Saturday, August 25, 2012

Naïve and Sentimental Writer

Orhan Pamuk’s book introduces interesting concepts on the craft of writing. It is possibly the loftiest essay on writing that I have ever read. It is fruitful that I am reading his book now, during the writing course I am attending online. Pamuk has reflectively and analytically drawn a distinctive view on writing that is unique and thoroughly modern. Referring to Schiller’s primary essay as a source of his views, Pamuk distinguishes between naive and sentimental (or reflective) writers and readers. He also makes interesting distinctions between Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, between visual and verbal writers, between spatial arts like painting or sculpture and time based art like novels.  It is probably one of the most academic and insightful works on writing from a great writer; whereas one would usually expect this type of analysis from a professor or academician or literary theorist and not from a Nobel prize awarded in Literature. Therefore, he knows of what he speaks, applying his insights into his art to great acclaim


According to his essays, he is a writer who is deliberate; a reflective writer who does a lot of plotting and planning before beginning the actual act of writing the book itself. Therefore he is the antithesis of the ‘naïve’ writer who rushes out and begins writing, driven by an enthusiasm that he thinks will carry him all the way to the completion of the work. There are writers who can achieve this ‘burst’ of effort effectively, perhaps writers like Stendhal, Dumas, Goethe or the recent example of the late Jack Kerouac with his automatic writing. I thought I was of this ilk, only realizing lately, after attending writing courses that this avenue often ends in a ‘writer’s’ block. He is the first writer I have read who has effectively explained the link between painting and writing; he is like a nexus or sweet spot located between the realm of literary and visual art, able to assimilate the lessons of each realm and explain their virtues which is why it provides a thoroughly modern perspective.

Pamuk also describes the way the mind reacts when reading or listening to a story, the way words would formulate on the brain, forming visual images as the words enter the brain page by page, the art of the novel proceeding in time as the reader works his way to the end of the book. Perhaps he is the first writer who has unlocked the secret of writing and explains the secrets in a simple and easy to understand manner. Overall it’s like delving into the mind of a great artist; plus the interesting fact that he is a Muslim Turk, a beneficiary of the ancient Arabian technology of the Middle East, of Persian and Ottoman influences, of the confluence of East and West, of Byzantium and the other ancient empires along the Silk Road; that he represents a rebirth of Ottoman renaissance, heralding the rise of modern Turkey in a European union bankrupted by Western excess. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, but he does have a whiff of modernity, high education and brilliance in his analysis.

I woke up early this morning, preparing for an early meeting, where we passed a milestone and approved to move to the next stage. It was a culmination of a tough week, with friends over last night where I cooked ‘cioppino’ – a tomato based stew of shrimps, clams and fish, an Italian dish popular along the docks in the Adriatic coast,  where the remaining leftovers of the day’s catch tossed into a soup by tired fishermen.  My wife has gone home to attend her mother’s funeral, staying away for a month; my youngest son is away in college and my eldest at home working on his college entrance. I am in my sixth week at the writing course reading lectures and working on my writing assignments, tasked to thoroughly revise my submitted story, perhaps following Pamuk’s advice on writing, while I prepare to move to my new house, looking forward to critiquing short stories and playing golf in the weekend.

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