Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hello dearest. Up in the aerie, sipping rosé, considering your cover design, musing, catching little fragments from today's mental travels that relate. Just now a David Gray song came on, A Moment Changes Everything. He's a brilliant lyricist, the phrase "visions looming in our heads" popped, and I jotted it down. I glance at my notes from listening a while back to a radio interview with the Secret Life of E.D. author, Jerome Charyn, who said of E.D. "she traveled inside her head." This morning on the NYRB blog I read an essay by Tony Judt, the scholarly interpreter of modern European history, who died, last week, of Lou Gehrig's disease. In the essay (here's the link) he views what he dubs "articulacy," the ability to express one's self clearly - rhetorical flexibility - as "not merely evidence of intelligence but intelligence itself." He is careful to note, however, that verbal pyrotechnics can be dazzling but vacuous - evidence of polish rather than of smarts. But he views widespread "inarticulacy" as more unequivocally suggestive of "a shortcoming of thought," confusion of words bespeaking a confusion of ideas, or (more so in our culture, in his view) insecurity: "we speak and write badly because we don’t feel confident in what we think and are reluctant to assert it unambiguously. Rather than suffering from the onset of 'newspeak,' we risk the rise of 'nospeak'.”

(He's too kind - so many people are led by the nose these days - they don't know what they think - tweets all over the "landscape" don't help - they're too often less haiku than regurgitations into the mouths of hungry starling beaks - but who needs more starlings? Hummingbirds!)

Judt continues, heartbreakingly,
I am more conscious of these considerations now than at any time in the past. In the grip of a neurological disorder, I am fast losing control of words even as my relationship with the world has been reduced to them. They still form with impeccable discipline and unreduced range in the silence of my thoughts—the view from inside is as rich as ever—but I can no longer convey them with ease. Vowel sounds and sibilant consonants slide out of my mouth, shapeless and inchoate even to my close collaborator. The vocal muscle, for sixty years my reliable alter ego, is failing. Communication, performance, assertion: these are now my weakest assets. Translating being into thought, thought into words, and words into communication will soon be beyond me and I shall be confined to the rhetorical landscape of my interior reflections.
Rhetorical landscape of my interior reflections - nice phrase, I turn it over (in the metaphorical landscape of my mind). So I consider the elements of the cover design, and they don't mesh (for me) with "landscape." The images convey artifact and externalized thought, especially of technology, but not rhetorical or metaphorical landscape. Perhaps the blue background with the faintly traced geometric lines (please don't tell me that that grid is representative of human thought processes, I don't believe the mind is as ordered as that - though it's capable of focusing to produce such a grid). I wonder, then, if the background could be employed to imaginatively contribute to the concept of "landscape." I don't know what the image would be - perhaps an image of art - a prehistoric depiction of landscape (if there is such a thing - Lascaux horse paintings?), Darwin's handwriting, your handwriting, a cartographic representation - map & legend - imaginary, legendary - a mental map. An opportunity, possibly, too, to include "art" (not just technology) in the conceptualization. So maybe, in sum, I see the cover as a little too mechanistic, brutalistic even. I know - that's a very strong word (I don't mean to be blunt myself), but - perhaps from my perspective as a woman, or at any rate as a person with a range of artistic/emotional/intuitive responses - the effect of the cover, to me, is quite blunt and, well, artless, in the stark images, isolated from one another and punctuated with all block-cap text. (Is or isn't the archaeological record either gender-neutral, or gender-specific - but not exclusively "male"?) So that is my two cents - from your unsolicited focus group of one. Either that - or change the title.

Other than that - love and kisses, truly, dearest. I've been at a bit of low ebb today as the tide in my mental seascape turned (no joke - it was rough learning that U.S. wasn't you though today I could totally laugh about it). I'm glad Qwest at 184.96 is back. Now a song on KZE - ... there's a lot of jam bands in Colorado.


P.S. Now it's an unsolicited focus group of two - I had D take a look at the cover and read the post. He thinks, lose the main title already, go with the "arch. of thought" wording - elevate it. That's the original, starkly arresting, incredibly exciting phrase - it should be in the main title! (Plus, I wasn't crazy about the depiction or placement of the hewn stone - too redolent ...) Signed, Anna (Mrs.) DeWintour

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