Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, January 11, 2008

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of you opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, and you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress. -- Kenneth Burke, 1939

I’ll get back to blogging the Bach cello suites, but probably not until next week. I tried Suite No. 5 a few nights ago and did not like what I wrote. Since then I have been thinking of other things. Even though I didn’t like what I wrote for No. 5, writing-through is still a vivid way to listen.

Today this blog is four years old. It has been a pleasure discussing things with you all. Looking forward to more.

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Update, Friday evening:
This morning I asked my four-year-old son to draw a fancy numeral 4 for this post, and that's it up top.
He turns five in a couple of days

Update, Saturday morning, the last day of my son being four:
He wants to tell the story of the 4 that he drew.
"There was a man who was looking for some nuts, and while he doing that there was fish swirling around him and bubbles popping up. And then there was some guys who were trying to trap the fish by the river but they couldn't because the river was too deep and they were going to drown. But they didn't know that so they went into the river and they almost drownded but a sailorman saved them and told them never to go into a river that is too deep again -- first look because you might not know if it's too deep or if it's shallow."


I love the Kenneth Burke quote--he's one of my favorite writers. Where is that quote from? I don't recognize it.

And knowing, Burke, I would imagine it's a parable of some kind--any idea what he's parablizing [sic?]. I'd guess it's literary tradition, or cultural tradition in general.

And by the way, isn't that--cultural tradition--the context in which (in reference to your previous post) the "ancients" (Greeks & Romans) are indeed "ancient?" The usage began around the 16th century, when people also began referring to themselves as the "moderns." The notion was--and is, as far as I know--that the Greeks & Romans were the sources of our cultural--or civilizational--traditions.

Not that this view of things is necessarily true. I was reading a book recently that claimed off-handedly that Greek poetry--specifically its meters--came directly from Sanskrit traditions!

Finally--since I always seem to have occasion to bring Dylan's name up in my comments here--the understanding of who's "ancient" can move forward as well as backward in time. Dylan played Muddy Waters's "Blow Wind Blow" at the beginning of the first of his XM radio shows, introducing Muddy as "one of the ancients whom all moderns now must prize."

The Dylan quote is great -- a beautiful tribute to a great musician, alluding to the Renaissance vibe on, yes, the Ancient Greeks and Romans. (In Classical music, "ancient" is pre-Bach!) My post was a hasty and hot shock of surprised incomprehension. Your account of the Renaissance recovery of the "ancient" Greek and Roman cultural traditions sounds familiar and feels right.

I think the Burke quote is from "The Philosophy of Literary Form," but I found it quoted in a book on poetics, "What Is a Poet?", edited by Hank Lazer. I love that quote too; I agree that it's a parable, yes, about the cultural tradition.

Thanks for putting your oar in!
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