Tag Archives: reading

‘Reading good fiction is like making the jump from masturbation to sex’: Stephen King’s Advice

In a recent interview at The Atlantic, author Stephen King shares some more advice on writing beyond what he wrote in “On Writing.”

To the question, “You write, ‘One either absorbs the grammatical principles of one’s native language in conversation and in reading or one does not.’ If this is true, why teach grammar in school at all? Why bother to name the parts?” King answered:

When we name the parts, we take away the mystery and turn writing into a problem that can be solved. I used to tell them that if you could put together a model car or assemble a piece of furniture from directions, you could write a sentence. Reading is the key, though. A kid who grows up hearing “It don’t matter to me” can only learn doesn’t if he/she reads it over and over again.

King on teaching writing:

I tried to give assignments that would teach kids to be specific. I used to repeat “See, then say” half a dozen times a day. So I would often ask them to describe operations that they take for granted. Ask a girl to write a paragraph on how she braids her sister’s hair. Ask a boy to explain a sports rule. These are just basic starting points, where students learn to write on paper what they might tell a friend. It keeps it concrete. If you ask a kid to write on “My Favorite Movie,” you’re opening the door to subjectivity, and hence to a flood of clichés.

King on letting students pick their own books to read vs. steering them to the challenging texts:

You don’t want to leave them in despair, which is why it’s such a horrible idea to try teachingMoby-Dick or Dubliners to high school juniors. Even the bright ones lose heart. But it’s good to make them reach a little. They’ve got to see there are brighter literary worlds than Twilight. Reading good fiction is like making the jump from masturbation to sex.

 

Creative Writing By Creative Reading

MENTAL PICNIC and LIFE VIEWING AREA

MENTAL PICNIC and LIFE VIEWING AREA

To write creatively is to make something new to the world, often by taking the agency to break rules and do what hasn’t been done before.

To read creatively, then, is to also break the rules of how we’re supposed to read, namely, the rule that says we should start in the beginning of a text and decode each word from left to right and then down the page.

Of course, these aren’t really “rules” at all but conventions, expectations that the writer expects us to follow, because a writer’s work is to make things accessible to a reader (well, that’s one definition of a writer’s duty. I don’t mean to bind writers in this post). Writers and readers each follow the conventions, and communication can happen.

But we don’t always need communication. Sometimes readers may not want to passively follow the writer’s instructions, and we readers want to actively create as well.

The key here, I think, is that, as we read, our minds can find patterns and meanings that were never (what the psychologists call pareidolia) intended by a writing mind. We can create meanings stranger, more unique, than what most texts contain.

So, here’s an incomplete list of Ways of Creative Reading:

1. Read columns of words, straight down a page, instead of across. This may not always make for complete sentences, of course, but we’re looking for unfamiliar phrases and constructs that may delight us in their novelty. For instance, so far in this post, I have these words along the left margin:

to agency to namely each of writer to writers communication but passively as the meanings writing texts

Already here I like the idea of “meanings writings texts.”

2. Take a group of words chosen randomly (as with this method) and let your mind suggest an organizing idea from the juxtaposed words and images. It seems as though my mind hates disorder and so it looks to find or make order. For instance, these 10 words picked at random and matched up the number of syllables:

approach remote

mobile matter

darkest coolness

instrument amorous

advances listening

This set of words doesn’t immediately suggest an overall idea to me, but I can organize them into a sentence:

Approaching remote mobile matter, the darkest coolness is an amorous instrument and advances listening.

And as I wrote this sentence, I started getting an image of a space-travel context: darkest coolness, instrument, listening, matter. I’m not saying this method always produces a fascinating idea or sentence, but that’s not the point; the point is the joy in discovering and making meaning, in the engaged mental state of playing with the words.

3. Read multidimensionally by starting in the middle of (or at any random place in) an article in a magazine, say, and reading bits and pieces, jumping around from article to article, from magazine to book. In other words, taking the perspective that the reading a person might do an any given day is not reading among distinct texts but is reading one pastiche (or collage) text made of all this disparate parts.

4. Rearrange or replace words in a found sentence to make a new sentence. This might include wordplay such as Spoonerisms and mondegreens.

5. Intentionally misread words, or substitute other words.

I’m sure these are just a start. Please suggest any other creative reading ideas in the comments below.

Links: Teacher movies, teaching philosophy, etc.

1. This post about teacher movies makes a valuable point about education and how we talk about it in general terms but this makes little rhetorical sense, since education (maybe more than almost any broad aspect of our lives) is irreducibly a matter of what particular individuals learn, how individuals come to understand the world of ideas and facts but only through the framework of their own perspectives:

It would be a huge step forward if we could conceive of the people in our education system—students, teachers, families, administrators—as human rather than cartoonish media representations or, perhaps worse, mere data points. Policies not only have human consequences but they are also implemented by humans—invariably flawed, often self-seeking, sometimes incompetent humans.   It’s humans all the way down.  The language we use should reflect this and not carelessly cede ground to abstractions like “African-American males” or “the lowest-third percentile” or even “teachers unions.”  This is an acknowledgment that idealized categories, run amok, can in fact short-circuit the hard work of ensuring each individual student, in their individual family context, neighborhood, and cultural background, receives a high-quality education.

And the fact that while education is a system, learning is a particular, even private, matter, is the reason that any new educational system that attempts to treat students as indistinguishable, like Common Core (in which “common” is used to mean that every student learns the same things, in the same ways), is doomed to irrelevance.

2. Isaac Asimov’s 1964 predictions for the year 2014.

3. New Year’s traditions as religious/magical.

4. A compelling text by Ta-Nehisi Coates: “The Myth of Western Civilization.”

5. Dan Savage’s review of Sarah Palin’s Christmas book. (Via The Dish).

6. Jason Silva and awe.

7. The Scottish tradition of Hogmanay.

8. Miguel de Unamuno on consciousness.

9. An article suggesting reading on tablets is different from reading on paper, vis-a-vis getting engaged in narrative.

10. The New York Times editorializes about Finnish education. Interesting link here to Finland’s curriculum, including philosophy education:

5.13 PHILOSOPHY
Philosophical thinking deals with reality as a whole, its diverse perception and human activity in it. The special nature of philosophy lies in its way of structuring problems conceptually, rationally and through discussion. Upper secondary school studies in philosophy will support students’ individual development and promote the general learning and thinking skills that they will need in a changing and complex society. The theoretical themes studied in philosophy are necessary to form an understanding of cultural heritage and contemporary culture.
The practical significance of philosophy is based on the fact that students will learn to structure questions about values, norms and meanings in conceptual terms. Studies in philosophy will help them to perceive the significance that different types of skills and knowledge hold for individuals and society. To counterbalance the specialised skills and knowledge, studies in philosophy will also teach students to grasp broader conceptual systems and relationships. It will help them to see the ways in which the conceptions of reality, values and norms held in different branches of science and schools of thought may form consistent systems or contradict each other. Philosophy will develop judgement.
Philosophy instruction will promote development of creative and independent thinking. Philosophy will provide students with plenty of scope to form their own personal views. As they delve deeper into basic philosophical questions — to which there are no simple solutions — they will learn to formulate and justify their own views and, at the same time, to respect other reasoned views. Group deliberations on complicated questions will develop students’ ability
to trust their own individual opportunities to resolve even the most difficult problems. Studies in philosophy will support students’ growth into active, responsible and tolerant citizens.

Links: Histomaps, Wall Street thugs, etc.

1. A histomap of world history.

2. On “The Daily Show,” profiling white-collar criminals (as I tell my students, white-collar crime is where the real money is).

3. Pinsky on poets’ freedom. This article also contains a neat explication of rhythm in two poems.

Here are two of his ideas for poets to ponder:

The work’s freedom to establish its own unique principles, alive in particular cadences and words and lines and sentences: that is the goal.

and

There are no rules, but uniformity in art can make it feel as though there are rules: the more unconscious or unperceived (as with widely accepted fashions), the more confining.

A reigning style can feel tyrannical: the assumptions behind it so well-established that there seem to be no alternatives. But there are always alternatives.

4. No one can really every “opt out”, writes Matt Gross:

What seems unrealistic, however, is their belief that they could somehow escape from Work–that they could live lives apart from the System. I mean, as much as I hate that system, and as little as I expect from it, I understand that it is inescapable. To be alive in America in 2013 is to be a worker of one sort or another–a freelancer, a volunteer, DIY publishing maven, a hack screenwriter, a dog-walker, a can-collector, a social media consultant, a branding expert, a T-shirt designer. Pretend that the System doesn’t apply to you, that you can step outside of it for a year or ten, and the System will let you have your fantasy and then, cruelly, crush you when you return to reality. The opt-out generation is getting crushed right now.

5. Our privacy instinct: “We don’t really believe in the internet” yet.

6. “The flattening of e-book sales.”

7. Bible passages certain fundamental Christians seem to overlook.

8. Via NPR, the history of Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart.

9. A suggestion that Americans are less willing to stand against authority figures.

10. I know that I don’t need to guilt myself into reading more than I do, but it’s good to be reminded: No less an eminence than E.B. White was “never a voracious reader.” (Original interview here.)

 

A mental tourist: Visiting others’ minds through their texts

2013_07_31_mh (6)_cropA text by Mark Edmundson explains well an idea I’ve heard before, that English majors read

not to see the world through the eyes of other people but effectively to become other people. What is it like to be John Milton, Jane Austen, Chinua Achebe? What is it like to be them at their best, at the top of their games?

English majors want the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of people who—let us admit it—are more sensitive, more articulate, shrewder, sharper, more alive than they themselves are. The experience of merging minds and hearts with Proust or James or Austen makes you see that there is more to the world than you had ever imagined. You see that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense—more alive with meaning than you had thought.

Real reading is reincarnation. There is no other way to put it. It is being born again into a higher form of consciousness than we ourselves possess. When we walk the streets of Manhattan with Walt Whitman or contemplate our hopes for eternity with Emily Dickinson, we are reborn into more ample and generous minds.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of reading, similar to Edmundson’s description, as sharing in the mind, the mental activity, of the writer.

But I’ve been thinking of this sharing in a slightly different way — that a person  reading a text is like a computer running software that simulates something (like flight) or maybe a person reading a text is like a player piano recreating music from paper.

And while this analogy is as imperfect and arbitrary as any, considering it has given me some other ideas. For one, thinking of a text as a program for a human mind to run makes it clear that the text is representing the writer’s mind-activity (the voice that the writer thinks in) rather than representing whatever the text is about. For example, when I read a biography of Lincoln, I’m recreating in my mind the thoughts that the biographer’s mind had about Lincoln, rather than recreating Lincoln himself. [And against Edmundson, I’d argue that it’s not just literary texts that do this — but that any text — nonfiction, instruction manuals, etc. — is the product of a writerly consciousness and so conveys that consciousness as it conceives those words.]

And so, we don’t have to ask whether a text accurately represents reality — as if such a thing were possible or even desirable. I don’t really know what’s happening physically when I see a rainbow, but I can use words to describe what I’m seeing and thinking, how I’m interpreting what I see, and that human interpretation is something others can share by recreating my ideas from my words. [Yes, I know scientists have an explanation of light refracting and whatnot, but that doesn’t suffice to explain my mind’s experience. Also, the science explanation, too, is just another, different kind of interpretation-by-human text.]

A photo of a rainbow can show, in a limited (two-dimensional) way, another person what the photographer could see from his/her perspective. A person who wasn’t present can view the photo image and construct one’s own interpretation from that visual data. A text cannot quite capture or convey sensory reality that way. To look at a page of text is to see ink-shapes on paper (or screen). To read the word “rainbow” is not to see colors in an arc in the sky, but one can interpret the word (using one’s own prior experiences) and imagine the visuals. And of course, through our senses, we live in a world in which there are sights, smells, touches, sounds, tastes, and we use these senses simultaneously — smelling, tasting, and seeing a raspberry, say.

We can’t do that in text. We’re down to one linear direction (sequence in time) in text, one sense at a time. And yet, there’s something about this that may match how our minds process the world — yes, our minds can take in senses simultaneously, but we don’t seem to be able to talk about our senses except one at a time. And this way that our conscious, abstracting minds think is, I’m suggesting, pretty close to how we say or write our experiences, and then this linearly described experience is what we can hear or read and share.

So, no, reading a description of someone in a cafe in Venice isn’t quite like being there; and yet, reading what someone else thinks about being there (being a mental tourist?) can be, perhaps, more of a travel-experience than being a physical tourist might be. I can drag my body to other places on the Earth, but still, it’s just me seeing these new-to-me places with my familiar-to-me mind. Wherever I go, there I am. But reading can really allow me to get outside my own mind.

And at times when I’ve been reading too much, or taking in too much other media (which “mediates” the world for me — which processes the world through others’ minds before it gets to me), I’ve felt like I haven’t had enough time to be, or to think as, myself. I often drive with my radio off for this reason. So I don’t mean to say that it’s always a good thing to let others’ ideas and experiences into our heads, but it’s not always a bad thing, either. For instance, sometimes I’ll read when I feel tired or stressed — reading lets me escape my own worries, my own familiar mindset, for a while.

So we may not be experiencing what Venice the place is, but we’re experiencing what the writer experiences in Venice, and this can be tedious if, say, the writer tells us only about the reputation and myths of Venice. So much of journalistic-type writing seems to invoke the expectations and stereotypical ideas we may have of a place — Venice: Canals! Glorious history! Art! — as a way of inducing readers to relate, but of course, no one actually experiences the myths or generalities about a place. We instead experience particularities, and the longer we live in a place, the harder it may feel to form genuine generalities about the place. I’ve lived in Ogle County, Illinois, most of my life, and it’d be harder for me to describe this place than it is a new place — of course, I have a shallow view of the new place, but I don’t know enough to feel bad about my shallow view.

I can remind myself that wherever one lives, it becomes home, with all its comforts and confines. But this also reminds me of the importance of the particular voice of the writer. And in my own writing, I often don’t want to convey just what I know. Though I may start from something I have already experienced or want to assert, I also try to, as I write, have a new idea — I want to write texts that are not static but show a sense of growth, of exploration, of trying new ideas and being open to new ideas. (For instance, I didn’t know when I started this post that it would become what I am writing now — I don’t want to know the future; I wanna have new ideas.) When I write, I want to have that open-minded, exploratory, even questioning experience (which is one way of defining creative writing?), and perhaps it is that experience that I want to share with readers. I don’t wish to adopt a tone or posture of lecturing in my writings, partly because that’s dull for me to write, and I think it’s also dull for others to read.

Now, I know that when I’m having open-mind writing time, I’m not perhaps very careful with the editing, and certainly the structure is more biological (branching out, recursive, etc.) than rhetorically familiar — which nonstandard writing can be a harder program for a reader to decode and run/follow. For another example, stream of consciousness texts may be attempting to represent a mind’s workings, and yet, stream of consciousness texts can be so hard to read that the reader never gets around to having the experience the writer intends.

That’s an argument for stylistic simplicity, I guess. But I also like the idea of spontaneous writing — giving the reader the sense of the writer’s raw mental-voice. If a writer’s voice is too heavily edited, or tries too hard to stay within the accepted forms, reading the text becomes more like visiting a chain store than going to an unexpected place.

P.S.: Another corollary would be that if one doesn’t like the mental-program one is running (that is, the text one is reading), then one can just stop running the program, stop reading. And perhaps that feeling is why some books drive us away — we just don’t feel like spending time in that person’s mind.

Foreshadowing, artifice, & being alive

Tree-breeze, Oct. 2012

Tree-breeze, Oct. 2012

A couple days ago, I posted a nonfictional account of things I saw and heard while sitting in a small-town McDonald’s restaurant. One of the things I saw was that there was a wasp outside, and then later, I saw a wasp inside, and my immediate comment was that seeing the wasp inside turned the earlier observation into “foreshadowing.”

One definition of “foreshadowing” is:

the use of indicative words/phrases and hints that set the stage for a story to unfold and give the reader a hint of something that is going to happen without revealing the story or spoiling the suspense. Foreshadowing is used to suggest an upcoming outcome to the story.

and Wikipedia’s entry describes “foreshadowing” as when

an author hints certain plot developments that perhaps will come to be later in the story … foreshadowing only hints at a possible outcome within the confinement of a narrative

And these definitions seem to imply that the author knows, or at least suspects, from the beginning of the telling of the story how it will end. For example, if I knew the wasp would do something later on, I’d better foreshadow that early in the narrative so that the wasp-event didn’t seem to come out of nowhere. Stories where the main characters are trying to rebuild their lives after battling mental illness, only to get killed in a car accident (one way of telling my father’s story), aren’t satisfying as stories.

But what I’m thinking today is this: I was writing as things were happening, in “real time,” and so when I first mentioned the wasp, I just saw it as a mildly interesting thing that was happening — I had no idea that I’d see it again later, or feel threatened by it. On first seeing the wasp, I had no idea it had any significance beyond its mere presence. So I mentioned it, but I wasn’t “foreshadowing” anything.

A larger point: everything I see around me, all the time, could possibly affect me. A neighbor kid’s ball could be batted into my windows, every car I see could careen into me, and my wife could leave me. This is what it means to be alive, as a mature adult (little kids may not have the experience to predict outcomes), is be aware of these possibilities. But of course, not everything is foreshadowing: not every batted ball will break a window, not every car ride ends in accident, and not every fight leads to divorce. In fact, to look at real life as having foreshadowing is to either be paranoid-obsessive, or to believe in prophesy/foretold fate, and neither seems a fun way to live.

So my point may be a modest one, that narratives are not the same as lived-experience. But it seems important to make this distinction between story and real experience clear. I spent years of my youth and young adulthood thinking that my real life was inadequate for lacking some of the qualities of the stories I read. My experiences paled in comparison with, say, Kerouac’s cross-country road trips. Yet, when I did take my own road trips, those two weren’t quite as compelling as those in On The Road. So I feel like learning the artificiality of storytelling has freed me from false, unrealizable expectations of my own life, and has helped me to enjoy my life as it comes to me. And even when I do tell stories about things I’ve experienced them, I tend to tell them in understated, under-dramatized ways. I generally don’t try to play up my experience as fascinating — I prefer writing about my thinking-life rather than my experienced-life. I don’t mean to condemn those who can interestingly mythologize their experiences, but I was glad to learn that I wasn’t an inadequate writer if I didn’t.

And so, as a writer, I enjoy writing descriptive nonfiction, of my own experiences, of places I visit, as it happens — en medias res — because, well, I live my life en medias res. I wake up to this current moment to find myself here — in this body, at my age, with my wife and job and family and etc. The narratives that result from my writing aren’t tight narratives — but they are interesting in ways (interesting to write, perhaps also to read) that tightly plotted and planned artificial narratives are not.

P.S. I suppose a similar analysis exists for symbolism in a story: that we find symbolic meanings in our own possessions, but we don’t make a big deal out of it. When my wife and I bought our first-and-only house after years of wanting to, we felt like we had finally “succeeded,” in a sense, and that we were finally adults (a meaning that shares in the cultural significance of home-ownership in our rural area, perhaps also in the contemporary U.S. generally). But seeing our house as a symbol of success and maturity isn’t something worth writing an essay (or even a blog post) about. Almost every single object in my house has some kind of meaning to it (and if it doesn’t, I probably throw it out) — thus, symbolism doesn’t seem all that interesting of a thing to think about, in some story-analysis ways.

‘The Great Gatsby’ and age: The older I get, the less I don’t know

So, there’s a new movie of Gatsby. This isn’t as newsy now as it would’ve been a few weeks ago, but, you know, the book has been around for, oh, four-score and some years now, and my high school’s students read it in our “American Lit after 1900” class, and I read it in high school and didn’t enjoy it (my memory is of my teacher flat-out telling us “the green light symbolizes money”) and I reread it in recent years and thought it was better than I had remembered it, but that it still wasn’t all that great. I mean, I liked that last line, about boats being ceaselessly  beaten back, etc. etc., but much of the book was not that lyrically beautiful.

And I found a fellow-traveler in  Kathryn Schulz’s critique of this book:

What was Fitzgerald doing instead of figuring out such things about his characters? Precision-engineering his plot, chiefly, and putting in overtime at the symbol factory. Gatsby takes place over a single summer: three months, three acts, three chapters each, with a denouement—the car accident and murder—of near-Greek (but also near-silly) symmetry. Inside that story, almost everything in sight serves a symbolic purpose: the automobiles and ash heaps, the upright Midwest and poisonous East, the white dresses and decadent mansions.

Heavy plot, heavy symbolism, zero ­psychological motivation: Those are the genre conventions of fables and fairy tales. Gatsby has been compared to both, typically to suggest a mythical quality to Fitzgerald’s characters or a moral significance to his tale. But moral significance requires moral engagement: challenge, discomfort, illumination, or transformation. The Great Gatsby offers none of that. In fact, it offers the opposite: aloofness.

When I saw that I wasn’t alone in my lack of enthusiasm, I started wondering why this particular book was taught and continues to be taught so much to high-school literature students. There are many, many other novels published in the last hundred years that could also be taught.

One of my colleagues suggested that the theme of the American dream in “Gatsby” makes it worth reading — and, sure, that’s a valid theme to discuss in a lit. class. But “the American dream” isn’t a theme at all until the author takes a position on that topic — “the American dream is hollow” or “the American dream is worthwhile” — and at that point, why do we need a story at all? Fitzgerald could just have written an op-ed to make that point, and have been done with it.

Instead, there is a long story that’s about as subtle in its condemnation as a fairy tale, as Schulz says above. To take a scenario as complex as Gatsby’s (ill-gotten gains, unrequited-and-then-illicitly-requited love, etc.) and just boil it down to something like “achieving our goals may not make us happy” feels like it deserves a “duh” response from adult readers. Teens may not know this yet, and maybe it’s worthwhile for them to consider it, but I’m not sure adults will take this book all that seriously. Maybe the readers who will most enjoy and appreciate a work are those who are younger than the author was when he/she wrote the work.

According to his Wikipedia page, Fitzgerald wrote most of “Gatsby” in 1924, when he would’ve been (1896 to 1924) 28 years old. Twenty-eight is pretty darn young for someone to comment on the nature of “the American dream.” Of course, chronological age does not always match personal maturity or artistic ability, but when a writer is only 28 years old — has been an adult for only 10 years — he doesn’t really have much authority, other than authority over those who are younger yet than he is.

I’m now almost 40, and I can now look back at my 28-year-old self and see that I strongly held certain beliefs and judgments about which I am now not sure certain. This is not to say that I was wrong, exactly, about the things I said then, nor that I am perfect now, but that I now try to be more humble about my opinions (Humble enough to blog them to the rest of the reading public, of course. Also, the delusions of grandeur endure).

And so I can now look at “The Great Gatsby” and admire some of the writing but I also look at the story and think that there’s not much there for me to learn. I feel like I’m smarter than the characters, and also wiser than the author. With other books and authors, too: I don’t have to agree with Hemingway’s biases towards his characters in “The Sun Also Rises,” written when he was 26, and I don’t have to think that Kerouac’s characters could find satisfaction in their lives “On the Road,” published when Kerouac was 35. I look at some of these books now and wonder why the authors really have to tell me about the condition of being alive that I haven’t already learned on my own.

It’s age-ism to say that I can’t learn anything from writers who are younger than me (or were when they wrote — and of course, I did learn from reading Hemingway and Kerouac when I was a late-teens, early-20s reader). And yet, as I get older, and as I get more familiar with the fuller range of ideas, the range of ways of writing, the range of tones/perspectives, etc. that writers can use, I find myself less thrilled, less enthused, to read the writings of most other writers.

That’s a huge generalization, of course. And I’m not talking about reading things for “escapist” purposes — a writer of any age, presumably, can write a story. But I often read in order to learn something, and the older I get, the less I don’t know.

That sounds terrible — terribly closed-minded, and typical of an old (read: inflexible) person. And not entirely true — I am able to better appreciate some things now — including some of the classic texts — than I was when younger. But when I now read Plato’s “Apology” or the epic poem “Beowulf” (as I read last year for the “World Lit” class I was teaching), I’m more likely to approach these texts as a peer of the writer — I’m less likely to cede authority to that author. I’m gonna question the author’s veracity, legitimacy, purpose, etc. — all that stuff that my college lit. profs. probably wanted me to question when I was 20.

But I’m here now, and some of the magic of the texts is gone, or maybe it was never “magic” — maybe I’m just more clear-eyed and less reverent when I approach texts. Maybe I’m not buying into the Hemingway or Fitzgerald or Kerouac myths that I used to accept — that there was something gloriously important and rapturously tragic (or vice versa) about Being an Author and Writing Novels, etc.

I don’t feel bad about my current approach — and once one is aware of the myths and the magic, one “can never return again.” Not only do I not feel bad about my current mindset, I feel pretty good about it — I feel wiser than I used to be. Where I used to see intellectual limits, I now see boundaries whose lines can be crossed. It feels pretty good.

And one thing I feel good about is not wanting to merely criticize others and their works. I want my fault-finding to lead me into a positive, substantial new direction — and I think for me, this means that I no longer really accept texts as beyond reproach and I no longer accept ideas as unassailable answers (everything is reproachable and/or assailable). But I trust now in the process, in the act of thinking and writing, and in this way, I can continue to discuss and consider even works I disagree with — I can continue to teach my students (and myself), and I can be humble enough to see also that I may also one day find something beyond process that I like even better.