Sunday, October 15, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 25


Text: The Man Who Collected Machen and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Text: The White Hands and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Text: Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality (Edward Frenkel)
Pictures: Broken glass at the metro station, January 2012

Whether we want or not we're always making stories. Being somewhere and walking around is a narrative experience. We tell this story to ourselves and we long to tell it to others.
This story is without doubt the strangest thing I’ve ever read. It is as if the text is a reflection of my own thoughts. No—that’s wrong. It is as if my thoughts are only a reflection of the story. While I read I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page and I forgot all about the outside world. It seemed as if my mind was becoming a part of the text. It was horrible and irresistible at the same time. And the really bizarre thing is that, on the surface, it appeared only to be a confused jumble of disconnected words!’ ‘It’s an experiment,’ I told her, ‘a new technique I’m trying to perfect.’
When we succeed the sum of place and tale is more than its components:
‘You succeeded,’ she said finally. ‘The story’s like an incantation. There’s some mysterious power in it that words can’t explain.
Unfortunately, the enjoyment of topography is a very elitist pastime. Place appreciation is just as rare as enjoyment of mathematics. It needs hard work and maybe some talent and predisposition:
It has become, in the words of poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “a blind spot in our culture – alien territory, in which only the elite, the initiated few have managed to entrench themselves.”
This view of the world contains some postmodern thinking. And this can be irritating:
The merits of a writer’s work were of no interest to them and they viewed the existence of literary work as a proliferation of vermin, being only too willing to act as pest controllers in this regard. All texts were without a centre of meaning. Their interpretation rested with the reader, not the author. There could be no agreed purpose to a text. All was chaos. The text was an autonomous entity. In short, without the reader the text did not even exist save as a cipher.
We run the risk of saying things that are just meaningless words:
The Collective was putting tenets into action that few dared even to consider. Unlike the book-burning Nazis or the censorious communists, it was not selective. It did not destroy because it thought works corrupt or dangerous. It destroyed works because it believed none had meaning or significance, because words only mean other words and chase each other, in a linguistic game of tag, to a void.

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

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