Saturday, April 14, 2007

You gotta out-Plate Plato and out-shop Schopenhauer

Serious writing needs serious thought.


No, not just your philosophy.


The love of truth.

All the spadework has been done in the past, but you have to at least know where they'd dug.

It took us a long time to get out of the religious wilderness ( or did we really, as witches warlocks and Scientologists still haunt the suburbs?),

Philosophy cuts through Man, Myth and Magic (Magick?) and places us squarely into the middle of the house. The house of intellect.

Philosophy cuts out the bullshit and de-horns the cattle.

So where do you get this Occam's Razor?

Well, a good university course would help, though there's many a nigh course in it, even in the community colleges and high schools.

Old Ari the Greek used to say, "Let no man ignorant of mathematics enter here." Yet the Greeks were woefully inept at mathemantics, save for geometry.

Geometry. Maybe that's all you needed, since the Brits managed for a long time to rule with "just a little geometry, a little Latin, and a little Greek."

So if you're going to become a writer, you need "a little geometry, a little Latin and a little Greek."

There is a caveat. The wonderful writer Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who died just recently was so bold as to say "all Greek philosophy was "one large".

Says the sage to the student. "The whole is greater than the part. Yes? Q. E.D.?...Now bend over, kid."

But seriously, when you undertake to write, you have to have something like an operating manual, at least for Western thought. If you don't have it, people will find you out and you will make a damfool of yourself with your clumsy scrawls.

The manual goes like this: To Ti?

Ancient Greek for "What is it?"

What is this thing I'm facing. Is it masculine or is it feminine? Is it moving or is it standing still. What is its inner contradiction?--what will make it all fall apart, or at least take a final direction in its movement?

Sounds a bit Marxist, but it's really Hegel, that frustrating metaplhysician. Hegel is best not read in the raw.
This writer has tried and tried, and had to settle for a dumber philosoher, Marx.

Marx goes this way: Forces act on the thing in front of you. From one side comes the thesis, from another the antithesis. These forces come together, but there is an inner contradiction at this juncture and because of this inner contradiction, there is the final direction, or synthesis.

Clear as mud, huh?

Just imagine a tree upside down, the trunk of the tree being the synthesis, or final direction. That's more like the thinking a guy called Feuerbach rather than Marx or Hegel, but you get the idea.

Why am I waxing so philosophical while I really had trouble with algebra in school?

Algebra, is after all the basis of this here computer. We have shot well past the Greeks, but we seem to operate machinery without the foggiest idea of what is the ghost in that machinery. Boolean algebra. All the possible ways that a human can think. Philosopy.

Which is exactly what writing should be about. All the possible ways that a human can think.
At least all the possible ways that a reader can interpret your writing. "Impenetrability, I say," says Humpty-Dumpty to Alice.

Again and again, I see writers getting rejected, awkward screeds bouncing like bullets off mylar.
Awkward screeds because of awkward thinking.
Like my lawyer used to say to me when I tried to interpret standard form. "What'sthe matter. No education?"

Pink Floyd: "We don't need no education..."

But we do, oh yes we do.

You can get it yourself by reading one or two key books. And now we have the Internet and Wikkipedia.

Or you can get it formally.

But to write as if you were a child, in abysmal ignorance, is to almost ask for trouble. People will laugh at you.

...But then there's poetry, for which there are no rules.

Poetry is somehow stronger, deeper and more convincing than prose.

And for that you need genius.

Like the song, "Hey Jude!" Simple enough in chord pattern, but doesn't it have the genius?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that writing is an ancient and honourable profession.

There are suddenly so many of us dipsticks trying to ply that profession.

You need to read a book or two. You need to read a book or two on philosophy, certainly a manual on creative writing by somebody who knows what he's doing, like stephen King.

You gotta "Out-Plate Plato. Out-shop Schopenhauer. Outsmarx Marx.

Then maybe you'll be able to even think about starting a novel.

Pretentious, no?

But probably true.


Sienna said...

Ivan, it's me Pam...I believe I sort of misplaced my password and things went downhill from there....not so much the computer or blogger but dangerous in the hands of one so great with dogs and horses!

I have an even greater your The Black Icon...btw, thanks so much, lets hit every producer that breathes....I have a ready made list and what I'm thinking is lets just go for it...actually I better email you

Love the postings, Monty looks great, and outplating Plato is brillant...stay there for a minute.


Josie said...

Hey, Ivan...! Pam is back! Yay! She is officially a Quark.

Love the cartoons on your post.

You know, I have always wondered who are the publishers that decide who (whom? oh, hell) should be published?


islandgrovepress said...


Great suggestion.

Gotyour email.

Company just left and I am three sheets to the wind. It is almost four a.m.

Will answer the email in the morning.


It is morning!.

...Later this aft.

Nice to see you back.


islandgrovepress said...

Hi Josie,

Pam is an Island Grove Press quark for sure.


Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Ivan: Really did enjoy this one this morning. Still taking it easy as had the 2 procedures with the Tooth from hell and top it off with stomach virus. Sipping tea and wondering around Blogworld.

Philosophy and writers go together like love and marriage. You can't have one without the other. (You know the tune to this one.)

Having attended modest state universities myself (Oklahoma State,Southwestern Oklahoma State, Lamar University), I never-the-less met many a fellow who took himself to be a true philosopher. Comical to me. Thus, I coined the term: philoso-fickal. You may feel free to use it.

Yep, there are true philosophers--and then there are the philoso-fickals. They are also the full of s****ers. Oh, well, maybe a good writer has to be a little full of it, too!

Nice to see the real thing. Knows one when ya sees one!


islandgrovepress said...

re "who are the publishers who decide who should be published."

They are of the ilk of Adrienne Clarkson, former McClelland and Stewart head boss. I have never met her Former Excellency, but I have met people around her.

Remember Spiro Agnew?
He coined the term "effete snobs".

I once went to Copenhagen with the entire former cast of W5, the documentary show.

Effete snobs? These people were drunks and junketeers.
(So, you may ask, what was I doing on a junket?)
I had won some sort of journalism award, so I was able to join that drunken crew...hell, maybe I fit, though I haven't yet had enough media success to be a really proper "effete snob".
Hate to say it, but the cast of W-5
back in l969 was a bunch of drunken assholes. Only normal guy there was the late Peter Riley--and he drank almost as much as I did. Drank himself to death in fact.
This is a dangerous thing for me to say, but my opinion is that Canadian publishing is run by effete snobs, right down to the tuxedos.
I do have a friend inside, one Robert Fulford. He is just as big, or bigger than the effee snobs. He said he will try to help me some, but he is certainly slow in reading my work.



islandgrovepress said...


Glad to hear you starting to stir.
Hm. The word stir makes me think of JR for some reason. Heh.

Don't know if I'll ever get a PhD in philosophy but I've certainly met the full-of-it crew and they do seem pathetic.
Wouldn't know a Hegelian Triad from a rain forest full of triads.

We may share the same academic experiences.
Already graduated from Ryerson tech here some years ago, I applied to our "Ivy League" university, the U of T. I was trying to get into a second-year Greek and Roman History course.

Well, they said my Ryerson was something of a glorified high school and my marks were not all that great in the first place.

I finally got in because at that time I had money, goods and power.

Says something about higher education, I suppose.
Them that's got are them that gets it, as Ray Charles might say.

Nowadays, I have no money, scant goods and little power.
But, strangely, there is this sideways progress in my writing. At least I think my stuff is getting around.

William Faulkner used to say that all that higher education really does is confuse a writer. Faulkner, of course, was never confused, though he did do a year at Ole Miss.
He was certainly not ignorant of philosphy! Go read.


islandgrovepress said...

Josie's question about publishing has brough in a flurry of emails to me.

I don'lt know about Lynn Scanlon.
Seems like she's a a scrapper when it comes to American publishers.

I don't want to be a scrapper.

I just want to know some American publishers.

But here is Lynn's blog:


EAMonroe said...

Ivan, I enjoyed your post. I always enjoy the philosophers, too, but I'll go with the late Carl Sagan since astrophysics (like quarks) seems to hold the key truths to most philosophy (I'm full of it, too!).

My "higher education" wasn't in literature or creative writing; it was in art education. So, I don't know much about literary intellectuals (isms) that so many writers seem to spout (maybe that's how they prove themselves?).

Intuition and common sense serve me well enough I suppose. I may not catch the elusive publication dream, but I'll keep writing and rewriting as best I can.

Thanks as always for your encouraging comments!

Donnetta Lee said...

Some of us got an education in the old School of Hard Knocks. Anybody been there besides me?

islandgrovepress said...


I've heard it said by some pretty impressive people that "natural brains are best."
Probably why I'd put up R. Crumb's
"Natural Man" cartoon above my blog.
And Carl Sagan. Didn't he say quarks are inseparable? Heh.


islandgrovepress said...


Yeah, hard knocks.

After my divorce, somebody punched me in the mouth so hard that I damn near broke all my teeth on the silver spoon.

The Kafka thing.

One day you're right up there, and he next day you wake up as an ugly old bug.

Old "Newfie" expression hereabouts:

"Everyman's gotta eat a tonna sh*t."

There were times when I really wanted to change my diet.

Gotta laugh at Tom Wolfe when he describe some buraucrat's "sh*t-eating grin."
Times I had to grin a lot too.

Guess after forty, all kinds of weird stuff happens to you, but along with Simon and Garfunkel, "you gotta hide it from the kids." Heh.


islandgrovepess said...

Another note to e.a.:

Yes, all philosophy leads to science. Sagan is right. As is Stephen Hawking.