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All about words



fierce and bewildered

Posted by nancyfreund11 on April 26, 2014 at 7:55 AM

"Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art; do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength. Giacometti's drawings and paintings show his bewilderment and persistence. If he had not acknowledged his bewilderment, he would not have persisted. A master of drawing, Rico Lebrun, discovered that ''the draftsman must aggress; only by persistent assault will the live image capitulate and give up its secret to an unrelenting line.'' Who but an artist fierce to know - not fierce to seem to know - would suppose that a live image possessed a secret? The artist is willing to give all his or her strength and life to probing with blunt instruments those same secrets no one can describe any way but with the instruments' faint tracks."  

That's Annie Dillard speaking, through Andre Dubus III who quoted this thing pretty much verbatim while I took crazy shorthand, so I could google it later, fill in my many blanks, and try to understand. It's also Annie Dillard speaking (ok, writing) in the New York Times of May 1989.  Her name will take you there.

I googled, I found, I copied it down, and I've now read it repeatedly, and yet, I confess I'm not sure I fully understand.  Concerning MUCH of what Mr. Dubus said at Sirenland -- his own words, or other writers brilliantly quoted -- I fear that I remain unqualified to "get it."  The SAT results long ago would tell you I'm a verifiable genius, and yet I am often standing in the dark corner of a glowing purple room.  Indulge me a sec -- this is a real room I want to tell you about, not just a metaphor. (Not JUST a metaphor!) White cushioned flooring pumped with air, and airpockets line the cushioned walls.  Black lights illuminate neon greens and yellows in a hazy, happy mirage of movement, and there's sweet, crazy music pulsing, and beautiful, energetic American parents in this Swiss place, and bouncing children, knees and arms akimbo, and there are scattered coins to find in there, if I could only enter.  I want so to step into it, to find the instant rhythm and unlock the mystery of it, and leap and bounce around and join the laughter, and -- you know -- dance, dance, baby. Yet I'm immobilized by my own inadequacies, and I remain assigned to, adhered to the dim-lit edge.  

Maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe that means I'm bewildered, like famous Swiss man Giacometti, and maybe my relentless yearning to "get it." means I'm persistent.  Maybe someday I'll be described by some kind-hearted person as fierce.  Fierce to know, not just fierce to seem to know.  On the other hand, maybe it means I'm a dumbshit. Maybe it just means I stood at the doorway to the bouncy-castle room at Planete Jeux when my children were tiny, and I wondered if the little boy who'd lost his two franc coin would ever bounce over to it and pick it up.  Maybe I was only watching from a selfish point of view, collecting metaphors for later.

But here's why I put that Annie Dillard thing down here now... There's an awful of lot brilliant stuff I heard directly or overheard at Sirenland -- the most incredible writers' workshop I've had the pleasure of experiencing.  I want to keep it all, and I want to share it all.  We pick up and take the gems from where we find them -- in my case, even before I fully grasp the concepts or the value of what I've found.  But I remain convinced that by putting the words down and sharing them in covnersation with other writers, other artists, and here, I throw pebbles on the water. Those pebbels are my live images, I guess.  My scattered coins in the psychedelic bouncy-castle room. And when I toss my pebbles, the ripples then expand and spread, and ultimately, ripple back, perhaps delivering new understanding within the tiny waves. 

Categories: writing & publishing, expat, travel, & cross-cultural issues, education & literacy

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