With all the things I'd like to write about, I have to put my fiction first, if only because there's no one else who can do it.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/30 08:00
The very early incarnations of my online presence, mainly this blog, consisted of me watching and reading stuff and writing reviews on it. Much of that material was not good. Over time I got better at it, although there's only so much of it worth keeping, and so I kept little of it.
Around 2015 or so, though — right around the time I changed jobs and moved cross-country — I fell almost completely off the wagon. Some of that was because I created a sanctum specifically for my Japan-themed discussions, Ganriki.org, and once I did that I had little incentive to talk about anything outside of that context for my own sake.
Some of it was also that I felt obliged to be more focused in my use of time, to spend more of it writing the things that were entirely irreplaceable, mainly my fiction. I still come across things I'd like to write about in detail, and don't, if only because of the investment of time involved. But my creative work comes first, if only because there is literally no one else to do it.
I'd rather have people sincerely interested in things, whatever cultural level they live at, than be wannabe tastemakers forever jonesing to expand their reach.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/29 13:00
Another busy week and change — traveling for work, various household things. The Fall Of The Hammer continues, if with some interruption, so that hasn't fallen off the schedule; it's just been tough to keep a regular pace with all that's happened. I spent much of Saturday the 28th getting caught up. I also made things difficult for myself and came back from the bookstore with new distractions: more Alfred Döblin (Berlin Alexanderplatz was only the tip of his iceberg), more Proust (something for Christmas break, I guess), and more, period. None of which is going to end up feeding into what I'm working on now, but that's fine; it doesn't have to.
How our lives slip through our own fingers.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/23 08:00
In Peter Cowie's essay on Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries, there is this description of a key theme: "the phenomenon of old age wherein childhood memories return with ever-increasing clarity while great stretches of the prime of life vanish into obscurity."
I know a little of what this is like. I am not all that advanced in age — I need stronger glasses than I did before for driving, but at least nothing else is out of whack (yet) — but I know how there are already swaths of my life from not all that long ago that are being bleached out by time's sun.
Creative paranoia: when you know, just know, your work is worthless in a way only others can see.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/21 17:00
The last few days were a multi-car pileup of work, family things, a few long-overdue household details, and so on. Not much time to get to the keys; it was only the other night I got any actual work done on Fall Of The Hammer. Of everything I've worked on until now, this story has easily had the most drawn-out and fragmented genesis; I suspect I'll be polishing it non-stop until its final release.
Some of that has me worried if, until now, I've been writing badly and just this project, because of its peculiarity and intractability, forced me to level up to a point where only now am I writing anything halfway okay.
On defending that original burst of inspiration to the death.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/11 17:00
My post from before inspired another thought worth following up on: I am politely skeptical of, but also fundamentally fond of, the idea that the initial burst of inspiration we have about things is worth defending from being refined until nothing remains.
What's the difference between an appreciation of something and making excuses for it?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/11 08:00
Some of the best, most probing questions come from people who don't know the territory at all, or know it only well enough to ignore its dogmas. I was once talking with an acquaintance about how the more you read a favorite book, the better you appreciate it, when he came out with a question along the lines of, "How can you tell if you're just making excuses for a work once you've read it more than once?" He was in part following up something I'd said earlier in the conversation, about how you can make excuses for any work if you like it, and I admitted he had a point. One he made in almost complete ignorance of how such things work, but a point all the same. I wasn't sure how to reply to him then, but I think I do now.
What is the good, and bad, in saying "I do what I dang well want" in any creative medium? I know there's both.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/10 08:00
An interesting post popped up in my Reddit feed earlier this week. In brief, the author describes their liberating exhilaration upon discovering that they did not, in fact, need to approach their writing with a sense of style any longer....
Writers should be well enough read to be able to recognize various kinds of styles, and they should have an idea of what kind of style they are aiming to have, even if, during their first draft of a piece, they sometimes need to push through some parts in a "spewy" sort of way and clean it up later. But don't declare that a writer can simply stop caring about style, or that style is arbitrary or a form of social oppression. That's just juvenile.
I've wrestled with this one a lot in the past: What is the good, and bad, in saying "I do what I want" in any creative medium? I know there's both, and Matt touches on both in his take. My take, from his take, is that trying to figure out where that divide lies is itself a hallmark of creative growth.
A good critic of other work makes me look at my own and feel like I've missed even the standards I wanted to set for myself.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/06 17:00
I've been reading Gilbert Sorrentino's Something Said, a compilation of his criticism over the years, and it's another reminder of how a really good critic makes you say "It's always been like that, hasn't it? I just never saw it." It also makes me look at my own work and feel like I've missed even the standards I wanted to set for myself. Maybe the feeling will pass, but once such a thing is awakened it rarely nods back off on its own.
If someone is now interested in something that once only had faddish appeal, their interest has a far greater chance of being genuine.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/05 17:00
In one of his stories, Primo Levi (by way of a fictional narrator) talks about a slew of fads that have come and gone, with Zen Buddhism being one of them. I was not sure exactly when the story was written — my guess was last Sixties, early Seventies — but I didn't take offense at the description. I knew what he was referring to. Maybe even from the inside.
Ubiquitous cultural things don't thrill me, because they're in no danger of vanishing.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/05 08:00
Maybe I make too much sometimes of an affected indifference to what goes on in mainstream culture. It wasn't until very recently that I figured out why I have a hard time getting very excited about something everyone else is excited about: it's because such things are in no danger of ever vanishing.
"The most destructive frivolity of all comes only from the incurably serious."By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/04 17:00
I'm still dealing with Hurricane Dorian, but for me it's mostly an inconvenience, not a life-changing or -ending event. (Give to Doctors Without Borders and other rescue organizations; the Grand Bahamas have to essentially rebuild from nothing now.) Aside from my day job, I've been working on some long-overdue reviews for Ganriki, notes towards the next draft of Fall Of The Hammer, and various other things. And in the middle of all of it I scribbled down this sentence: "The most destructive frivolity of all comes only from the incurably serious."
There's no sense in delaying life because things aren't quite right yet. (A redux.)By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/09/03 15:00
I've been sitting here for the last couple of days with my storm shutters in place, waiting for Hurricane Dorian to make up its mind — actually, I just checked the storm tracking sites, it looks like the storm's finally starting to meander north, and may end up being more dangerous to the Carolinas than here. Here's hoping it just blows out to sea and spares us all any more unneeded pain.
The last time a storm came by, and the time before that, I reflected on the whole notion of putting life on hold while you wait for Something Big to happen. But Something Big is always in the offing; you just don't see it most of the time. There's no sense in delaying life because things aren't quite right yet. I know I've said this before; it just bears repeating, with some new insights.
Science fiction, rebooted.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind