Novels: Mental health threat or therapy?

 “The solitude of writing is … quite frightening. It’s close sometimes to madness, one just disappears for a day and loses touch.” Nadine Gordimer

“It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.” Shirley Hazzard

It’s often said that the writing of novels can be a symptom, maybe even a cause, of insanity.

Perhaps a person does have to be mad to write novels, to spend … Read more

Zombie nation: Shutting down

In my previous post I suggested that persons and cultures, our very realities, are narrative in structure. What happens when you interrupt such narratives? Many of us are finding out, thanks to our increasingly ubiquitous and much-beloved digital communication technologies. There follow two especially obvious ways this is happening.

Applying a cell phone to the side of one’s head in public has the effect of disconnecting the brain. In this condition, cellphone users show characteristic signs of aimlessness, milling about … Read more

Safe and cosy

Posted from under my bed: Totalitarianism rools, OK! Don’t see any way around it, given the politics of fear combined with the ever-more extensive collection and storage of data subject to interpretation by ever-more sophisticated programs.

Alternatively, doesn’t it give you a cosy feeling to know that the Powers That Be are doing such a good job of protecting us from all that bad stuff out there? Especially when we know these Powers are so enlightened and so consistently benign. … Read more

New you’s: Modular commodification

 

I am Nikon. I am my iPhone. I am a chimera, a mongrel composite of my Levis, my Dockers, my Tilly hat, my Bush Country SUV.

I am whoever I choose to be. I am whatever. I am a staunch iconic mashup doing my part to keep the wheels of industry turning. I am my modular personality du jour compliments of the advertising industry and my own f***wittedness. Cool.

 

But it gets weirder than that. And maybe more … Read more

Central irony of our age?

The central irony of our age: a powerful totalitarian drift promising individual empowerment. (Epigrams’R’Us, eh?)

Individually and collectively, we blithely speed towards a precipice. Or so it seems, of this jet-lagged morning, just back from a computer-, Internet-, and phone-less island sojourn.

Are we modern folk evolving as mere arms & legs for our smartphones? The reality of current tendencies may be even more sinister than that. I’m too sleepy to develop that notion any further just now. Here’s just … Read more

Autonomous smartphones: Is your gadget evolving?

So I’m sending an SMS on my iPhone, and I’m using “jesus christly” as a compound adjective, when this phone, even though it’s only a 2G model, takes the liberty of capitalizing “Jesus”. What’s next? It’ll probably start offering prayers to Him on my behalf. Maybe even promising I’ll do a 20-year tour of duty as a missionary in Africa if only the babe over there at that other table, here in Starbucks (which I never frequent), gives … Read more

Getting away from it all: Now & then


Sometimes, e.g. when I look around a Skytrain car and see people’s faces lit in the unholy glow of iPad screens (see “Digital bedlam”)—when I notice the wires dangling from people’s heads, the animated conversations with invisible presences on the part of people sporting no visible gadgetry at all, the poke-poking and thumbing of games and messages and searches for the meaning of life—it seems to me that these changes in our behavior have been sudden. Just last … Read more

Digital civility rools, or doesn’t

Vertically walleyed: A new affliction, an occupational hazard for the digitally connected and cool, a neologism of sorts coined right here and right now.

“My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.”

That’s from a great NY Times article by Sherry Turkle, “The Flight from Conversation.” And this advice has expanded my notion of what’s fittin’ and … Read more

Occupational hazards: Add to the collection

I’ve suggested some typical hazards that writers face, aside from the traditional death from starvation, and more lurk here in my files. But the following wheeze is easier than writing one of these up just now.

I’m supplying links to those that have gone before, and invite ideas from you—“you” being that mythical creature, the real, live visitor to Collin’s blogsite—for other occupational hazards that afflict writers. Contributions from writers, writers-to-be, readers and the general public welcome.

1. Godwotterous writerly Read more

Some good things to do with an Internet addiction

The Joy of Quiet,” a story by Pico Iyer in the NY Times (29 Dec. 2011) resonates with something I proposed a week ago at a Christmas party.

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I’d been talking about plans to go away for a few weeks to finish a novel in draft. As usual, when such an idea is broached, people were quick to say things such as, “Hey, I know a great place on the coast down south” or “My uncle has … Read more