Friday, November 15, 2013

Aristotle's Instructions for Bloggers

I have collided with practical problems of a literary theory nature. (Yes, I know that  doesn’t seem to make sense but bear with me.) It had never occured to me that I might need advice on such things. Although I have had a go at almost everything else  I was not a writer after all. The little  literary theory I  was aware of I had encountered when I studied French. I  knew that Aristotle had a lot to say about literature. For instance that tragedy  is a purging of the emotions of fear and pity if I remember correctly. I also knew that the French expression of Aristotles’s ideas came up with such glories as Racine’s Phedre. Total madness in exquisite constraint. (Ce n’est plus une ardeur dans mes veines cachee/C’est Venus entière  à sa proie attachée- sorry couldn’t help quoting my favourite line…)
But now since I am trying to turn this journal into a book lots of  hitherto unknown complications surface. The main problem is about time and experience. When I wrote the first part of the blog I did not know a lot of things about Mali that I know now. So, should I just add those things ? I have tried writing these additions in italics. But it gets too messy. And it is  not only  annoying to keep reading hind sight reflexions, but it kills any dramatic development.  And  if I keep the book  as diary entries as I intend to do, it wouldn’t make sense to be seemingly ignorant in one place and then suddenly display knowledge I would not have had in the next sentence. I could of course just not let on that I know anything more now than  I did when I wrote the diary entry, and let it all unfold. But that is also not satisfactory because  I do need to explain certain things to make it interesting I think…

What to do ?  Aristotle just came to me, I think.  He didn't exactly tell me HOW to do it but he  said:  'Make up your own rules but  remain consistent to them. '


Blogger Susan Scheid said...

Now, I have no business weighing in here, as I've never written a book, but what you're confronting reminds me of a book our friend David recommended to me: Elizabeth Wilson's Shostakovich, A Life Remembered. Her book is a set of reminiscences from various people, and she's interspersed information and commentary in a way that I thought filled in essential context and corrected the record where needed, while keeping the flow. Might be worth a look, if you can get hold of it, of course. But the main thing here is, how great that you're doing this! I'm in line for the book!

8:02 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Ah Susan,
it is unlikely that I can get hold of it, alas there are no book shops here and my connection is barely good enough to open an email or post a blog! - but thank you for the suggestion- I will look at it once back in London!

8:32 PM  
Blogger Pascal et Monique said...

Coucou Sophie,
je pense qu'il est important que tu gardes exactement ce que tu as dit à l'époque, sous la forme originale du journal, pour que l'on voit justement toute ton évolution au fil des jours et au cours de ces années.
Par contre, pour chaque passage que tu souhaiterais revisiter, tu pourrais mettre, en fin d'ouvrage pour ne pas gêner la lecture, une note numérotée ( ou plusieurs notes si nécessaire pour une seule de tes entrées), avec ce que tu as appris depuis et qui fait que tu ne dirais peut être plus les mêmes choses aujourd'hui.
Courage. On te fait confiance et on est déjà impatients de voir le produit fini!!!

9:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think you could just write the book in a journal form, as you have done on the blog. The reader will learn what he or she needs to learn about Mali as they go along. They won't want it all in one go.

I can see "Djenne Djenno - the movie", never mind just the book. I was thinking who might be suitable to play the different roles on imagination ran away with me and I saw Nicole Kidman on your terrace drinking cocktails, hair in the breeze etc etc...I don't actually watch many films or know a great deal of actresses so perhaps you can think of someone else you would prefer!

Might it help to write a one page synopsis of your book plus chart a rough outline of each chapter to help steer your course?

12:37 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Monique, merci! Tu as raison, c'est cela que je pense aussi serait la meilleur solution- les notes a la fin du chapitre. Gros bisou a toi et Pscal!

And thanks Claire! yes, I will keep it as a diary. You are quite right about the synopsis. I am working on that right now!
Nicole Kidman! I would be flattered..

3:30 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I agree with Monique. Use footnotes, preferably at the bottom of the page rather than at the end of the chapter. Then the reader can quickly refer down to the footnote … if he or she wants to. That's the way it's usually done in people's published diaries and letters. xx Andrew

12:27 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thanks Andrew! Always useful to get professional advice... and I agree, bottom of page better than end of chapter. I am not writing an academic treatise!xxxs

4:06 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

I think one of the most interesting things about such a book would be your own "journey" -- to use a cliche. So it would make a much more interesting narrative to see how you interpreted or perhaps misunderstood things because of your western perspective at the beginning and how you have learned over time. But at the same time, keeping your "outsider" eye and overall view of Malian mores. After all you want the story to be interesting and you will need some tension, followed hopefully by resolution, to keep the interest up!

12:39 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Indeed, Marianne, I am beginning to think this is the way- and not to give away too much by explaining everything I now know in foot notes! But my potential American literary agent keeps telling me I have to explain everything because noone knows anything about Mali in the US and noone know anything about me of course. But I am beginning to revolt aginst this idea of telling everything- the readers will just have to find out with me, so to speak, and if not they can just Google Mali! Yes?

2:56 PM  

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