Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ideas/Communication II

The yammering in this blog post from a few days ago surely has some relationship to the Iceberg Theory of writing. This is, I think, attributed to Hemingway. The idea is that you leave you large and important chunks of whatever you're writing. The story is shaped by these absent pieces, and the reader can feel their presence.

In this form, it's attributed to Hemingway. But it's basic stuff, some people call it world-building. There's a reason Tolkien's books read differently from the knock-offs -- he spent decades building a complete world with a literature and a mythology, with epic poems, and so on. It's all there, more or less fully realized, and then almost entirely left out. The published books are shaped by this corpus, but don't include it. The reader can feel the presence of the larger world nonetheless.

My ideas for collections of pictures are not quite the same. I'm not leaving out the important pictures (although there's an idea, eh?), what I'm leaving out is the words that explain it all. The book, the portfolio, the slideshow, whatever, is informed and shaped by my ideas, and hopefully develops a richness and depth thereby.

Does it work? I have no idea, and I have no idea even how to find out. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing.


  1. Ah... huh? So are we simply saying no captions, no text, no context ? Are we comunicating or shall we hope they sit patiently and watch us mull? Perhaps our presence if we hand over the portfolio is context though we remain silent. Maybe just a hint of sound, a tinge of wind or distant oboe strain in the slide show could assist their grasp of our musings. ... Aw screw'um let'um guess, the ones that actually turn the pages or stay awake in their seats are the only ones of any value anyhow.........

  2. Hmm, maybe like one of those overly cheerful musical greeting cards you could include an echoey oboe in your next printing... so now to trigger it on the front cover flip or the back for the left hand readers?

  3. Flaubert "knew" that the pharmacist in Madame Bovary was lightly marked with smallpox but didn't tell the reader this.

  4. ... Except that Flaubert forgot that he told the reader this. Trust the art, not the artist. Julian Barnes - Keeping an Eye Open.

    1. I'm not sure it matters if you actually leave it out or not. The point is that there's a bigger context that you actually have constructed.

      If you need a couple lines of poetry for your novel, you're better off writing an entire poem and then pulling a couple lines out than you are just writing the two lines. That's the theory, at any rate, and I subscribe to it.

      If a fact you meant to leave out slips in, well, it will slip in organically. Rather than inventing a character as a fistful of tics and physical characteristics, you invent a complete person, and let the whatever details want to appear appear naturally.