there's something here I can use for my writing process. My first action was to rush to the internet to look for a solution after opening my strange looking box:

There was apparently an explanation in the text, but my response was exactly that of a headless chicken. The email above even says: 'If you looked for it, but couldn’t find it, it was most likely because your mind said, “this is Mandarin. You can’t read Mandarin. Stop reading.”'

So how does this apply to my writing? Well, if I had waited a bit, and, rather than just stamp a certain meaning on what I was looking at, I had just let another kind of understanding come to me, wouldn't I have enjoyed a better, more exciting, experience? Instead of locking the 'meaning' door shut - phew, I understand what I'm supposed to think now - I could have just wandered the corridors for a bit longer and perhaps bumped into some new ideas. After all, "the work involved in interpreting the issue is the point of the issue." I'm reminded of this quote from Richard Kearney:
The novelist becomes someone who discloses rather than imposes, who listens gently when the city quietens and sleeps, so that he might ‘hear the ghosts of stories whispered.’ And at such times, the storyteller feels himself in the presence of something greater than himself.

It's all about allowing some space in my writing to let something different, maybe better, come through. And I don't think I've been letting that happen recently. Too much talking, and not enough listening!


jem said...

Very interesting to see how this Thing is unfolding. As you say, lots to learn from something that initially appeared very limited.

In a way the process reminds me of viewing certain modern art. Its easy to walk away saying 'I dont know what thats meant to be' - but you need to take time, think harder or perhaps think less. Squint or look sideways at the piece. See what it then offers you.

Sarah Salway said...

Unfolding is a good way of looking at it - particularly as it comes in a box, all wrapped up! I like the idea of thinking less - and not needing to have the 'right' way of looking at something all the time.
It's confidence too, isn't it?