Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Shallow Preoccupations of Empire

'One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation.'
--J.M. Coetzee

18 Comments:

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous r.e.moura said...

what's the deal with so many bloggers posting quotes? (quotes that are supposedly deep and moving...pulleeez) i feel like i;m reading from those cheesey newsletters that self-employed PR gurus (hacks) email all over the place. If i want that kind of inspiration, i'll send myself a schmaltzy greeting card. hey, it's okay if you don't have nuthin to say. we'll still check in... at the very least, tell us what you did over the wkend or whether you've filed your income taxes or how your screenplay is coming along. anything but another quote!

 
At 2:53 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Sorry you weren't moved. But until I hear from a couple of dozen other readers who agree with you (and I do listen closely to all commenters) I'll respectfully continue to believe that that quote is several times more meaningful than anything I happened to do or not do over the weekend. But I do thank you for saying you'll continue to check in.

 
At 5:29 PM, Anonymous r.e.moura said...

fine, unless those dozens simply happen to be overly polite... anyway, although understandable, you miss the larger point, or choose not to discuss it...

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Okay, I'll take the bait. Please try to explain to me again your larger point. I gather that these kinds of quotes don't interest you. My response, in part, is that you may not be typical of my readers in that regard (emphasis on may not). What I left unsaid was that no writer worth reading is going to worry too much what people want to hear, but instead they tend to have a vision of what they want to communicate. So I must admit that I'm not really interested in running a focus group on what everyone wants to read.

Like any serious writer, I write largely to say things I think need to be said, not merely to fill some unknowable demand from an audience. Chasing an audience's interests too closely is rather like a cat chasing its tail. You'll never catch it, even if you want to.

Lastly, let me tell you how much I appreciate your comments, and how I admire your not being caught up in worrying too much about simply being polite. That often gets in the way of the truth. So do keep telling it like you see it. I appreciate your insights and value your readership, even if I won't necessarily take all your prescriptions.

 
At 5:51 PM, Anonymous r.e.moura said...

well, i actually sense that you have more to say than you do, but that perhaps sometimes you don't have the time or energy, so in lieu of nothing, you enlist a quote... i'm not a blogger, so i don't have the responsibility to a readership. but it's okay if you have nothing to say or don't have the time to write something brilliant. doesn't mean that your blog doesn't exist or that you've given up writing.i just find the quotes trite as measured against what your are capable of. i see this on blogs and it makes me think of columnists "phoning it in." come on. either write, or don't write. but don't pretend...

anyway, for your consideration:
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-et-premiere10mar10,1,3307045.story

 
At 6:13 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Dear R.E.M.,
You've of course hit the nail precisely on the head. First off, I'm NEVER, EVER without things to say or write about. Quite the opposite. I always secretly snicker when I hear writers say they're out of ideas, or they're "blocked." To me, that's another way of saying they have nothing to say. I always have plenty to say.

You're right that the only thing lacking sometimes is the time to do it well, and yes, I'd rather not write at all (or sometimes put a quote up there that I think is evocative and can speak for me) than write something mediocre, because I haven't devoted the proper amount of time. And not just time to writing, but crucial time to thinking it through.

The other driving issue is the balance between my paid and unpaid writing. Unlike many, perhaps most, who blog, I have a variety of outlets that will pay me for producing words, some journalistic, others corporate/institutional. So as a mid-career professional with a mortgage and kids, etc., I try to make sure that I first take care of my responsibilities to my paid work, and then to my volunteer writing, principally this blog. I occasionally toy with adding a tip jar to this blog, inviting readers to underwrite the effort, but until I do, I try to be disciplined about my time.

Finally, as to your important point about not putting up mediocre stuff as opposed to "what I'm capable of," by which I would presume you mean much better stuff. I'm just glad you find any value in at least some of it. And you should know that there is no way in the world that I will ever post another quote from someone else without at least pausing to think about whether it might pass the R.E. Moura smell test. And I don't even know you (imagine if I did. I did Google your name, and am wondering if you might be related to the folk singer/diva Ana Moura). I just value your interest.

 
At 10:55 AM, Anonymous roldo bartimole said...

I don't see anything wrong with tossing out quotes from time to time. If a presented thought of some value doesn't trigger some thought or reaction in the mind of the reader too bad for the reader.

The quote in question here has timeliness and relevance to today's world. Why would anyone object to testing that thought against one's own views?

Quite often books, even novels, begin chapters with quotes that could be pertinent to the writing or just a matter of the reader.

There's nothing wrong with giving readers quotes from people who have thought about matters. One can then think about what's been said or not.

I don't see where it's a problem.

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Naturally, I agree with Roldo, who said it better than I could have. It's precisely in this spirit that I include them. In fact, I sometimes steal them (sometimes attributed, sometimes not--well, let me be clearer: I always attribute the original author, though not always the intermediary vehicle) from that very source, the opening of a book chapter or article. As it happens, this one was pilfered from the beginning of Lewis Lapham's essay in the current Harper's. Lapham is an acquire taste for some, but I love his combination of passion and learning. His writing is distinctive (NO ONE else sounds remotely like him) and his anger at idiocy and injustice is steady and relentless. Not enough of that in most magazines anymore.

 
At 11:27 AM, Anonymous r.e.moura said...

i did not even read this quote, so i'm not in a position to comment on its "value". I did not read it because i am on quote overload. quotes are not used just in the instances you mentioned, but everywhere, and by anyone who knows how to type "goo-" into the address field of a navigation bar. at one time you might have convinvced me they held a certain currency, served a purpose. but their ubiquitousness is aiken to flooding a market with gobs of newly printed money. after a while, the dough isn't worth much. when people force quotes on me, i sense they are saying "look at how evolved, well read and deep i am," or, "think about this incredibly perceptive thought." pulleeeez... it's a snippet pulled out of context designed to precipitate a cheap ephemeral high. anyway, maybe it's a writer thing. i don't write, so maybe i'm missing some incredibly obvious point. anyone can find a quote and post it. but you bloggers, or at least a handful of you, are writers. so write.

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

It's definitely a writer's thing. And while you don't write, you're equally crucial to the equation, I think, since without readers, there's little use in writing. Anyway, we've certainly flogged this subject to death, so I say we move on to the next topic.

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

flogged for sure. but i wonders if ms. moura was just being diplomatic about it being a "writers thing".

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Now that's interesting that you use "Ms." I am assuming by the language that this is a male. It never for a moment occurred to me that it could be a woman. Sorry, but it perhaps shows my bias, and it is this: women are considerably less likely to use contentious language in writing, doubly so in blog comments. Interestingly enough, there's an article in today's NYT that talks about this dynamic, and about which I'll be writing in coming days. Just as a preview, the link is here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/arts/15oped.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 
At 4:58 PM, Anonymous oddjobs said...

women are allowed to post comments on blogs???


http://www.catherineorenstein.com/
(hubba hubba)

 
At 5:07 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Oh, man, you're going to get me in trouble, if not tarred and feathered by a few women I know. Obviously, we don't speak for our readers' comments.

 
At 6:20 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Naturally, what I meant to say was that our reader's comments don't speak for us.

 
At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Buster said...

R.E.Moura = remora = +marine fish with a flattened elongated body and a sucking disk on the head for attaching to large fish or moving objects"?

 
At 9:24 AM, Anonymous r.e.moura said...

someone watches too much animal planet...

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

This made me laugh. But I also don't watch enough Animal Planet to get the reference.

 

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