Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What Would Future Scholars Say?

We had a great week-end with my sister and 9 year old nephew.  They are Jimmy Buffett fans, so of course, we had to go to Margaritaville, the new resort at Hollywood Beach affiliated with Buffett.  But it was so lovely, sitting by the pool at our house, so hard to leave.

Finally, on Sunday we made our way over.  We watched a Footvolley match that was part of the U.S. Pro Tour.  I had never heard of this sport, much less realized that there was a pro tour, but it was fascinating with its mix of soccer and volleyball.  Then we wandered through the resort.

We didn't stay to eat or have a drink.  We went back to our house to have hot dogs and drinks by our pool--a pool we could actually use, unlike the resort pools.

While sitting by the pool this week-end, I made significant progress through The Fellowship:  The Literary Lives of the Inklings, by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, the book which looks at the literary and spiritual lives of the intellectual group, The Inklings, which included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. I am thoroughly enjoying that book, although I will confess that I am more interested in some chapters than in others.

It does not make me want to read these works--but it does make me think about my own creative groups and what future scholars might say about us.

Sure, we're not famous now, but many of the literary groups that are near and dear to my heart weren't exactly famous in their own time.  It would be more accurate to say that they were famous in one way, but not in the way that we've come to think of them now.

My friends continued to write e-mails about our Purgatory Project.  At one point, I suggested that one of them could write as a future literary critic or historian writing about us, writing our book.  Yes, very meta, I know. 

Yesterday, during spin class, I had a vision of a preface to a collection of scholarly essays, a preface written by the editor on the centennial of the publication of the book that we're just now creating.  By the end of the day, I had it written.  It was great fun, and it flowed out of me 1600 words, effortlessly, unlike the last short story I wrote, which I often eked out paragraph by paragraph, day after day, over several weeks.

It was an interesting experiment, thinking about what others might say, how we might look from a distance.  This morning it was back to writing in the voice of God, which was also effortless.

I can't resist posting the first three paragraphs that I wrote yesterday:

Before we consider each of the artists who created A Pilgrim’s Progress Through Purgatory, let us remind readers a century later that these artists, while supportive of each other, did not see themselves as a group. Although we have chosen to call them the Catharsists, they did not see themselves as a cohesive group, at least not as writers. Early observers of the group might have expected them to transform the world of fiber arts, since that’s the medium they first explored together. But after the first quilt show that they entered, in which the response was mixed, the group seemed to lose interest in fabric as formal art.

Still, what inspired the move from quilting group to writing group? Although many of the members showed some propensity towards writing, few would have expected that they would cohere as a group. And in many ways, it’s a stretch to conceptualize them as a writing group.

They rarely showed each other their unfinished work. They didn’t function as foil or muse for each other, in the way that the Inklings, the group that contained C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien did.They produced no manifesto that any scholar has ever been able to locate. Unlike, say, the Bloomsbury group of early 20th century London or the Lake District group of Wordsworth and Coleridge, our Catharsists did not see themselves as challenging any particular status quo in terms of the literary world. Indeed, at first, they were simply having a good time and taking a break from what they considered their more serious work."

Indeed--we are having a good time--my favorite chunk from this morning, where I wrote in the voice of God: 

"But real life isn’t like that. I’m no quantum physicist, so I have trouble explaining it. You’ll just have to see for yourself. Time isn’t linear. Time isn’t cyclical. But those two statements, which might seem contradictory, can’t capture the totality of time.

As you see, there’s a reason why I’ve outsourced the broadcasting of my thoughts to the prophets, the Psalmists, the theologians, the poets—outsourced with varying success, I will be the first to admit."

I look forward to seeing where our writing takes us this week.

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