Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A new (old) sensation

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  • Jolisa,

    Isn’t that why I pay you people?

    Not enough, apparently. Comrade.

    I’m off to the emblazoner to get this bit on some sort of pennant:

    “When the electric toaster was invented, there were, no doubt, books that said that the toaster would open up horizons for breakfast undreamed of in the days of burning bread over an open flame”

    And then what you need is some sort of over-sized ceremonial toasting fork with which to hoist your pennant aloft.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Like this.

    Also, Airdrop Borges would be a great name for a band. (I imagine them opening for Jefferson Starship).

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    I was going to airdrop Borges into the conversation, thank you for sparing me the trouble.

    If you could check my browser history (which I sincerely hope you can't) you would see The Aleph & Other Stories. Why not some Casares to boot?

    "The body is imaginary, and we bow to the tyranny of a phantom. Love is a privilege perception, the most total and lucid not only of the unreality of the world but of our own unreality: not only do we traverse a realm of shadows; but ourselves are shadows."

    Adolfo Bioy Casares.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    I'm just not as hungry to be immersed. Hmm. Sobering realisation (and I haven't been drinking.)

    I am, but I have learned to fear and control that hunger. If I had dick-all to do in a day, I'd be into all kinds of immersion, although I suspect long-form novels would lose out to the most addictive kinds of computer gaming.

    Some machine is always showing us Mind; some entertainment derived from the machine is always showing us Non-Mind.

    Nice. Yup, rings too true with a lot of moralizing that has been going on since time immemorial. Me, I think kids are smarter than ever before. Not in ways we grew up with, but suited to the times.

    My folks used to have a quote from Plato on the wall for years in which Socrates carries on about how the youth of today loves luxury and indolence, don't swot enough, and are disrespectful to their elders. Quite amazing that a man so brilliant, and whose entire company of friends was accused of exactly the same thing as they hung on Socrates words and laughed as he dissected the local equivalents of Garth George, could fail to see the irony. Socrates apparently thought writing itself was dangerously weakening to the mind. Thank Goodness Plato ignored that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Man, those are some nice forks.

    What was I saying? Drat, now you've distracted me with the Internet.

    True... but I think the spell that a really good novel casts is built up via a slow accumulation of attention over a long period, culminating (in my case at least) in a need to barricade myself behind a pile of pillows and/or a closed door as soon as I reach a point approximately 50 pp from the end.

    Yes. And duration is an aesthetic dimension, I think that's beyond question. But I think so long as the larger issue is that you've found your latest NZ fiction reads a little boring, and I can't quite accept that it's your fault somehow. And it's just as easy to be uninteresting in the short as in the long form I would contend. Indeed, once can be quite exquisitely boring in tweet form. It just happens to be over more quickly.

    (For some reason I am reminded of a headline in The Onion of February 2, 1922:

    MARCEL PROUST FINALLY DIES
    "We thought it would go on forever", say loved ones.)

    (I read it like two years ago and I was able to find it in the book in a flash. Reading skillz: I still haz them.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to BenWilson,

    My folks used to have a quote from Plato on the wall for years in which Socrates carries on about how the youth of today loves luxury and indolence, don't swot enough, and are disrespectful to their elders

    Surely Socrates meant that ironically? I can't recall the passage but I would be shocked if he actually meant that. However it's certainly true that it was an old argument by then already.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Jolisa,

    True… but I think the spell that a really good novel casts is built up via a slow accumulation of attention over a long period, culminating (in my case at least) in a need to barricade myself behind a pile of pillows and/or a closed door as soon as I reach a point approximately 50 pp from the end.

    Much as I love Anthony Trollope, I don't know if I'd want to make the argument that The Last Chronicle of Barset (854 closely printed pages in my copy) is a better novel than The Warden (which is downright anaemic by his standards). I'm not much of a size queen about my reading, but my God I've become increasingly impatient with narrative fiction where the narrative is badly structured, paced or pretty much non-existent. Seriously, if you want to write an essay about what a shitbag George Bush is or whatever sociopolitical hair you have up your arse at any given moment, go to -- just don't call it a novel.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I've never come across the passage myself. It sounds like something that would have been in my least favourite Plato - The Republic, written when Plato was himself an old fart. As with everything he wrote, it's quite possible Socrates said nothing of the sort.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to BenWilson,

    It sounds like something that would have been in my least favourite Plato - The Republic, written when Plato was himself an old fart. As with everything he wrote, it's quite possible Socrates said nothing of the sort.

    Is it this one?

    "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

    That's indeed the Republic and by this stage the consensus is that Socrates had become just a character in Plato's own theatre.

    However Hesiod said this some three centuries earlier:

    "I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint"

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to BenWilson,

    ...And why don't I just ask Google these things. Apparently it's disputed whether Socrates ever said the particular quote I'm thinking of. It may have actually come from a compressed paraphrasing of Aristophanes, who lampooned Socrates.

    ETA Yes, that's the quote.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Too much work this morning to make any sensible comment, but thanks everyone for this conversation, which is making me unusually thoughtful. While Gopnik's piece is good, I keep going back to Twilight of the books (which I keep linking to, sorry) because for me it casts a longer shadow. (And because I make video, yet my first love is books, and because, despite pinning a photocopy next to my door in a tertiary institution, noone has ever picked up the invitation to talk about it:)
    Data seems to show the decline in reading novels pre-dates the internet, and co-relates to rises in visual forms of communication and story-telling.
    Interesting to me because it takes the long view, and

    Taking the long view, it’s not the neglect of reading that has to be explained but the fact that we read at all. “The act of reading is not natural,” Maryanne Wolf writes in “Proust and the Squid"

    Airdrop Borges will want to co-opt Proust and the Squid. (Which reminds me of a terrific Firesign Theatre skit where the last stronghold of unhip resistance was squashed under bombings of 'the naked lunch'.)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    However Hesiod said this some three centuries earlier:

    LOL, and I expect the same sentiment was expressed many times in the epoch between humans learning to speak, and learning to write.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to BenWilson,

    I expect the same sentiment was expressed many times in the epoch between humans learning to speak, and learning to write.

    Peter the Hermit in 1,200 AD may be the oldest recorded instance. It's also almost the earliest recorded instance of written speech.

    Airdrop Borges will want to co-opt Proust and the Squid.

    Let's shoehorn a long book of great delight into this conversation: Kant and the Platypus.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Yes, just found that too. So it's a misquote by Pete the Hermit. One day I'll be a "the" something. Ben the Malattributor.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Jolisa,

    Novel-reading: turning good mothers into bad ones since ages ago

    Interesting you say that. My mother says that in her early days of motherhood - in the 1960s - it was seen as wildly self-indulgent and feckless and lazy to be seen reading novels. I expect reading Cordon Bleu cookbooks or Dr Spock would have been quite OK though.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 828 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Shorter Plato: Damn kids, get the Hades off my stoae.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale, in reply to Jolisa,

    Craig, you may have just inadvertently kicked off Public Address Books’ new fiction line-up… I am already making notes for Zombie Alone.

    Let's do this thing. I call dibs on Really Big Shark At The Bay.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    Interesting you say that. My mother says that in her early days of motherhood – in the 1960s – it was seen as wildly self-indulgent and feckless and lazy to be seen reading novels.

    Well, Jane Austen seemed to think having your nose constantly in a book was not always a good thing -- they turn Mary Bennett into a sanctimonious prig, who has a fatuous tag for every occasion. And every time Catherine Moreland attempts to apply Mrs. Radcliffe's Gothic fictions to real life, the results are farcical -- and almost ruinous when she gets the idea in her head that General Tilney tortured, if not murdered, his late wife.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Let's shoehorn a long book of great delight into this conversation: Kant and the Platypus.

    Or even Baudolino. Who needs zombies when you can have a blemmyae?

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    While Gopnik's piece is good, I keep going back to Twilight of the books (which I keep linking to, sorry) because for me it casts a longer shadow

    It is a very useful summation, thank you for that. I have strong reservations about Wolf's book, but none that can be easily dropped into the conversation. However I think that you might enjoy this essay on twitter, war coverage and the playstation effect, which is also about deep reading in a way. But I think separating reading from other information-processing activities is becoming less and less useful. It's not books versus films or the Internet versus poetry versus videogames versus television. Everything is increasingly being compressed and packaged together.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Fergus Barrowman,

    Nah, that desk hasnt shifted since the late 1970s. For one thing, it is extremely heavy (it took six of us to put it into position.)

    linger - possibly. I understand he now thinks writing is a mug's game, and ANZ are hateful disloyal readers for not supporting him in his years of need (this came to me 3rdhand and may not be an exact quotation.)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Oh, ay, speaking of Proust:

    "If I write all this in defence of Flaubert, whom I do not much like, if I feel myself so deprived at not writing about many others whom I prefer, it is because I have the impression that we no longer know how to read."

    Marcel Proust writing in the Nouvelle Revue Française, January 1920. (Via.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Well, Jane Austen seemed to think having your nose constantly in a book was not always a good thing

    Hmm. You might think that authors would be all for noses affixed firmly to books, particularly their own (books, I mean).

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 828 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    I was going to airdrop Borges into the conversation

    Yes. I last read Borges' "Labrynths" at least 20 years ago (reminds self to do it again asap), and have vivid mental pictures of several stories. The ones I didn't connect with at the time are probably the ones I should begin reading again.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Surely Socrates meant that ironically? I can’t recall the passage but I would be shocked if he actually meant that.

    When I heard that one, it was offered as if it were a serious comment, not an irony. Used to highlight complaints in the 60s that kids were no good, insolent, lazy etc. to show that really, there was nothing new, not even attitudes to young people, under the sun. (Or that young people really are guilty of all those negatives.)

    ETA: I'm just showing by this post that I'm really slow off the mark. Note to self: Read through to the end of the thread before commenting on earlier stuff.)

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

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