How Bullying Structures Society

For anyone who suffered through school at the hands of bullies and a system that ignored or encouraged them, George Orwell’s writing rings true:

By the social standards that prevailed about me, I was no good, and could not be any good. But all the different kinds of virtue seemed to be mysteriously interconnected and to belong to much the same people. It was not only money that mattered: there were also strength, beauty, charm, athleticism and something called ‘guts’ or ‘character’, which in reality meant the power to impose your will on others. I did not possess any of these qualities. At games, for instance, I was hopeless. I was a fairly good swimmer and not altogether contemptible at cricket, but these had no prestige value, because boys only attach importance to a game if it requires strength and courage. What counted was football, at which I was a funk. I loathed the game, and since I could see no pleasure or usefulness in it, it was very difficult for me to show courage at it. Football, it seemed to me, is not really played for the pleasure of kicking a ball about, but is a species of fighting. The lovers of football are large, boisterous, nobbly boys who are good at knocking down and trampling on slightly smaller boys. That was the pattern of school life — a continuous triumph of the strong over the weak. Virtue consisted in winning: it consisted in being bigger, stronger, handsomer, richer, more popular, more elegant, more unscrupulous than other people — in dominating them, bullying them, making them suffer pain, making them look foolish, getting the better of them in every way. Life was hierarchical and whatever happened was right. There were the strong, who deserved to win and always did win, and there were the weak, who deserved to lose and always did lose, everlastingly.

Such, Such Were the Joys (1952)

http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/joys/english/e_joys (external link)

Posted in Thoughts on writing, Writing by others, Writing tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Peroration Was Magnificent, Though Difficult to Remember

He looked into his heart and saw that it was black. Perhaps that’s all we need to know about Heart of Darkness. But there is so much more. Ideas and thoughts first judged rambling come back as well structured sentences on a second and third reading. And what about Conrad’s paragraphs? An unbroken block of five hundred to a thousand words is simply unreadable on the web. For that reason I have introduced paragraph breaks where I thought them logical. This excerpt is originally a single paragraph of 1,100 words.

An Excerpt from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 

You can’t understand. How could you?—with solid pavement under your feet, surrounded by kind neighbours ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums—how can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man’s untrammelled feet may take him into by the way of solitude—utter solitude without a policeman—by the way of silence—utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbour can be heard whispering of public opinion?

These little things make all the great difference.

When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness. Of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong—too dull even to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness. I take it, no fool ever made a bargain for his soul with the devil; the fool is too much of a fool, or the devil too much of a devil—I don’t know which. Or you may be such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogether deaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights and sounds. Then the earth for you is only a standing place—and whether to be like this is your loss or your gain I won’t pretend to say. But most of us are neither one nor the other.

The earth for us is a place to live in, where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells, too, by Jove!—breathe dead hippo, so to speak, and not be contaminated. And there, don’t you see? Your strength comes in, the faith in your ability for the digging of unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in—your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure, back-breaking business. And that’s difficult enough. Mind, I am not trying to excuse or even explain—I am trying to account to myself for—for—Mr. Kurtz—for the shade of Mr. Kurtz.

This initiated wraith from the back of Nowhere honoured me with its amazing confidence before it vanished altogether. This was because it could speak English to me. The original Kurtz had been educated partly in England, and—as he was good enough to say himself—his sympathies were in the right place. His mother was half-English, his father was half-French. All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance. And he had written it, too. I’ve seen it. I’ve read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for!

But this must have been before his—let us say—nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which—as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times—were offered up to him—do you understand?—to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beautiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous.

He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might of a deity,’ and so on, and so on. ‘By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,’ etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence—of words—of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’

The curious part was that he had apparently forgotten all about that valuable postscriptum, because, later on, when he in a sense came to himself, he repeatedly entreated me to take good care of ‘my pamphlet’ (he called it), as it was sure to have in the future a good influence upon his career. I had full information about all these things, and, besides, as it turned out, I was to have the care of his memory. I’ve done enough for it to give me the indisputable right to lay it, if I choose, for an everlasting rest in the dust-bin of progress, amongst all the sweepings and, figuratively speaking, all the dead cats of civilization. But then, you see, I can’t choose. He won’t be forgotten.

Whatever he was, he was not common. He had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated witch-dance in his honour; he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings: he had one devoted friend at least, and he had conquered one soul in the world that was neither rudimentary nor tainted with self-seeking. No; I can’t forget him, though I am not prepared to affirm the fellow was exactly worth the life we lost in getting to him.

I missed my late helmsman awfully—I missed him even while his body was still lying in the pilot-house. Perhaps you will think it passing strange this regret for a savage who was no more account than a grain of sand in a black Sahara. Well, don’t you see, he had done something, he had steered; for months I had him at my back—a help—an instrument. It was a kind of partnership. He steered for me—I had to look after him, I worried about his deficiencies, and thus a subtle bond had been created, of which I only became aware when it was suddenly broken. And the intimate profundity of that look he gave me when he received his hurt remains to this day in my memory—like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment.

Posted in fiction, Thoughts on writing, Uncategorized, Writing by others, Writing tips | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eliot Never Too Common to Quote

Now that I live in the desert, The Hollow Men resonates with me more and more. Eliot was of course writing about a dryness of spirit. Still, connections hold. This vital poem by Thomas Stearns Eliot is widely quoted and analyzed. But if you’ve never read it, I quote it here. Read slowly and prepare for a devastating conclusion. Want more in story form? Read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Eliot did.

The Hollow Men

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Posted in art, Poetry, Thoughts on writing, Uncategorized, Writing by others | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Not Only

Writers use “not only” to vary their writing but it can be wordy. See how much more direct the second instances are compared to the first. In the first example I am editing a writer that I work with, in the last two I am correcting Orwell. 🙂

If you’ve been waiting for months, it’s reasonable to check every few days. This is important not only so that you can alleviate your worries but also so that you are promptly aware of any potential obstacle delaying your claim.

If you’ve been waiting for months, it’s reasonable to check every few days. This helps alleviate your worries and promptly lets you know of any obstacle delaying your claim.

In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides.

There is no agreed definition of a word like democracy and any attempt to make one is resisted from all sides.

Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality , as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader.

Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless because they do not point to any discoverable object and are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Oh! I Have Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth

This film and poem was often used by television stations in the 1960s before signing off for the evening. It was written in 1941 by 19-year-old Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jr, three months before he was killed in World War II.

High Flight

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Posted in Poetry, Thoughts on writing, Uncategorized, Writing by others | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How To Make A Living As a Writer (Honestly)

How do you make a living as a writer? Get a full time job writing for a newspaper, magazine, or internet company. It’s impossible to make full time money stringing together part-time jobs. If you’re not regularly employed, view freelance gigs as supplemental income, not the way to pay your mortgage. There’s too much unpaid time looking for new work to prevent you from going broke. (internal link) Let me explain.

Query letters and book proposals take enormous amounts of time, only to have 90% or more of them rejected. A solid book proposal will take weeks, an article query (internal link) at least a day, if not more, to research and write. Travel may be required for both. A great deal of time is also spent investigating whom to send your proposal to, to see what title or publishing house you should approach. All queries must be well crafted and individually tailored to the person you are addressing. And all of this consistently rejected query work is unpaid. There’s more.

Right now I am waiting on a substantial check for the last magazine article I wrote. I submitted the article two weeks before last Thanksgiving. Yes, in 2017. The article has been published but I have still not been paid. While this situation is uncommon, you must be prepared for it to happen. You can only make a living at writing if you have money coming in to eat.

Aside from working for someone else on a regular basis, I have heard about another way. It demands that you have several book titles in print at once, and that each of these books needs revising every two years or so. Think computer books that go out of date when software comes out with revisions. Photoshop and Microsoft Word have undoubtedly provided many authors with regular income.

Writing as a profession is oversold, at least from a freelancer’s point of view. But there is no shame in writing for someone else. A guaranteed paycheck gives you the freedom to write in your spare time, without worrying if an article will be accepted, if it will only pay a hundred dollars, or if a check for it will come in soon.

Through my Vancouver employer I edit and post blogs and web pages for trial lawyers. I could see that kind of position being a full time job for someone who wanted it. Content creation jobs on the net are becoming more and more plentiful. Pick a profession that interests you and explore the possibilities if you want full time work. Otherwise, enjoy the tumult of writing part-time as a lower earning freelancer. Those hours and experience may eventually lead to the work you truly desire. Good luck.

Posted in Magazine article, Newspaper article, newspapers, Photoshop, Thoughts on writing, Uncategorized, Writing tips | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost In Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

Would we be any better in the next life?

“We passionately long for there to be another life in which we shall be similar to what we are here below. But we do not pause to reflect that, even without waiting for that other life, in this life, after a few years, we are unfaithful to what we once were, to what we wished to remain immortally. Even without supposing that death is to alter us more completely than the changes that occur in the course of our lives, if in that other life we were to encounter the self that we have been, we should turn away from ourselves as from those people with whom we were once on friendly terms but whom we have not seen for years . . . We dream much of a paradise, or rather of a number of successive paradises, but each of them is, long before we die, a paradise lost, in which we should feel ourselves lost too.”

Marcel Proust

How do you prefer your sleeping bag?

‘On the outside grows the furside, on the inside grows the skinside; So the furside is the outside, and the skinside is the inside.”

Herbert Ponting, The Sleeping Bag

Or put another way

HE killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside;
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That ’s why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

Anonymous, The Modern Hiawatha

And from the Master

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha III

Well Said

“A smile is the chosen vehicle for all ambiguities.”

Pierre, Melville

Like Keats, all poets seek to reason out beauty

For beauty being the best of all we know
Sums up the unsearchable and secret aims
Of nature

The Growth of Love, Robert Bridges

A Moment Lasting Forever

Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms
which I gaze on so fondly today
were to change by tomorrow and fleet in my arms
like fairy gifts fading away
Thou wouldst still be adored
as this moment thou art
let thy lovliness fade as it will
and around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
would entwine itself verdantly still

Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms, Thomas Moore

Posted in books, Thoughts on writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment