Detail, Mirage // 3.8.18

In his introduction to The Elements of Drawing, my copy of which, this morning, I spilled iced coffee all over, John Ruskin, writing about the instruction of the young artist, says, "I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love Nature, than teach the looking at Nature that they may learn to draw."

I don't know why I'm reading The Elements of Drawing, except Louis Zukofsky's biographer Mark Scroggins keeps (kept?) a blog called Culture Industry or Kulture Industrie, in which he betrays a deep and wide obsession with the work of Ruskin, and as I like both Zukofsky and Scroggins, I presume I may also enjoy Ruskin.

I used to draw a lot as a child, various cartoons, pictures of men with swords, and whatever else I cared to. These days I really only draw sadsack self-portraits while I'm at work (see above), and have given up my childhood dreams of being a cartoonist, or comic book artist, or police sketch artist. I've also given up the firefighter dream; I volunteered at a fire department in high school for a little while and learned it wasn't for me.

These days, I just read and write, and sell books, and buy books, and eat chicken korma, and spill iced coffee, and chain smoke mentholated cigarettes, and try to figure out if what I'm doing is worth doing, if I'm writing because I am actually able to write well enough to someday be paid for the work, or if I have only the temperament, and not the ability, and I should learn a trade, or sell out to some startup or another.

I'm getting off topic. I don't have my commonplace book on me (thank God, it'd be covered in cold brew), but there's a Zukofsky quote from Prepositions that echoes Ruskin, that goes something like, "Writing is the detail, not the mirage, of seeing." Wait, I've googled the quote, it goes, "Writing occurs which is the detail, not mirage, of seeing, of thinking with the things as they exist, and of directing them along a line of melody." Which means, I assume, that writing fails when it attempts mimesis, and succeeds in explication of some inner or outer reality. No, I think LZ put it better than my sum-up.

I know not how to explicate any outer reality, I can neither draw nor write lovely description, but I feel like I've got an okay handle on detailing inner reality, though my own is fairly predictable, self-loathsome and unsure. The downside is that writing fiction becomes an exercise not in plot, but in putting my own thoughts into the minds of characters, dialogue is near-impossible, and my stories become the memoirs of young men very much like myself. Alas, alack.

No conclusions, but if you'd like to read a perfect short story, track down It was by Zukofsky, it is ever so lovely.