Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sieur de Montaigne, inventor of the essay that we work so hard at writing


The best writing is the best researched-- otherwise what can you contribute with your own awkward scrawls...At least, so I tell myself

Ordinarily, I research all my material--who had said in print what you now say, long before you, and probably better.

But I find I'm more like that ancient noble Frog, Montaigne. He wasn't up to too much research: "How can you square the circle when you're perched atop your wife?"

Saucy fellow....And way before Shakespeare.
The French are somehow superior, and they know it

Who else, in about 1550, could come up with a line like, "My stomach rumbled today...And that made me think of..."

Well, my stomach is rumbling today. Too heavy on the dumpster stew....Hey, I found a filet mignon not yet stale dated in the dumpster...Don't knock it if you haven't tried it!
....But I think it was that stale-dated tomato that is giving the old tum the rumbles. Shouldn't have had it raw, no matter how often I'd washed it. Shouldn't have had that salad with the tomato in it without parboiling it first....Gad, I think of Mexico. You had to practically parboil everything. And still, you wife would get tourista.
My stomach is rumbling today. One of my students insists that all my philosophy come from my rumbling stomach. A thought, a concept an idea...Nah, just the filet digesting.
I hope to feel more together and brilliant soon.

But not as brilliant as Montaigne. His stomach rumbled too, but that rumble came down the centuries.

Consider this observation on philosophy at it applies to teaching children. How does Montaigne compare to today's teachers, who blab, "Give my your input and I'll give you my feedback, or "What's your PTR?"

Says Montaigne:

Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it? ... But in truth I know nothing about education except this: that the greatest and the most important difficulty known to human learning seems to lie in that area which treats how to bring up children and how to educate them.

In his commerce with men I mean him to include - and that principally- those who live only in the memory of books. By means of history he will frequent those great souls of former years. If you want it to be so, history can be a waste of time; it can also be, if you want it to be so, a study bearing fruit beyond price. (Michel de Montaigne)

Myself, I would add, Hip is self destructive. Smart is timeless.


But Montaigne also had a mischievous, almost H. L. Mencken side. He writes, way back in the sixteenth century:
Here in my town, I pay to have my books printed. But all through France people pay money to read me.

Lord, have things changed for some of us in the last four hundred years?
I have printed some novels at my own expense. Now some professors from out of Edmonton, Alberta, want to pay me. Also India.

Ah, Sieur de Montaigne. Inventor of the essay.

Is that what I have been doing for the past fifty years? Writing the essay which somebody had already done, and done better?

I've got to give this some thought. I live in Canada, which was really founded at about the time of Montaigne (never mind the Anglos who say, officially that Canada was started in 1867. Canada is half a millenium old, if you count John Cabot and then Champlain.
I think as a non purloin, I am starting to learn.
We might have Shakespeare, but the frogs had Montaigne.
And even Balzac, the Shakespeare of the novel

Ah the melding of two cultures.

I think I am finally starting to get it.

...But I was sort of schizophrenic in the first place. :)

14 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I do a lot of research for my work, and am trained in how to do it, but it's not my favorite thing. I kind of like letting it all hang out.

TomCat said...

As much as I have seen you struggle with essays over the years, do you ever throw darts at that picture?

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ooh. Cat turds on rug.

Bad cat!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Charles,

Yep. That's pretty well the way I do it too. In first draft, anyway.
Then comes the detail work.

eric1313 said...

I feel the same way--so much better to let it fly, then check up on whether or not it rings true.

I'm blessed that I have a wonderful memory for things I read and most often I don;t have to clear egg off my face, but some times it does come back to haunt me. That's part of what I love about the blog: I can say a lot and if any of it is wrong, some kind soul will inform me of such and I get to rectify it with little difficulty.

Perhaps one day, i will learn to do research correctly. Until then, I'll just keep doing what i do and fix the barn door after the cows have returned home.

By the way, currently reading Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, his first novel. Seems to have been owned by a student, as it's margins are filled with all manner of notes penned in meticulously with refs to other page numbers as well, for sake of connections. I wonder what brave prof had slipped this gem into their curriculum?

Donnetta Lee said...

Sometimes I think I have never had an original thought. There is nothing new under the sun, sayeth Solomon. D

ivan@creativewritng.ca said...

Donnetta,

Yes.

My favourite quote from Ecclesiastes.

That, and "of the writng of books, there is no end." :)

ivan@creatievwriting.ca said...

Eric,

Player Piano has always been one of my favourites.
Vonnegut's description of the gay piano player would not pass today's political correctness police, but it sure as hell made me laugh.

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ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ah, the good old Royal Canadian Air Force.

Tradest thou security,wamrth, companionship for a university degree?...
...Fifty years later, the jury is still out...

Anonymous said...

Hi folks,

First, a huge thank you to everyone who came out to the Halifax book launch on Wednesday. We crammed more than a hundred people into the Company House (with a stalled line out the door at one point) and Bookmark sold out the 60 copies of Drive-by Saviours it brought. (Sorry to those who didn't get one, but stores are well stocked and so is Roseway at http://www.fernwoodpublishing.ca/?mode=cart&action=add&book=457). It was so heartwarming to have all those great people out to celebrate my book and hear great local music and reading.

On Saturday, 7pm, I'm presenting the Percy Prize for best unpublished Atlantic Canadian novel (the award I won in 2008) at the Jane Buss gala. It's at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. Should be fun.

Then on Sunday I'll be reading at the Main Stage at Word on the Street Halifax, Victoria Park, at 11:30am. I'll be sharing the stage with the notorious Russell Smith, so it should be interesting. And I'll be signing books all day at the Roseway/Fernwood booth.

On Monday I leave for my book tour. Some of the dates have changed so please take a look at http://www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com/chris-benjamin-writing-blog/updated-book-tour-schedule-for-drive-by-saviours to see when I hit your town. And a few more Nova Scotia readings will be added later so I'll keep you posted on that.

In the meantime I've already had some fun media coverage. You can hear my interview on CKDU's Book Club at http://129.173.68.249/20100921.13.30-14.30.mp3. I come in at 22:00 minutes (about 1/3 of the way through), and it gets cut off at the end, but it gives you a good chunk of it.

Also, I got to go on haligonia.ca this week with Silver Donald Cameron. We interviewed each other about our new books. The clip is up at http://live.haligonia.ca/halifax-ns/soundbites/16248-sound-bites-a-meeting-of-literary-minds.html.

Aside from the novel, I have a couple other publications coming out this fall. First is my short story, The Law Won, which will be in the literary journal Descant's prison issue. If you're in Toronto you can attend the launch at Revival (783 College Street) on Wednesday, Oct 06, 2010, 7:30 p.m. But I won't be there - I'll be up in Lindsay reading. However, Hurricane Rubin Carter will be there, and it's a shame I'll miss the chance to meet such a passionate advocate for justice. You can learn more about the issue at http://www.descant.ca/issues/d150.html.

My short story, Gifts from the North, also appears in a new anthology out this month, called Airbourne, published by Third Person Press in Cape Breton. The launch is on, wait for it...October 6, 6:30-8:30pm, at the McConnell Memorial Library, 50 Falmouth Street in Sydney, Nova Scotia. More on the Airbourne Anthology at http://www.thirdpersonpress.com/.

--
Chris Benjamin will launch his first novel, Drive-by Saviours, on October 4, 7:30 pm at The Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St West, Toronto. Musicians Sarah Kenvyn and Charms (the duet of Jessica Moore and Gabe Levine) will warm the stage with their sultry sounds, and poet Kevin Fortnum will rock some spoken word.

http://www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com

http://www.youtube.com/chrisbenjaminwriting

Anonymous said...

Hi folks,

First, a huge thank you to everyone who came out to the Halifax book launch on Wednesday. We crammed more than a hundred people into the Company House (with a stalled line out the door at one point) and Bookmark sold out the 60 copies of Drive-by Saviours it brought. (Sorry to those who didn't get one, but stores are well stocked and so is Roseway at http://www.fernwoodpublishing.ca/?mode=cart&action=add&book=457). It was so heartwarming to have all those great people out to celebrate my book and hear great local music and reading.

On Saturday, 7pm, I'm presenting the Percy Prize for best unpublished Atlantic Canadian novel (the award I won in 2008) at the Jane Buss gala. It's at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. Should be fun.

Then on Sunday I'll be reading at the Main Stage at Word on the Street Halifax, Victoria Park, at 11:30am. I'll be sharing the stage with the notorious Russell Smith, so it should be interesting. And I'll be signing books all day at the Roseway/Fernwood booth.

On Monday I leave for my book tour. Some of the dates have changed so please take a look at http://www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com/chris-benjamin-writing-blog/updated-book-tour-schedule-for-drive-by-saviours to see when I hit your town. And a few more Nova Scotia readings will be added later so I'll keep you posted on that.

In the meantime I've already had some fun media coverage. You can hear my interview on CKDU's Book Club at http://129.173.68.249/20100921.13.30-14.30.mp3. I come in at 22:00 minutes (about 1/3 of the way through), and it gets cut off at the end, but it gives you a good chunk of it.

Also, I got to go on haligonia.ca this week with Silver Donald Cameron. We interviewed each other about our new books. The clip is up at http://live.haligonia.ca/halifax-ns/soundbites/16248-sound-bites-a-meeting-of-literary-minds.html.

Aside from the novel, I have a couple other publications coming out this fall. First is my short story, The Law Won, which will be in the literary journal Descant's prison issue. If you're in Toronto you can attend the launch at Revival (783 College Street) on Wednesday, Oct 06, 2010, 7:30 p.m. But I won't be there - I'll be up in Lindsay reading. However, Hurricane Rubin Carter will be there, and it's a shame I'll miss the chance to meet such a passionate advocate for justice. You can learn more about the issue at http://www.descant.ca/issues/d150.html.

My short story, Gifts from the North, also appears in a new anthology out this month, called Airbourne, published by Third Person Press in Cape Breton. The launch is on, wait for it...October 6, 6:30-8:30pm, at the McConnell Memorial Library, 50 Falmouth Street in Sydney, Nova Scotia. More on the Airbourne Anthology at http://www.thirdpersonpress.com/.

--
Chris Benjamin will launch his first novel, Drive-by Saviours, on October 4, 7:30 pm at The Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St West, Toronto. Musicians Sarah Kenvyn and Charms (the duet of Jessica Moore and Gabe Levine) will warm the stage with their sultry sounds, and poet Kevin Fortnum will rock some spoken word.

http://www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com

http://www.youtube.com/chrisbenjaminwriting

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Well,
Double printing of comment for Chris' double oeuvre.

Man, you are amazing!

All this at 34. Wow.

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