I’m starting this at the same time that I’m reading Cantatrix Sopranica L., by Georges Perec, which in addition to giving my blog its tentative title, is a study in the imitation of scientific writing styles. It’s so fun to read because in manipulating these forms, constrictive with their innumerable requirements and formalities, Perec treats them not as so many cages but instead as, shall we say, jungle gyms. Rather than being constrained, he seems to use each rigid bar as a vehicle of fun; as a way to get to swing nimbly to something else. Also I like picturing him swinging around in there, curly hair blowing in the breeze, bare feet in the cedar chips.
Here’s a graph of the neurological reactions in sopranos being hit by 9 tomatoes per sec.
On second thought, I guess constraint was sort of Perec’s thing: writing an entire book with not a single letter E seems like it would be just as difficult, but just as fun, as trying to keep a rubber ball inside the lines in four-square.
Further on imitation: it occurred to me as I scrolled through other people’s blogs, checking for formatting and writing style and tone and font size before I started my own, that I was really just looking for something to copy. Maybe this came to me easily because I’m reading Perec’s imitative work, but perhaps also in part due to recent musings about writing: how much of people’s writing, and my own in particular, is an exercise in imitation – of others’ work, of speech – and does this make it any less legitimate? I think this question applies elsewhere; case in point, a recent New Yorker Out Loud audio I heard in which Malcolm Gladwell points out that the main catalyst for a child prodigy is imitation, while true geniuses are distinguished by their genuine creativity. (Genius? Genuine? Linked? Looked it up; turns out no –
genius – from the root of the Latin gignere – beget [attendant spirit present from one’s birth, innate ability or inclination]
genuine – from the Latin genu – knee, having to do with a father’s habit of seating his son on his knee, and later became synecdochized (?!) to represent birth, race, stock; genealogy, if you will.)
I’m sitting in the living room of my apartment, surrounded by windows and looking out at the towering library. The cat, who has recently been started on some sort of sedative pills to keep him from peeing all over the house on the daily, is stretched out beside me, limply. I like to pretend that his complacent responses to my insistent cuddling are a result of real affection for me, and not the result of a drug-induced haze.