Venice In The Moment

By Dan Klefstad

Imagine painting a portrait of a uniquely beautiful person. Your model is nude, hiding nothing, displaying supple skin and curls of hair that absorb the light. As you sketch and fill in, the sun and shadows keep moving – revealing new details. Now you add tiny lines you didn’t notice around the eyes and mouth. As the sun begins descending, you become aware that the hair is two shades darker and seems to be uncurling. Now the flesh appears a little looser, and you realize: What you tried to capture at the start of this encounter no longer exists, and what existed five minutes ago also is gone. Your subject is still pleasing to look at, still distinctive, but when did this person begin… showing their age? Anxiety sets in as you imagine finishing your painting, not as a portrait, but a still life of ashes.

This is what it’s like looking everywhere in Venice, Italy. Sure, craftsmen constantly repair and replace the Byzantine facades and triumphal monuments. The bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica still looks like it did in 1514, even though it collapsed in 1902. The stone walls and walkways lack any sign of occupation by Napoleon’s and Hitler’s armies. But increasing floods from climate change scoff at all this restoration. As I write this, I’m looking at a day-old photo of people wading through knee-deep water near the Vallaresso Vaporetto stop. It looks bad, but other cities recover from floods, right? Well, yes, if they’re not sitting on saltwater. The moment the brine started seeping into her brick and timber bones, the Queen of the Adriatic was doomed.

That is, unless you count all the other times doom came, and stayed — all the way back to the Roman refugee who, fleeing barbarians, drove that first timber into the muddy lagoon a thousand years ago. Venezia has been dying longer than perhaps any other city.

This must be why artists and those who chase beauty obsess over her canals, bridges, and cathedrals. The main attractions, such as the Bridge of Sighs and Doges Palace, reveal some if you’re not hurried along by the crowd. But those who sit, and listen, might hear the walls whisper what I thought I heard two years ago:

Go ahead, gawk as I slowly sink, and my population shrinks. I’m aware the cost of preserving my 14th Century glory keeps going up. And, yes, the day will come when I won’t be worth saving anymore. Until then, watch, record each moment, and understand that beauty breaks the flow of time, compelling you to look now, and now, and now again – bearing witness to that fleeting space between what was and is.

If you hear this, and your heart breaks, you’ll be more than just a traveler. You’ll suffer the eternal disquiet of a conoscitore. Hopefully, I’ll be in a nearby café, ordering grappa for you and me to mourn in silence.


(Dan Klefstad is the author of the short story, “The Dead of Venice,” and the forthcoming novel Fiona’s Guardians. He writes in DeKalb, Illinois, and Williams Bay, Wisconsin).




Notes on Schopenhauer’s The Art of Literature (1893)—II

† continued from part I

§.08—Our author continues, remarking upon material modalities.

“Unless an author takes the material on which he writes out of his own head, that is to say, from his own observation, he is not worth reading. Book manufacturers, compilers, the common run of history writers, and many others of the same class, take their material immediately out of books; and the material goes straight to their finger-tips without even paying freight or undergoing examination as it passes through their heads, to say nothing of elaboration or revision. How very learned many a man would be if he knew everything that was in his own books! The consequence of this is that these writers talk in such a loose and vague manner, that the reader puzzles his brains in vain to understand what it is of which they are really thinking. They are thinking of nothing. It may now and then be the case that the book from which they copy has been composed exactly in the same way; so that writing of this sort is like a plaster cast of a cast; and in the end, the bare outline of the face, and that, too, hardly recognisable, is all that is left of your Antinous¹.” (A. Schopenhauer, The Art of Literature, p. 6)

§.09—“… a plaster cast of a cast,” how perfectly apt is this description; how many stories of ‘chosen ones,’ or the ‘girl interrupted,’ wherein the distinctive attributes are merely cosmetic—a name, a setting, a hairdo, a historical reference—yet the form and function is essentially the same as popular narratives preceding it. However, I differ from Schopenhauer in holding authors who “take their material immediately out of books” in such totalizing contempt; what is of paramount importance in the question of textual information acquisition is the quality of the information contained and (as he notes) its verification (for whatever qualities). Given that the information acquisition and exploitation from a text is fundamentally no different than any other kind of information acquisition and exploitation, it is mistaken to vitiate information derived from a text and information derived from studying a tree or a stone (ie. one’s own observation”). That is to say that the writer is always writing “out of his own head” a distinction that may seem trivially semantic, but which is conceptually crucial.


  1. Arthur Schopenhauer. (1893) The Art of Literature. Swan Sonnenschein & Co.; MacMillan & Co.
  2. Elena Martinique. (2016) Is Consumerism Depicted in Art Relevant a Relevant Critique of Contemporary Society and Culture? Widewalls.
  3. Farooq A. Kperogi. (2016) Myth of the Decline in Standard of English Usage and Grammar. Nigeria Village Square.
  4. Ranulf Higden, trans. John Travisa. (1364; eng. trans. 1865) Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Maonachi Cestrensis.
  5. R. L. S. (2015) Johnson: Language anxieties: A Long Decline. The Economist.
  6. Sabina Nedelius. (2017) The Myth of Language Decay: Do Youths Really Not Know How To Speak? The Historical Linguist Channel.
  7. Sarah Waters. (1995). The Most Famous Fairy in History: Antinous and Homosexual Fantasy. Journal of the History of Sexuality. University of Texas Press. 6 (2): 194–230.
  8. Steven Pinker. (2014) The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide To Writing In The 21st Century. Penguin.
  9. Stuart Henry. (1897) Hours With Famous Parisians. Way & Williams.
  10. Thomas Adajian. (2018) The Definition of Art. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

End Notes

¹ Antinous (also Antinoüs or Antinoös) was a Bithynian Greek, friend and lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. After his mysterious death, the emperor deified Antinous and organized a cult in his honor. Schopenhauer, in the passage above, utilizes ‘Antinous’ as a metaphor for the artist’s creation.

Eckermann’s Instruction—Goethe On Aesthetic Valuation

“Taste is only to be educated by contemplation, not of the tolerably good, but of the truly excellent. I, therefore, show you only the best works; and when you are grounded in these, you will have a standard for the rest, which you will know how to value, without overrating them. And I show you the best in each class, that you may perceive that no class is to be despised, but that each gives delight when a man of genius attains its highest point. For instance, this piece, by a French artist, is galant, to a degree which you see nowhere else, and is therefore a model in its way.”

—Goethe to Johnann Peter Eckermann.

Biographical notes:

§.00 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a multifaceted German artist, scientist and statesman. He was the author of the influential novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, as well as numerous other works of fiction and nonfiction. The date of the first production of Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin—August 28th—was chosen by Liszt in honor of Goethe, as it was the same date as the late-artist’s birth (August 28th, 1749).

§.01 Johnann Peter Eckermann was a German author, soldier, multi-linguist, artist, and close friend of Goethe and Soret.


  1. Johann Peter Eckermann; translated by John Oxenford (2010). Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann. HXA.

Pen & Pedagogy

“Very Dadaesque.” Elliot Moss cried, gesturing with his half-empty wineglass at the thin, nondescript mechanical pen laying upon the floor at the northeasternmost corner of the rectangular, low-ceilinged art gallery.

“Indeed,” Sabrina Vesora agreed, adjusting her scarf, studying the artifact as a crowd of journalists and local social climbers moved by. It was situated such that its nib faced the northern wall, a black sole-scuff-mark moving out in a slender arc from the nib to the right of the device, trailing off to nothingness.

“Highly abstract, yet, even still, the message is deftly inscribed.”

Moss nodded hesitantly, vaguely, uncomprehending, “Yeah,” He set his glass upon a nearby table and knelt, removing his phone and snapping a few shots of the pen, “Its great how imaginative the students have become with their art—shaking off all that stodgy hyperformalism.”

“I know! And look what they’ve come up with when they’re unconstrained—all that they’ve been able to say without speaking a word.”

“I’m not sure I get it,” a old man to Vesora’s immediate right remarked flatly, stroking his beard with his champagne-less left hand.

She cast the man a withering look and gestured to the pen.

“Its pointed towards the wall—to declare that most of our communications are superfluous, doomed to fail, fated to run into obstruction, into a wall. Yet, the scuff mark, moving away from the tip, out towards the center of the room, which compels us to turn our attention away from our own ‘writing’—from ‘the wall’—back to the lives of others, then, true communication is possible, but only if our instruments, and our empathy, move counter to our instincts.”

The old man furrowed his brows and tilted his head to stare at the pen from a different angle.

“Yeah,” piped up Moss, removing himself from the floor, phone photo-filled, “Its a metaphor. Social commentary—but subtle. Doesn’t beat you over the head with the message.”

The old man turned, addressing a finely dressed man with a custom-tailored black coat, tipped at the collar with white fur, “Oh. Hello, Mr. Partridge.”

“Salutations, Mr. Cramm. I was just speaking with Mr. Wakely, he tells me you’re planning something at the docks; but more on that latter—how’ve you been enjoying the gala?”

“Marvelously. As per usual. But I could use your expertise on this piece… not really sure what the artist was going for,” he replied, gesturing with perplexity to the pen by the wall.

Lynder Partridge’s keen eyes moved to the pen and lit up with recognition.

He then strode between the trio, knelt and gingerly plucked the pen up off the floor and examined it in his leather gloved hands.

“You’re ruining the installment,” Vesora exclaimed befuddled, “What are you doing?”

Lynder smiled opaquely, “Returning Mr. Wakely’s pen. He lost it around an hour ago.”

The Silence & The Howl | Part 24


After Marla returned upstairs, and his exercises were finished, Harmon showered, dressed in a plain black T and blue jeans and went for a walk. He headed for the convenience store to the north of Andy’s abode where he hoped he might obtain cigarettes, coffee, jerky and a newspaper. He felt light, relaxed and more than a little confused at the utter absence of guilt and nervousness upon a thorough re-consideration of his recent actions.

He’d put Sprawls back behind bars and brought heat on the local cartel. It was a dangerous gambit, yet Harmon felt no tinge of unease. He stretched his arms against the flooding warmth of the bright, morning sun, smiling slightly as a mild gale swirled his short, black locks. He fished out the pack containing his few remaining cigarettes, lit one and studied the building stormwall in the distance. As the man approached the shoebox-like houses, set just before the intersection that girded his destination, a unfamiliar voice rang out from the sidewalk to his immediate left.

“Well… well. Look who it is.”

Harmon shifted his head to behold the same gang of mestizo and negro toughs he’d spied many days earlier approaching him from the stoop of one of the battered tenements. They hung in a loose throng behind a mulatto with large ears, heavy brows and a shaved head and small stubbly chin. Numerous tattoos ran down the left side of his dark, porous skin, from brow to neck.

The tattooed man stopped directly before Harmon who likewise paused so as to avoid colliding with the interloper.

“Seen you before. Driving. Flicked a cigarette. Out your car.”

“Forgot an ashtray.”

“Uh huh. Well, we don’t take kindly to littering. Right?”

The three men behind the tattooed man looked one to the other and smiled wickedly.

“That’s right,” one of them ejaculated with a strange and sudden fervor, bloodshot eyes bulging dry and brittle in thin, cloud-palled light.

Harmon exhaled to his left so as to keep the smoke from the interloper’s face and then sought a rightward path round him but found his way blocked. He paused and grimaced.

“You got some kinda problem?”

“No,” the tattooed man replied, “But you do.”

“You mind moving?”

“What if I do?”

The men behind the bald man yammered like hyenas. Harmon remained impassive. His fierce emerald eyes narrowing, fixed upon the fleshy, impudent bulwark. He’d a mind to say several inflammatory things to his waylayers and would have had he not been suddenly interrupted by a security guard who wandered out from the shade of the tenement to Harmon’s immediate right. The guard was an old and weathered man, with a stooped posture, hawkish features and a beard, thick, graying and neatly trimmed.

“Whats going on here?”

The half-blooded leader turned to the guard, annoyance clear writ upon his crinkled brow.


“Then get the hell out the street.”

“It look like there’s a car comin?”

“Don’t care if there’s no car.”

The mulatto frowned. The guard’s feet remained firmly planted.

“I ain’t keen on repeating myself, young man.”

The mulatto shook his head and turned hesitantly, casting one last look at Harmon, who returned the gaze. Dual visages charged with ferine animosity. Neither said a word and shortly the toughs left out and vanished within the concrete sepulchre.

“Shambling ghouls,” Harmon muttered reflexively as he made way to the right side of the street, opposite the way the mulatto had departed. There the old security guard greeted him and pointed to the black portal where once a door had been in the tough’s two story flat.

“Those punks bothering you?”

“Much as a mosquito might.”

The man extended his veiny and surprisingly muscular left hand.

“Names Harold La’Far.”

“Harmon Kessel.”

The man’s brows shot up.

“Harmon K… say… you ain’t a writer, are you?”

“Why, yes, yes I am.”

“I recently read this story online, called ‘The Factory At The Edge Of The World.'”

“That’s one of my stories.”

“Don’t that just beat all.”

“You liked it?”

“Liked it? No. I loved it. Say, I was headed up to the corner store for lunch, you wanna join me?”

“Be happy to. I was headed that way.”

The old man smiled broadly, crinkling up his azure-blue eyes, delighted. Harmon knew that, in such a neighborhood, a literary man would be hard-pressed for likeminded company. The degenerate hoards who slipped and slithered between the dark and crumbling facades of the barton were inimical to artistry, in appearance and behavior alike, more akin to premodern savages than civilized Man.

As Harmon strode beside the old man, to his right, in between the passing, trash-stuffed alleys of the dingy, peeling projects, he wondered when a new civilization would arise from the ruins of the old, convinced that such a eventuality was not a question of ‘if’ but only of ‘when’ and ‘how.’ His futurism subsided when they reached the graffittied corner store, which sat to the right side of the street. The duo passed within and ordered two cups of coffee to which Harmon added a new pack of cigarettes, beef jerky, and a paperback novel whose narrative remained opaque despite a thorough reading of its back-jacket synopsis.

The two men sat in the back of the stucco and linoleum box and drank their coffee in silence as a plain-faced woman mopped the floor beside them. She looked familiar. Harmon couldn’t see her face. La’Far cast his gaze over the paperback which peeked out from the confines of the plastic bag, which lay upon the right of the scratched and arm-worn table.

“Whatcha pick up?”

“Not sure. Synopsis was pretty vague. Had just been a while since I’d read anything new. Especially fiction.”

“Sometimes its good to just spin the wheel and see where it lands.”

Harmon nodded and sipped the aromatic brew as the cleaning lady moved past them with a forced smile and set down the sandwich that La’Far had ordered. He thanked her and fished out the pickle.

“I hope its a naturalist work.”

“Why is that?”

“All the journalists have become novelists, so its only fitting that the novelists should become journalists.”

The old guard straightened and sipped his coffee, “Maybe we never needed journalists to begin with.”

“Someone needs to swiftly disseminate pertinent information to the public.”

“Reckon so. Just get to thinking we’ve got too many people in the yappin trade. Too many people talking, not enough thinkin.”

“A consequence of aesthetic diffidence. Or rather, a diffidence towards a shared cultural aesthetic.”

“You mean like the national anthem, flag and so forth?”

“Rather more than that. But it doesn’t matter. Not in the present climate. To take art seriously, outside of the academy, is looked down upon. Art today is not thought of as a endeavour which should be great, it should only be fun. Everyone should be a hobbyist, a dilletante and if one is not, then one is being too self serious or pretentious or whatever other highhanded dismissal is fashionable with the critical establishment. Its rather like telling an engineer he’s being too self serious about his trade.”

Harold chuckled and nodded.

“You’ve got a way of putting things.”

Harmon flashed the man the faint-trace of a smile and stubbed his coffin nail in a beige ashtray upon the table.

“Art has become disconnected from its subject, which is always, in someway, the society in which it is done. Art only for the individual is not art at all, for there is no audience and failing one, no message to communicate and eventually no message at all but only vague intuitions and suggestions of emotion. Abstractions of abstractions. You can see this in the modern novels, more so in shorter works, the great bulk of which consist largely of impressions alone. The disconnected, as opposed to the distanced, the dispersive rather than the syncretic, works solely from the mold of other books which, often, have been written based on nothing but other, older, works. And so it is that the modern author produces a copy of a copy of a copy, without even realizing it. The public, unaware of what has come before, bedazzled by the occassional transgressive mediocrity, is want to treat the facsimile as something profoundly original and meaningful and yet, more often than not, would never think of reading those old works upon which they are based because they don’t speak to or of the spirit of the times and yet no one askes whether or not the spirit of our time should be spoken of at all.”

“The way you lay things out, I’d assume you were a professional artist.”

“No. I’m a roofer. Writing is a passion of mine but I’ve yet to figure out how to make anything off of it.”

“You work construction?”

Harmon nodded and withdrew one of his freshly purchased cigarettes, placed it in his mouth and lit it as a gaggle of middle aged wastrels spilled into the store.

“Been working construction for five years now.”

“That’s rough work. You like it?”

He nodded again, “Its rough but rewarding. I don’t mind the sore back or the stiffness or the long hours, its good exercise, I just mind the thanklessness.”

Harmon held up his cigarette pack and turned it in the pale, bluish shop-light.

“Someone made this design and most will never know who it was.”


Notes on Schopenhauer’s The Art of Literature (1893)—I

Arthur Schopenhauer’s The Art of Literature is a brisk, engaging consideration of many of the central questions pertaining to literary craftsmanship. The first question tackled is authorship (On Authorship serves as the title of the book’s first chapter). Schopenhauer begins his endeavour by defining two types of authors; those who write for the subject and those who write for “writing’s sake.”

“There are, first of all, two kinds of authors : those who write for the subject’s sake, and those who write for writing’s sake.” (Schopenhauer, The Art of Literature, 1893, page 3)

§.00—Schopenhauer then delineates the motivations for these two authorial modes: artistic expression on the one hand, and the route desire for money on the other.

He allows no room for doubt as to where he stands on which is the higher type, writing,

“While the one [the former type] have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating, the others [the latter type] want money; and so they write, for money. Their thinking is part of the business of writing. They may be recognized by the way in which they spin out their thoughts to the greatest possible lengths; then, too, by the very nature of their thoughts, which are only half-true, perverse, forced, vacillating; again, by the aversion they generally show to anything straight out, so that they may seem other than they are. Hence their writing is deficient in clearness and definiteness, and it is not long before they betray that their only object in writing is to cover paper.” (Schopenhauer, p. 3)

§.01—This is a overgeneralization (for which Schopenhauer has a decided proclivity). There are many commercially motivated writers who write clearly and definitely and many non-commercially motivated writer’s who are dense as dirt and who simply lack the proficiency to write enduring works, but one which contains a kernel of truth, in that, the dedicated writer, the man of letters, writes not chiefly to acquired money, but to communicate a message (as is the point of art, or was, before its Warholesque redefinition (“Art is what you can get away with.”); the title of the piece is, after all, The Art of Literature, not, The Mercantilism of Literature and so consideration must be given to the task of the artist, not the businessman (nor the dilettante). It should not be thought that art and mercantilism (by which I simply mean endeavouring for financial gain) are intrinsically opposed, as Schopenhauer believes, but rather that a author cannot be one if thought is given only to the other.

“As soon as the reader perceives this [that the author’s object is to ‘cover paper’], let him throw the book away; for time is precious. […] No one writes anything that is worth writing, unless he writes entirely for the sake of his subject. What an inestimable boon it would be if, in every branch of literature there were only a few books, but those excellent!” (p.3-4 )

§.02—What a boon that would be, indeed and up to this point, I am in agreement with his central assertions; however, he suddenly takes a dramatic turn (again, towards overgeneralization) when he declares,

“It seems as though the money lay under a curse; for every author degenerates as soon as he begins to put pen to paper in any way for the sake of gain. The best works of the greatest men all come from the time when they had to write for nothing or for very little. And here, too, that Spanish proverb holds good, which declares that honour and money are not to be found in the same purse — honra y provecho no caben en un saco. The reason why Literature is in such a bad plight nowadays is simply and solely that people write books to make money.” (p.4)

§.03—Ah, we’re at the bottom of it—Money, the death of art. How convenient it would be if that were true, but clearly, it is not. Whilst it certainly tracks that the author whose work is chiefly and protractedly motivated by (financial) gain is diminished, of necessity, it does not follow that the ‘The best works of the greatest men all come from the time when they had to write for nothing or for very little.’ Lovecraft wrote his greatest works at the peak of his career, at the point where his reputation and revenue stream were greatly expanded in relation to the pittance he had formerly made from his fiction writing. Whilst he certainly was not making a great deal of money it was not ‘very little’ in comparison to what he had previously been making. One could also consider the account of Huysmans whose La Cathédrale (1898) was so financially successful that it allowed the novelist’s early retirement. The novel was a commercial endeavour, to be sure, but it was also, in essence, a intensely autobiographical work and it was from this essence (as well as its painterly detail) that the work derives it power. There are plenty of other reasons for literature (as a general matter) to become mired in a ‘bad plight’—anti-art sentiment, could be one; a culture which prioritizes and promotes short time preferences, another. Financial gain alone (and recall Schopenhauer writes in no uncertain terms that a lust for money is ‘simply and solely’ to blame for the ‘bad plight’ of literature) is insufficient to explain the totality of the aesthetic degradation of an age. To assume the contrary position is to reveal the outline of the cage—one’s own idée fixe. Everyone judges from a cage, yet, the size thereof is variable.

He goes on in a similar vein to remark upon the general public’s literary receptivity,

“A man who is in want sits down and writes a book, and the public is stupid enough to buy it. The secondary effect of this is the ruin of language.” (p.4)

§.04—Certainly, if a man wrote a book soley because he thought he could make money from it, anyone who knew this fact before purchasing the book who chose to buy the book anyways, would indeed be very stupid. It is not obvious, however, that this is even possible since all writing, of whatever variety, but especially of the artistic variety, is infused with the author’s personal qualities and charged by their experience. A book which communicates nothing would not be a book. Even a blank book, judiciously considered, can carry a message. Consider Michael Knowles’ Reasons To Vote For Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide (2017), a book containing only a table of contents, chapter titles and a bibliography, but no other words. Though the joke book is devoid of substantive content it still manages to communicate a message by the very omission of said contents through contrast with its title. Not La-bas, but mildly amusing.

§.05—His secondary claim concerning the ‘ruin of language’ is smuggled in without explanation. I do not contest that a language can be ‘ruined’—extensive and prolonged word-loss or modulation towards decreasing nuance are expressions of linguistic regression—what I do contest is that writers who are motivated in large part by monetary profit are generally to blame for the ruin of language (though they certainly can be) at any given point in time where such actions are possible (post-printing press). It should also be noted that the aesthete is apt, more so than his less linguistically sensitive fellows, to bemoan the death or ruin or otherwise regression of a given language. A cursory glance back through the historical record reveals that there does not appear to be a period in time when someone, somewhere was not complaining about new slang, emerging idioms and flippant, informal word use (a proclivity that Steven Pinker, in his The Sense of Style, terms “The graybeard sensibilities of the style mavens”). Consider that some of the earliest writing, clay tablets of ancient Sumerian, contain the complaints of a teacher bemoaning the precipitous decline of his student’s writing ability, noting, “A junior scribe is too concerned with feeding his hunger. He does not pay attention to the scribal art.”

Then there is the case of William Langdon (c. 1332–c. 1386) author of Visio Willelmi de Petro Ploughman (1370–90), who, in the 1300s, wrote, “There is not a single modern schoolboy who can compose verses or write a decent letter.”

A year after Langdon’s death, the benedictine monk, Ranulph Higden, in his Polychronicon (sive Historia Polycratica) ab initio mundi usque ad mortem regis Edwardi III in septem libros dispositum lamented what he perceived as linguistic perversion of English due proximity with Normans and Vikings.

“…by comyxtioun and mellynge firste wiþ Danes and afterward wiþ Normans, in meny thynges þe contray longage is apayred, and som vseþ straunge wlafferynge, chiterynge, harrynge, and garrynge grisbayting.” (Higden)

Translation: “…by mixing and mingling, first with Danes and afterwards with Normans, in many cases the country’s language is impaired, and some use strange stammering, chattering, snarling, and grating gnashing of teeth.”

Here Higden commits the very linguistic commingling which he rails against through his use of comyxtioun a word which descends from the language of the Norman French.

In 1478, after the invention of the printing press, William Craxton declared, “And certaynly our langage now vsed veryeth ferre from what whiche was vsed and spoken when I was borne.”

In 1672, the poet, John Dryden wrote with exceptional melodrama on the linguistic decline as represented by those second-raters, Fletcher and Shakespeare, “It is not their plots which I meant, principally, to tax; I was speaking of their sense and language; and I dare almost challenge any man to shew me a page together, which is correct in both […] [M]alice and partiality set apart, let any man who understands English, read diligently the works of Shakespeare and Fletcher; and I dare undertake that he will find in every page either some solecism of speech [an impropriety, mistake, or incongruity], or some notorious flaw in sense.”

It is remarkable how similar the expression of language anxiety has remained across time (always the words are getting too far away from the familiar, despite their ready apprehension) and attests more to certain deficiencies of psychological introspection than any palpable degradation of language. Consequently, I wax intensely skeptical of those who treat linguistic novelty as likely, or intrinsically lesser, than its antecedents.

It is upon this subject that Schopenhauer next directs his powers, writing,

“A great many bad writers make their whole living by that foolish mania of the public for reading nothing but what has just been printed,—journalists, I mean. Truly, a most appropriate name. In plain language it is journeymen, day-labourers!” (p. 4)

§.06—What value rests in journalism is to be found in the skillful dissemination of pertinent information, both good and ill (with minimal injection of opinion). When journalism eschews the informational needs of the public at-large, or some portion of the public, in favor of sensationalism and propaganda, it trends always to incite ‘foolish mania.’ The journalist often attempts to wear also the hat of the social critic, the public intellectual, moral philosopher, and so on, yet often lacks the requisite mental resources, and, being ever constrained by the nature of his industry, lacks also the time necessary to study his subject, rather, he must churn copy swiftly as he is able and, in so doing, diminishes his intellectual nimbleness. In summation, the problem is not that they are ‘day-labourers’ but that they are pretending that they are not, that they are a special type of man, who are possessed of some arcane insightfulness which escapes the lowly commoners.

After this brisk treatment of the journalist class, our errant author swiftly pivots, laying out what he perceives to be the three principal genres of authorial motivation.

“Again, it may be said that there are three kinds of authors. First come those who write without thinking. They write from a full memory, from reminiscences; it may be, even straight out of other people’s books. This class is the most numerous. Then come those who do their thinking whilst they are writing. They think in order to write; and there is no lack of them. Last of all come those authors who think before they begin to write. They are rare. Authors of the second class, who put off their thinking until they come to write, are like a sportsman who goes forth at random and is not likely to bring very much home. On the other hand, when an author of the third or rare class writes, it is like a battue [a hunt where bushes are beaten to flush out game]. Here the game has been previously captured and shut up within a very small space; from which it is afterwards let out, so many at a time, into another space, also confined. The game cannot possibly escape the sportsman; he has nothing to do but aim and fire—in other words, write down his thoughts. This is a kind of sport from which a man has some thing to show. But even though the number of those who really think seriously before they begin to write is small, extremely few of them think about the subject itself: the remainder think only about the books that have been written on the subject, and what has been said by others. In order to think at all, such writers need the more direct and powerful stimulus of having other people’s thoughts before them. These become their immediate theme; and the result is that they are always under their influence, and so never, in any real sense of the word, original. But the former are roused to thought by the subject itself, to which their thinking is thus immediately directed. This is the only class that produces writers of abiding fame.” (p.5)

§.07—It is in these psychological interrogations of authorial methodology where Schopenhauer (in my personal opinion) is strongest in his discourses on literary art. His remark on ‘having other people’s thoughts’ laid before the writer as a source of stimulus is particularly interesting to me as I have found great distraction upon heavily reading book after book by a single author while at the same time trying to write my own. The distraction assumed the form of unconscious replication of the recently-read author’s style, which would bleed through into my own in sporadic bursts that were only evident upon later consideration (as during the editing process). Borrowing terminology or particular structuring techniques from other authors is something which I highly recommend; its extremely instructive. However, that is very different from copying (consciously or unconsciously) a style wholesale, which near-invariably serves to generate nothing but a lesser facsimile of the original author’s prose and consequently, derail the flow and coherency of one’s own laboriously developed style. Whilst each of the authorial types which Schopenhauer mentions is indeed a apt description, they should not be considered wholly static and binding, but rather fluid, as I find, in attempting to place myself, falling into every single category, depending on my mood and the happenings of the day. That being said, I agree with Schopenhauer’s assessment that the latter category (the third type) is the one for which the serious author should (if possible) strive; a subject will invariably emerge (if given sufficient time whilst working by way of either the first or second modes), but it were better, at the outset, to have some conception of a given work and also to find in its development and exploration, a source of yet further inspiration and excitement.

† continued in part II


  1. Arthur Schopenhauer. (1893) The Art of Literature. Swan Sonnenschein & Co.; MacMillan & Co.
  2. Elena Martinique. (2016) Is Consumerism Depicted in Art Relevant a Relevant Critique of Contemporary Society and Culture? Widewalls.
  3. Farooq A. Kperogi. (2016) Myth of the Decline in Standard of English Usage and Grammar. Nigeria Village Square.
  4. Ranulf Higden, trans. John Travisa. (1364; eng. trans. 1865) Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Maonachi Cestrensis.
  5. R. L. S. (2015) Johnson: Language anxieties: A Long Decline. The Economist.
  6. Sabina Nedelius. (2017) The Myth of Language Decay: Do Youths Really Not Know How To Speak? The Historical Linguist Channel.
  7. Steven Pinker. (2014) The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide To Writing In The 21st Century. Penguin.
  8. Stuart Henry. (1897) Hours With Famous Parisians. Way & Williams.
  9. Thomas Adajian. (2018) The Definition of Art. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

On Typeface: Size, Selection & Distraction Mitigation

In any new writing project font type and size are key and the aim and medium of the project must be judiciously taken into consideration. Other than the obvious rule: avoid crazy and/or unreadable/difficult-to-read fonts, there are a couple of guidelines which, if followed will make one’s project move along more fluidly.

Firstly, fonts become standardized for a reason and that reason is generally that those which become widely used do so because of their readability and aesthetic dimensions (later, convention will gird them from change or modulation). The most popular fonts are those that have remained the easiest to create and which bring the most readability to their attendant texts. Some of the most popular fonts include:

  • Garamond (Claude Garamond, 1530)
  • Baskerville (John Baskerville, 1757)
  • Didot (Firmin Didot, 1784-1811)
  • Bodoni (Giambattista Bodoni, 1790)
  • Akzidenz Grotesk (Brethold Type Foundry, 1896)
  • News Gothic (Morris Fuller Benton, 1908)
  • Times (Stanley Morison, 1931)
  • Helvetic (Max Miedinger, 1957)
  • Sabon (Jan Tschichold, 1966)
  • Minion (Rober Slimbach, 1990)
  • Myriad (Robert Slimbach, Carol Twombly, Christopher Slye and Fred Brady, 1992)
  • Georgia (Matthew Carter, 1993)
  • Mrs Eaves (Zuzana Licko, 1996)
  • Gotham (Hoefler and Frere-Jones, 2000)

If one is writing a print work (such as a short story collection or novel) then the font type needs to be one which can be printed without losing clarity in relation to size and the size needs to be relative to the size of the page (accounting for bleed). This is generally not something which one will need to worry about if one is working with a competent and established publisher (as they will typically do this work for you), but it is quite important to understand if one wishes to engage in wholly independent self-publishing (where one will not only write the book, but design it, print it and market it as well).

If one is writing a text for the internet then multiplatform dispensation needs to be considered, for instance: how will the font look on desktop as opposed to mobile phones and tablets? How will the font “hold up” on different screens with different resolutions?

Note that these decisions should be made only after the writing project is completed, not during. The reason for this (general) rule is that it is disadvantageous to juggle typefaces in the middle of the writing process (regardless of the content of the project) given that in doing so one’s attention will be regularly split between the narrative under-construction and the peculiarities of the font and how they match or are found to be discontinuous with the themes or style of the project. That being said, it is best to pick one font and commit to it throughout the entirety of the text-work so as to mitigate aesthetic distractions, renovating the design of the text and making it internet “friendly,” (or offline program “friendly”) only after it is complete whereupon a considerable amount of time will have been saved.

Fiction Circular 9/11/18

Send recommendations of independent fiction authors and collectives to

FLASH FICTION (under 500 words)

The Dark Netizen continues his project of attempting to have the highest output of microfictions of any person ever with, Border Crossing, which tells the tale of a criminal attempting a border crossing with a bag of illicit cash. One of his best. Also from Netizen, the microfiction, Bagpiper a story about not allowing peer pressure to frivolously dissuade one’s passion.

“Sivak knew getting through the check post was not going to be easy…”

New Flash Fiction Review published the fantastically titled, There’s A Joke Here Somewhere And Its On Me by Sara Lippmann. A little slice of 80s adolescence.

“MTV watched me.”


From X-R-A-Y, Flipped by Zac Smith. A 700 word sentence about a car crash. The brisk tale’s vivid imagery should compel all of us to take more care on the road and continue developing ways to make vehicular travel safer (from my perch in the US, I’ve long advocated a interconnected, national mag-lev system to increase cost-effectiveness and reduce risk of collision) without impinging upon movement autonomy.

“Brad pinned between the wheel and the seat and the roof of the car but able eventually to wrench himself out through the busted-out window, on his back, coming out like a baby covered in glass and blood-“

Nell published the follow up to her short story, The Angelic Conversation, with The Angelic Conversation: Agnes, a titillating tale of lust both old and new. NSFW.

“His mind drifted to his young confidant. The clever, vibrant woman he had befriended a few months before. They had shared their secrets and intimate desires – and more than once he had felt himself become charged when she posted images of…”

From Jessica Triepel, The First Step, a intimate short story based upon her own personal experiences in a troubled relationship.

“Her husband would be home from work soon, the knowledge of which filled her with a sense of dread. It had been a good day, but she knew how quickly all that could change once Lothar was home.”

From STORGY, Deadhead by Victoria Briggs. A somber and moving rumination on death and family.

“Death brought with it a dizzying amount of aesthetic considerations-“

I particularly enjoyed the old-school stylings of Uncle Charlie. If Ms. Briggs is ever to write up a sequel, it would be interesting to see Charlie positioned as a more central character, perhaps even the lead.

From Terror House Magazine, The Serpent by Mark Hull, the story of a man who loses his tongue and struggles to get it back. Just as strange and fascinating as it sounds.

“When Eben Guthrey awoke, he knew something was wrong. It wasn’t that anything hurt so much as the intense sense of absence in and around his facial cavity. He took a few hazy moments at the edge of sleep to perform a few experiments. First, he tried to get his tongue to tap on his teeth. Then he tried to get his tongue to touch the roof of his mouth. Then he tried to stick his tongue out far enough to get a visual confirmation of it. When all of these tests failed, he was forced to conclude his tongue was no longer in his throat. It had escaped.”

From Idle Ink, The Great British Break-Off by esteemed writer of sad nonsense, Jake Kendall.

“Now at 48 and 47 respectively that ship had not only sailed, but in all probability arrived at its destination.”


Horror writer Laird Barron‘s newest novel, Black Mountain has received a hard-cover release date, May 07, 2019. The book is the sequel to Blood Standard, and marks the second entry in the Isaiah Coleridge series.

Thanks for reading. If you should wish to support our work publishing the best underground fiction and promoting independent and unsigned authors and litmags, consider supporting our work.

Apostasy (Part 2)

Previous chapter

Dask came to again in blackness but this time he was wrapped in warm blankets and felt snug and safe. He dozed for some time longer, but as he became aware of his body he groped at his hands and found them intact. What strange dreams he was having, nothing made sense. Where was he? Then Dask stopped in shock as his hand discovered the cold, jagged, glassy shard lying right there alongside him. This was not a dream. There was a pale glow suddenly that, though dim, blinded him at first in contrast to the complete lightlessness. Dask covered his eyes for a moment and gradually drew his hand away. He lay on the floor of a stone chamber. As he rose from his blankets he felt a subterranean chill sink into him at once. He could hear dripping somewhere far off.  The whole place smelt of stone, cold, and dampness as old as time.

“Where the hell am I?” he asked himself, or whoever might be there.

“I thought the catacombs would be suitable. The ancient dead are seldom visited.”

Dask shuddered.  “I always heard stories of the living dead down here.”

“Don’t you belong here, then?”

With a start, Dask came fully awake and sprang up from his bedroll.  “Wait! How did I get here? Am I dead? Who are you?” Now that he was looking around the room, he could just see the silhouette of a robed figure in the gloom.

“You know the answers better than you think.”

“The Demon! Am I in hell with you?”

“You were in hell without me, so you invited me.”

“I didn’t invite anyone. All I wanted anymore was to just be left alone with what I had left.”

“It never works like that.”

“If I am on earth and not in hell now, why don’t you just kill me?”

“Are you in some hurry to go to hell?” The Dark Man’s voice turned just a bit ominous and the import of who he was talking to began to dawn on him. He found himself suddenly seized with terror that these were his last moments before eternal flames engulfed him forever.

“Why on earth would I kill you now? You let me into this city and you made a Pact to get out of that cell. Stop cowering.”

Dask tried in vain to stop shaking.

“You can never go back now. Even through death.” added the Dark Man. The finality and truth of these words hit Dask like a physical blow.

“What do you want with me?” he almost shrieked.

“The power of Demons comes from the hearts of men.”

“Why don’t you just destroy this city and be done with us?!”

“They are still far stronger than us.”

Dask was dumbfounded by this and the lapse snapped him out his panic for a moment.

“Then why the hell did you show up in the public square!?”

The dark figure shook with sardonic laughter.

“So she would look for me.”


Four sleepless days Suryn had swept through the town with a whole army of the Duke’s soldiers marching behind her. They burst into house after house and accosted people on the streets if Suryn so much as looked at them. All through the night, trails of smoke were visible above the city as any item tainted by darkness, questionable, or heretical, was thrown into great bonfires. Then there came the trials. For a day at a time without so much as taking a break, Suryn gazed through those brought before her and questioned those she sensed were heavy with sin. Many panicked as she could begin to sense details and confronted them with their crimes; they would confess and be hauled weeping and apologizing profusely to a cell for further interrogation. As hysteria engulfed the city, more people began pointing fingers, knowing the accused would be forced in front of the Paladin’s judgment. Finally, a guilty man stood before Suryn. He was gangly and stoop-shouldered his face pudgy and blocky with a patchy beard thickest under his chin. She could immediately see the Demon’s taint in him, yet the pathetic thing tried to defend himself in a nasally voice that only ignited her fury. “Ma’am, I don’t know anything about any Demon.”

“I can see the Hate all through you… and smell it. You stink of it! If you aren’t already in his service, you soon will be.”

“Ma’am, I can’t help what I think! I can’t help what I feel! I don’t want to hurt anybody!”

“Every day you think of killing them slowly as they scream. The other boys at your master’s workshop. The girl who sneered at you and ran away when you smiled at her.”

“Ma’aaam!” shrilled the young man. His abject fear and submissiveness only infuriated both Suryn and the crowd. Hardly anything more needed to be said. In a clamor, the young man was dragged into the courtyard where the embers of a bonfire of tainted books and keepsakes still lay. Soon a pole was staked into the ground and the young man lashed firmly to it. His shrill screams of pure terror were audible above even the roaring crowd as bundles of dry twigs were tossed all about him.

Suryn watched from a ledge above the crowd, her face tight with anger, yet rapt with a hypnotized sort of fascination, as she watched the first flames begin to lick at the frantically squirming body of the howling young man. The flames soon began to engulf him but still she stared through the flames into the soul of the deviant. Suddenly, as the unfortunate young man neared the point of death, only the Hate remained and in that moment, she felt something shifting. She was not one to be taken by surprise twice and this time she leapt from the ledge and sprinted through a crowd that trampled itself to get out of her way.

A rift opened in the middle of the blaze and the burnt young man abruptly disappeared through it. Before the the rift could close, Suryn jammed her sword through it and felt it encounter resistance like she had never felt before. A shockwave of darkness threw her back and knocked over the entire crowd. As she looked up, laying on her back, she saw at once that the portal was closed and no trace of the burning man remained.


As the Demon pulled someone through his Doorway, there came an explosion of light that must have stunned and blinded Dask for several minutes. As he recovered, he saw the Demon was lying on the ground with labored breaths beside the man he had rescued. “What happened to you?”

The Demon stirred. “Herrr…” He rasped.

Dask was taken aback as he saw there was a white-hot glowing gash in the Dark Man’s chest, steady waves of rippling heat were visible even in the dim chamber. Without thinking he knelt and reached out to help.

“Back!” the Demon hissed. Dask tumbled backwards, startled. “Help him.”

Dask turned his attention to the other figure in the room. It appeared to be a burnt and blackened corpse, but as he stared in disgust and confusion, the figure stirred and moaned. He had no idea how to help. He knew nothing of bandages and medicines and he didn’t have any down here.

“How?” he asked. There was no answer. The Dark Man lay there, his breath a labored heaving. The bright wound pulsed with blinding light as it tried to grow in size only to be contained and shrink down again. There was a struggle going on before him and he somehow knew now there was nothing he could do to interfere. The powers that proved an even match for a Demon would incinerate him in an instant if he got too near. Dask turned again to the burnt man and did the only thing he could think of. He laid his hands on the charred man’s oozing, destroyed flesh and let his mind wander to the thoughts and the rage that had finally led him to making a Pact. He saw the smirking of the guards who had barred him from his own house. He remembered that first night punching the walls of his hastily rented flat in a blind drunken rage. He remembered being tortured and thrown in a cell, alone after being stripped of what little he’d had left. When Dask opened his eyes, he was still trembling with sorrow and pure rage. The burnt man still lay there, somehow still stirring when he should have been dead by now. He could no longer stand the horrible sight and the smell of burnt flesh. He had tried to do something and failed at it.  In disgust, he tried to rub the burnt flesh, blood, the smell of char and death off of his hands. That was it; he decided in that moment, he had to get out of here. He would find a way to go back.


“You are a true hero of the city.” said the Duke to Suryn. Her heart raced as his hands came down on either side of her neck holding the ribbon attached to a gleaming medal. All the courtiers in the throne room clapped politely.

“I accept.” she said. “But I don’t know if I killed him.”

“You said this will give us a time of peace in which we can prepare if he ever returns.”


“Whatever happens, you deserve our—my utmost gratitude in perpetuity.  If you had not helped me crush those treasonous rebels when you first appeared, I may not have been able to give you this decoration today for your victory over the Demon.” Suryn’s hand strayed to the other medals adorning her armor for the ceremony. She lightly touched them and recalled how she had been given them as she had turned the tide of the war and then as she had brought back the heads of the rebel leaders, one by one. “You can’t compare a Demon to mortal men who just want to usurp your rule and take your treasure. He will want more than that.”

“We will work together and defeat him for good all the same.”

The Duke looked her right in the eyes and she felt engulfed by his friendly, yet mysterious gaze. He ascended to his throne and the crowd closed around her with their prettily-worded congratulations. But none of them dared look her in the eye as the Duke had done. No one ever did. The life of sacred duty was a life without connection and she had accepted that.


Dask spent days finding his way out of the depths of the catacombs, yet somehow he was only slightly hungry, thirsty, and tired. Ever since he had awakened down there, he couldn’t remember eating anything. He had never seen the Dark Man eat or drink, but he had never expected him to. His heart had leapt for joy for the first time in weeks when he found himself on the surface again. Though it was night, the glowing lamps of the city were like daylight compared to the dim glow he had lived in. The warm night air was like a cascade of kisses on his cheeks after the relentless bone-leaching chill of the caverns. He had escaped; now a new life lay before him. He began to weep with joy. He would be happy from now on if he could have the slightest corner for himself in this beautiful world of the living.


He came to the house of his parents who had turned on him with suspicion the night he had been expelled from his house. He would try again to reach out now and make them understand! He pounded on their door and a couple minutes passed as a lantern was lit. “Father!” cried Dask. He no longer cared about the fight they’d had. He was back from the dead.

“My son!” His father hugged him, the first time anyone had touched him benevolently since his life had abruptly fallen apart. “You shouldn’t have come back, Dask! We love you!”

Suddenly there was a clamor as guards surrounded him. “Get down! You’re under arrest!”

Dask knew there was no way he’d ever willingly go back to that cell and his life was already over. As they began to draw their weapons, he charged right into them. To his surprise they went flying. Two men jumped onto him trying to restrain his arms. He tore free and slugged one in the face and elbowed the other. With audible snapping sounds, both of them dropped to the ground. The other guards immediately abandoned all thought of capturing him alive and advanced with their swords drawn. To Dask’s dismay, one of them had a crossbow aimed right at him. He registered the thudding of the crossbow and chills raced through his body as he looked down and expected to see his torso impaled by a heavy bolt at close range. Nothing. He looked up. A shadow had passed between him and the guards who now stood dumbstruck. There was a sound of oozing flesh and the grinding of shifting bones and joints. An object tumbled from the the shadow’s body to the ground. It was the crossbow bolt. The figure let out a roar of hideous rasping, screeching, inhuman rage and lunged at the guards. They fled at once but the dark figure grabbed one of them from behind by the neck. The furious creature shook the life out of the guard like a terrier finishing off a rat, and then, with a backhand motion, flung the man’s body against a wall five feet off the ground with enough force to crack the plaster exterior. The creature flung back its head and gave out a sandpapery, screeching howl of pain and fury.

Finally, Dask got a better look. It was the charred, barely human body he had left behind in the catacombs, somehow animated with an inhuman force. The whole city was already coming awake and the yelling and stamping of hundreds of guards came from nearby.

“Run!” Dask said to the creature. He sprinted down the streets towards the entrance to the catacombs his whole being focused only on survival. Some citizens coming out of their houses pointed and shouted at him. Some even tried to chase him, but he left them behind almost immediately. Sooner than he could have expected, he was near the opening, but in a flash of survival instinct he thought to look around him. No one appeared to be near – except for the charred figure which had somehow followed him with ease. No time to think about it. He went into the ancient graveyard with the charred man right behind him and they went down into the dark crypt they had come from. At first everything was pitch black, but then he saw a pale glow spread around him as it had before. He was not about to think too hard about it and fled down the maze of tight tunnels picking up the markers he had left behind as we went. With his heart still racing, he finally reached the center of the maze from which he had come. The Dark Man still lay there motionless, the bright gash still striving to consume him. “Master!” said Dask. There was no answer.


Dask did not know how long he stayed down there not knowing what to do. Startled, he felt a tugging on his wrist, the most repulsive sort of sensation that left behind sticky tiles of reeking, blackened skin. With a cry of fear, Dask recoiled backward. In the dim light he began to suspect was some kind of Demonic vision in complete darkness, he saw the burnt man standing over him. It raised its head and sniffed. A harsh, plaintive yowl came from its throat. It was restless. It turned to leave the chamber then and Dask, knowing nothing better to do, followed. The tortured creature wound through the tunnels, at times stopping as if to sniff the air and changing course. They moved beneath the city in forgotten passageways and finally, the charred creature began to claw at the earth above them. Dask enthusiastically joined the strange beast in its efforts. They forced their way through bricks and even concrete with what he now realized must be strange new abilities. He had to take breaks and nurse his torn knuckles and fingertips, but the burnt up beast was indefatigable. No matter how many oozing scales fell away, there always seemed to be more. Finally, a dim flicker of lamplight that shone through a tiny hole almost blinded him. The charred beast knew what it was doing! Dask redoubled his efforts to assist even though it felt as though his bleeding fingers would fall off. Soon, the two intruders climbed through the floor into a house. There, a bearded man about a decade older than Dask sobbed and heaved on the floor. He was so distraught, he was only just beginning to realize a couple of men had just clawed their way through his floor. Startled, he began to beg them for his life on the ground. It was more than Dask could endure. “It’s alright!” he said.

Nothing happened for awhile. Dask looked at the burnt man but no direction was forthcoming. It was up to him!

“Relax,” Dask muttered. It was all he could think of.

“Go ahead and kill me!” said the man on his knees. “I have nothing left! Take my life. I’ve lost my job. They took my wife and children!”

“What happened?”

“The Paladin! She denounced me as a sinner! The Duke’s judges took my family from me!”

Dask suddenly felt his blood pressure rise and his fears and the pain of his torn-up hands were forgotten. He felt the blood swelling into his forearms and he punched the wall. The last time he tried that, his fists had bounced off in his impotent, drunken rage. This time, he left a gaping hole in the plaster even as blood streamed out of his torn hands. “We have been sent,” he gasped. “To help.”

In that moment, all thoughts of returning to his past life as it had been left Dask forever. It was one thing to suffer misfortune himself, it was another to witness what had befallen the burnt man and now another poor fool who had committed Thoughtcrime.

“Pledge yourself to him!”

“What do you mean? Who?”

“You know who. There on your knees now, pray to him. Do it every day.”

“How could I do—”

“How do you like the way things are? What do you think of how you’ve been treated? This is your chance to do something about it. Pledge yourself to our master. If you know any others, tell them to join.”

“But how!?”

“You’ll know when you’ve done it.”

Dask and the burnt man turned away and casually went back down through the gaping hole in the floor, leaving the distraught gentleman with his thoughts. There was a shuffling from above as a rug was abruptly placed over the hole. Dask had no idea where he had gotten the idea to say those things. It had just seemed right as he began again to recall the moment he had turned away from the Light. As heavily intoxicated as he had been, there had been then a deep change in his soul, at once the snapping of a twig and the rumbling of a rockslide.

They returned to their lair at the heart of the catacombs and there in the center of the floor, the Dark Man’s form was weakly sitting up. He spoke to them with a sharp laugh.

“Well done.”

Next chapter

The Beautiful Syncretism of Tatsuo Horiuchi: A Introspection On Progressive & Purest Artists & Their Failings

Kaiga (絵画) or Japanese painting is among the oldest of the Land of the Rising Sun’s visual arts and has had a tremendous impact upon both Japanese culture as well as the artistic culture of The West. There are many different variations and permutations to Kaiga, however, the most well known variant, Sumi-e, was traditionally created via ink and brush on washi (hand processed Japanese paper, tougher than mechanically processed paper which is made from local materials).

However, one man has taken the traditional style of Japanese painting and merged it with modern technology in both a technically impressive and aesthetically pleasing fashion. His name is Tatsuo Horiuchi, a 77 year old painter from Nagano, Japan. After retiring, Mr. Horiuchi decided that he wished to spend his waning years painting but was possessed of both a shrewd and experimental mind and thus decided that traditional methods of brush, oil, ink and canvas were far to messy and, more crucially, expensive, so he set himself to discovering how he could “paint” with his computer. Whilst there are no shortage of art creation programs, they are, just like traditional methods, extremely expensive (although generally cheaper in the long run). Thus he decided to simply use a program which was already installed on his computer.

Microsoft Excel.

Yume no Ura (A 
view from Cherry Blossoms and the Oiseiro) Cherry blossom and the superb view from the veranda of Taichoro / Hukuzenji temple at Tomomachi in Hukuyama.

Whilst Microsoft Excel is generally utilized for business purposes, such a spreadsheet graphs for presentations. Mr. Horiuchi, in a recent interview for Colossal Magazine, stated that little by little, he figured out how to both layer, shade and colorize the images with a extremely high degree of precision. This precision (which in his old age would have been rather difficult to achieve with a brush and ink) combined with the ability to print out any number of the same image and the lack of need for paint mixing (a lengthy and expensive process) made him choose the medium.

Snow’s Okura (Intermontane river in snow).

The majority of Mr. Horiuchi’s painting focus on the beauty of Japan, primarily it’s mythic landscapes, though he also, occasionally turns his eye toward rural life in the island nation as well.

A child who delights in the sunrise cold early in the morning

It is a difficult thing, to properly navigate the realms of the artistic Purest and the artistic Progressive. The devout Purest – the pure Purest, if you will – raises all art from a particular time and place upon a pedestal and denigrates all others. This strain of thought is particularly apparent in Classicist circles wherein modern music is considered bad because it utilizes computers which makes the music “inauthentic” or “inorganic.” Yet when asked why computer programs are somehow more inauthentic or inorganic than, say, a violin or a trumpet, you will more likely than not be met with silence. The Purest problem lies in it’s complete and utter inability to change, for in refusing to change one refuses to adapt. Whether in art or politics the inability to adapt to change is paramount to suicide. No army brandishing sticks and stones and sheets of bark as shields, however well trained, can hope to best a modern militarized platoon equipped with Twaron and Kevlar body-armor who carrying M16 5.56 caliber rifles nor can any artist, no matter how “pure” his traditional artistic methods, capture the attention and imagination of his compatriots if he does not attune his style to the frequency of his world’s own bio-hum, to hear it’s spirit and feel the vibrations of it’s essence.

Odori & Momiji.

Whereas the Purest fails because he cannot change, the Progressive artist fails because all he can do is change. In constantly seeking “originality” he ends up viewing originality itself as the highest aim for art which births one of the greatest problems in modern art: The pursuit of originality for originality’s sake. So chaotic is the mind of the Progressive artist that he cannot moor himself to ANY values concurrent with his social milieu and thus he abandons the pursuit of value entirely and instead focuses on novelty. Such works are as quickly forgotten as they are produced (how many pop songs can you recite in whole or part after a single listening? My assumption would be very few – and how many of them would you really go out of your way to play again?).

Mr. Horiuchi deftly weaves together both the traditional style of his people and the modernist technology of The West to form a beautiful synchronicity that dodges the pitfalls of the Purest or the Progressive. From thrift and dedication, a simple but timeless and idyllic idealization of the Land of the Rising Sun in it’s most resplendent serendipity. A echoing reflection of national pride. Confident and content in one’s placing without waxing braggadocios.

Sex, Violence, Death, Toil: A Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Prt.3

-a truly great work of art will always deal with three things: sex, violence and death. It is my opinion that any work of art which deals not at all with this omnipresent trio of human universals is not worthy of one’s time or, indeed, of really being called a work of art at all.

-Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Part 1

-one can with absolute certainty say that there are Human Universals, that is, Human Generalities. Everyone who exists was born and everyone who was born will die. Everyone feels the pangs of hunger and thirst, of dread and envy, jealousy and admiration, lust and love, of purpose and purposelessness.

-Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Part 2

All human endeavors bespeak of ourselves; such is the case with fiction which gives form and function to the nebulous, scattered and fevered energy of the brain’s wild imaginings all of which roil up from from the instinctual chasm. It is only reasonable, given their source, that those instinctual and often obfuscated outpourings would cohere to those elements of the human experience which broader humanity holds as paramount: fear of death, given the uncertainty of what, if anything, comes after; the desire for sex as a replicating process to transcend the certainty of death via propagation of a distillation(s) of oneself into those future times which one will not live to see (echos of one’s consciousness imparted to the surviving lover as memories; the genetic progeny – sons and/or daughters – who will retain some semblance of one’s essential attributes). Then there is the impulse to defend against, violently, all those things within life that are essential to the aforementioned project of transcending death (love, progeny, home, water, food, ect.) and to attack, vigorously, all perceivable threats to those hitherto mentioned qualities.

The greatest pieces of art give to wider humanity the tools needed to grapple with such questions. Not necessarily to solve them, for some are inherently – thus far – insolvable, but to better face them down and navigate their labyrinthine sprawl.

Fiction which does not deal with these primal impulses, with these most crucial matters of human life, can scarcely be expected to rouse the passions since they are inherently devoid of the most powerful of them. If passions can not be roused then men can not, in any large number be moved, if men can not be moved to act in congruence to all those aforementioned questions of import than entropy is intensified and process of social degradation sets in like a cankerous wound.

This is not to say that one’s work should mechanically fixate on the particulars of death, or on the process of copulation nor of the graphic outpouring of those redder urges. Such fixations lead to a cold, stiff introspection on the action alone, that is to say, it places death, or sex or violence as a self-encapsulated and self-sufficient module for the whole of human action; wherein discourse is repelled or stifled at the expense of display alone. It is life as a screenshot. Life as a museum display. Devoid of dynamism and adaptation.

Most everyone can here recall some film that featured countless explosions, and gunshots and great gouts of blood and copulation and yet was wholly boring (). Physical action, alone and isolated, is not particularly interesting, there is nothing there to make one think; all one can do is passively observe a manifest reality. Films such as Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai or Ran, in contrast both feature plenty of scintillating violence (that was shocking for its time) but focus just as much, if not more, time upon the consequences of that very same violence. One of the best examples of the divide we are here discussing (between violence-as-decoration and violence-as-a-window-into-the-primal-state) can be seen in contrasting two seemingly similar scenes from the two films, those being the Dostoevsky-influenced psychological samurai-thriller, The Sword of Doom (1966) and the actionsploitation film/videogame emulator Hardcore Henry (2015).

The Sword of Doom follows the exploits of a master swordsman named Ryunosuke with a unique and bewildering sword style in feudal Japan. His life would be splendid save for the fact that he’s a pure sociopath who derives his greatest pleasure from killing. Around the middle of the film he and the assassins who he is traveling with attack a man who they believe is a political target. The man, however, turns out to be a local swordsmaster named Shimada Toranosuke (he’s played by Toshiro Mifune so you know he isn’t messing around). The assassins attempt to assault Shimada anyways but are all promptly dispatched, one by one as the shots linger more upon their bodies then upon the lightening-fast swordplay itself. After the battle is over only the aloof Ryunosuke, Shimada and the leader of the gang of assassins remain (pinned beneath Shimada’s knee with a sword to throat); Shimada then has a conversation with the defeated leader of the assassin troupe as the normally icy Ryunosuke looks on with wonderment.

Shimada: “Who are you? Your name!”

Assassin leader: “Kill me!”

Shimada: “You’re the leader, it seems. Your hot-headed men made me kill against my will. The men lying here were good swordsmen. Now they’ve died like dogs! How will you atone for it, you fool?”

Assassin leader: [crying] “Kill me. It is the worst mistake I’ve ever made. Kill me!”

Shimada: [releasing the assassin and sheathing his blade, he turns to Ryonusuke] The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword.

Contrast this with the big fight scene towards the end of Hardcore Henry where our protagonist, Henry, a cyborg who is seeking to rescue his girlfriend from a albino warlord with psychic powers named Akan, must contend with an army of mind controlled slaves. Arteries are punctured, throats slit, bones broken and heads crushed but there is never any sense of loss or pain for two reasons, the first is that all of the enemies in the fight scene are nameless random goons without emotion or backstory. They aren’t really people, they are simply props and so when Henry is violently dispatching them he isn’t really killing a person he is merely destroying a prop. It certainly looks fascinating but one can not really take away much from the film other than just that: it was pretty cool.

[continued in part 4]