Monday, November 23, 2009

Powerful Words

Some good writing I've run into. Via MR:
To me then, Isildur represents something totally alien. He represents the nameless feeling that we all know when we play somebody who we feel that we just cannot beat. The pre-rational feeling that no matter what we do we cannot win; this force (it does not congeal into a person) will push us down and there is no way to fight back, to go up for air – our only option is to surrender. No matter what cards we are dealt or what flop we see, somehow we end up losing or getting outplayed. To a poker player, there is no feeling as terrifying as losing and not knowing why. When Isildur appeared, nobody knew who he was. Nobody knew why he played the way he did, how he was so good, or why he won so much. He surprised everyone, and in a whirlwind he destroyed almost everybody he played. He was a faceless force who suddenly disrupted all of the sensible hierarchy of the Western poker world. Whether or not we acknowledge it, everybody became afraid. Afraid that maybe he would tear everything down. That all of our hierarchies would be rendered irrelevant. Maybe he was the greatest poker player in the world. But to claim that title, he must answer to the king. To me, that is the symbolism behind the battle between Durrrr and Isildur.
On Asimov:

When I started writing this section, I reread Isaac Asimov's robot books and I learned a great lesson: What struck you as profound when you were fourteen may be utter tripe when you're in your forties. I remember consuming all of Asimov's works that I could find as a teenager. He wasn't my favourite author by a long chalk, but he was readable and I was fascinated by his ideas. However, decades of reading and experience made revisiting his fiction an unpleasant time. I had forgotten how Asimov's writings were so much schoolboy prose frozen in the adolescent vocabulary of '40s pulp, or how he had no real command of the language-- or at least did not show any interest in polishing his prose. I did recall his lack of visual sense, which made his stories rough going, and how he tended to labouriously describe what could simply be shown. Worst of all, Asimov had no real understanding of history, human motives, or character and would often have his stories revolving about some trend or phobia or drive that had as much basis in reality as my hopes of winning the Nobel Prize.

His work was most emphatically not literature and his robot stories among the most so. They weren't so much stories as logic problems bundled up as fiction with some of Asimov's cod philosophy thrown in for good measure. That being said, one can't deny that the robot stories were a milestone in sci-fi writing and had a great influence on later writers and filmmakers to the point of practically acting as a template for future tales.

From Amit Varma:
I used the word “complicity” a bit ago. I like the word. To me, it indicates an unspoken understanding between two people, a kind of pre-sense, if you like. The first hint that you may be suited, before the nervous trudgery of finding out whether you “share the same interests,” or have the same metabolism, or are sexually compatible, or both want children, or however it is that we argue consciously about our unconscious decisions. Later, looking back, we will fetishize and celebrate the first date, the first kiss, the first holiday together, but what really counts is what happened before this public story: that moment, more of pulse than of thought, which goes, Yes, perhaps her, and Yes, perhaps him.

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