Words and Worlds

Tonight (Thursday January 14th) marks the inauguration of a new reading series, Why There Are Words, at 7 p.m., at Studio 333 on Caledonia Street in Sausalito. Reading will be Tamim Ansary, Shana Mahaffey, Kemble Scott, Mari Coates, Michael Alenyikov, and Gravity Goldberg. Hope to see you there.

The theme is “Different Year, Different Worlds.” So in accordance with the school of associational blogging that I've just invented, I've strung together some quotes containing the word “world” -- a word I just tried staring at until it stopped looking like a word at all. Then I read all these quotes in sequence till I no longer understood what "world" even means...

G.K. Chesterton on the writer's experience of the world:

“... there is at the back of every artist's mind something like a pattern or a type of architecture... It is a thing like the landscapes of his dreams; the sort of world he would wish to make or in which he would wish to wander; the strange flora and fauna of his own secret planet; the sort of thing that he likes to think about.”

Robert Boswell on the reader's experience of the writer's world:

“When the reader’s experience of a story results in a world that is too fully known, the story fails."

Richard Powers, in Generosity, on the fictional character's experience of the world (and the reader's experience thereof):

“... story starts when a character's core value no longer suffices to stabilize his world.”

David Grann, in The Lost City of Z, on the biographer's experience of the non-fictional character's world:

“I had often heard about biographers who became consumed by their subjects, who, after years of investigating their lives, of trying to follow their every step and inhabit their world completely, were driven into fits of rage and despair, because, at some level, the people were unknowable. Aspects of their characters, parts of their stories, remained impenetrable.”

Richard Hamming on the scientist's experience of the world:

"I noticed the following facts about people who work with the door open or the door closed. I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most. But ten years later somehow you don't know quite know what problems are worth working on; all the hard work you do is sort of tangential in importance. He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important. Now I cannot prove the cause and effect sequence because you might say, 'The closed door is symbolic of a closed mind.' I don't know. But I can say there is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing -- not much, but enough that they miss fame.”

Reading these quotes one after another pushes me towards Wittgenstein's position that the world is everything that is the case.

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