Monday, January 19, 2015

Lifting Lines: Making a Commonplace Book

Highways and Gesso (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

In William Least-Heat Moon's PrairyErth: A Deep Map, he begins each quadrant with quotations that he titles, From the Commonplace Book. This is his field study of Chase County in Kansas and it seems fitting that alongside his study of the land, he should also include other texts that speak to the ideas of mapping, location, geography, place--to name but a few.

A commonplace book.

Ryan Halliday nicely defines a commonplace book. He writes:

A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.

So here I am going to have a go of lifting lines as I read other texts and depositing them here.  Later I'll think about ways to organize them. Alongside these I'll be adding some unfinished artwork of mine from journals.

Crowd (M.A. Reilly, gesso, newspaper, 2014)

“How ... how fragile situations are. But not tenuous. Delicate, but not flimsy, not indulgent. Delicate, that's why they keep breaking, they must break and you must get the pieces together and show it before it breaks again, or put them aside for a moment when something else breaks and turn to that, and all this keeps going on. That's why most writing now, if you read it they go on one two three four and tell you what happened like newspaper accounts, no adjectives, no long sentences, no tricks they pretend, and they finally believe that they really believe that the way they saw it is the way it is ... it never takes your breath away, telling you things you already know, laying everything out flat, as though the terms and the time, and the nature and the movement of everything were secrets of the same magnitude. They write for people who read with the surface of their minds, people with reading habits that make the smallest demands on them, people brought up reading for facts, who know what's going to come next and want to know what's coming next, and get angry at surprises. Clarity's essential, and detail, no fake mysticism, the facts are bad enough. But we're embarrassed for people who tell too much, and tell it without surprise. How does he know what happened? unless it's one unshaven man alone in a boat, changing I to he, and how often do you get a man alone in a boat, in all this ... all this ... Listen, there are so many delicate fixtures, moving toward you, you'll see. Like a man going into a dark room, holding his hands down guarding his parts for fear of a table corner, and ... Why, all this around us is for people who can keep their balance only in the light, where they move as though nothing were fragile, nothing tempered by possibility, and all of a sudden bang! something breaks. Then you have to stop and put the pieces together again. But you never can put them back together quite the same way. You stop when you can and expose things, and leave them within reach, and others come on by themselves, and they break, and even then you may put the pieces aside just out of reach until you can bring them back and show them, put together slightly different, maybe a little more enduring, until you've broken it and picked up the pieces enough times, and you have the whole thing in all its dimensions. But the discipline, the detail, it's just ... sometimes the accumulation is too much to bear”  William Gaddis, The Recognition, p. 113.

Love this take on error and mistake:

Blue Rain (M.A. Reilly, gesso & pam pastels. 2014)
If a man can keep alert and imaginative, an error is a possibility, a chance at something new ; to him, wandering and wondering are part of the same process , and he is most mistaken, most in error, whenever he quits exploring (William Least Heat-Moon, 2012, pp. 215-216).
Arms Raised (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

When rain falls in these parts, in what used to be known as the Great American Desert, it falls with the weight of an astounding gift. It falls like money" (Jonathan Raban, Bad Land: An American Romance, p.15). 
Mostly White (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

I am inspired by blank white walls (Roger Ballen, Asylum of the Birds, p. 144).

2 Circles (M.A. Reilly, pan pastel & gesso, 2014)

But let us have the candor to acknowledge that what we call "the economy" or "the free market" is less and less distinguishable from warfare (Wendell Berry. Citizenship Papers: Essays p. 27).

Works Cited

Ballen, Roger. (2014). Asylum of the Birds.  London: Thames & Hudson.

Berry, Wendell. (2004). Citizenship Papers: Essays. Counterpoint.

Gaddis, William.  (1952/2012). The Recognitions. Urbana-Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.

Heat-Moon, William Least (2012). Blue Highways: A Journey into America . New York: Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Raban, Jonathan. (2011). Bad Land: An American Romance. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

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