Thursday, April 05, 2012

Hunting bugs

I've spent the last few evenings sitting at the computer and tormenting my good friend Michael Arnold. Michael is labouring to design and format the upcoming Oceania issue of the long-running Kiwi literary journal brief; I've been sending him lists of the typos I've discovered in the draft copy of the issue.

I've always found typo-hunting a little like spotting and slaying cockroaches. There's the initial dismay, when an unpleasant blotch is found despoiling a clean white kitchen wall or a page of carefully composed prose, followed by the satisfaction of pouncing upon and removing the intruder. As the toll of typos or insects mounts, there's a strange feeling of achievement, which is eventually tempered by the realisation that, no matter how assiduously one labours, a few pests will always inevitably survive, in cracks between walls and in the midst of fat paragraphs.

Occasionally, when I'm standing on an armchair aiming a rolled up copy of The Western Leader at a wall where a cockroach stands perfectly, unaccountably still - trying to be mistaken, perhaps, for the stain left by a finger or a fizzing beer can - I experience a surge of guilt. I think about the Jain priests of India, who supposedly cover their mouths with intricate wire meshes, so that they cannot commit the mortal sin of accidentally swallowing a fly or mosquito. I wonder whether I'm not depriving the world of something essential, by cancelling the life of another bug.

In the same way, I sometimes feel guilty about spotting and disposing of typos. Some slips in spelling are merely embarrassing, but others seem inspired. I'm not sure if typos can provide, as Freud thought they could, sudden insights into the psyche of their authors, but they can cause new ideas and images to burst through what were fairly dull sentences. Should I really ask Michael Arnold to change the startling and possibly profound phrase 'The penis is mightier than the sword' into the cliche its author intended to use?

Some of my most glorious typos have been mechanically induced. I remember sitting up late at night writing a worthy but dull leaflet for the Anti-Imperialist Coalition, sometime in the last months before the invasion of Iraq. The leaflet discussed a wave of strikes mounted by public servants in Pakistan, and discussed their repression by the government of General Musharaff. Once I'd finished the leaflet I filtered it through a spellcheck, tiredly and automatically made the recommended corrections, sent the leaflet off to the printers, and went gratefully to bed. The next day, at the protest march where the AIC's new message was being distributed to the masses, I got some curious looks from my comrades. "What's all this about a General Mascara?" someone finally asked. "Are you taking the mickey?"

The best book I read in 2011 was The Wild Places, the mountaineer and dendrophile Robert Macfarlane's account of a series of journeys to the woods, cols, skerries, marshes, and overgrown culverts which still exist in the interstices of the conurbations of modern Britain. Macfarlane celebrates Britain's tenuous wildernesses in prose eloquent and subtle enough to remind us of Updike or Joyce. Macfarlane's book is a celebration of Britain's human as well as natural history, and he loves to juxtapose words and phrases drawn from different phases in the development of the English language. Like Joyce, he has a marvellous ability to bring the complex, abstract Latinate jargon the Norman invaders brought to Britain after 1066 into dialogue with the simpler, rougher words of the older Anglo-Saxon dispensation. Like Heidegger, he delights in showing how certain words we think we know well have their origins far in the past, when they meant things and performed functions which are now unfamiliar. On my first journey through The Wild Places I often thought that I'd spotted a typo - until I checked the dictionary, and found that the likes of 'lenticles', 'wold' and 'sigil' were indeed real, if ancient, words. Like the forests it celebrated, Macfarlane's book seemed constantly to be renewing itself, by swapping a word for one of its predecessors or avatars or synonyms.

I wrote this typo-filled poem, which was included in Feeding the Gods, the book I launched last November, after marvelling at Robert Macfarlane's time-travelling sentences.

City Life

I am writing a hedge.
One word attaches itself
to another, hawthorn
to manuka, ragwort
to gorse. I am writing a walk
in the countryside.
I am writing the country,
hedge by overgrowing
hedge.

You lean over my shoulder,
grub my sentences
like hedges. You lay words
like pegs
so walls can grow.
You mark out a corridor
with your conjunctions,
add doorways, prepositions.

I snatch back the pen
and change wall to wald,
change corridor to hallway
to holloway. I walk alone
through the country.

[Posted by Maps/Scott]

11 Comments:

Blogger me said...

I was recently invited to a pubic meeting. I barely knew the person inviting me so I declined.
mark

2:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a cock and balls story

1:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Auckland, New Zealand (CHAKRA) – With the visit of Jain leader, Munishri Jinchandraji to Auckland, the Jain community is one step closer to building a place of worship of their own there. As the community, with the help of Jinchandraji are making progress towards their goal, they are looking forward to a new place where they can feel a sense of community and togetherness.
Wearing simple a clean white cloth, symbolizing purity, wrapped around his body, Jinchandraji has been leading a life apart from all material things since the early age of just eight. He has been leading such a virtuous life for the last 57 years. When listening to his discourses or having a personal conversation with him one will immediately notice that he is a believer in clarity of thought and expression, has a sincere concern for today’s youth and is a purely charitable individual with thoughts of compassion for his fellow beings.
When asked for his views on the youth of current society, Jinchandraji answered, “Young minds are vulnerable to temptations in life and easily fall a prey to such evil habits as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and consuming narcotic drugs. Children born in Western countries are even more exposed to these dangers than their counterparts in India. It is therefore our duty to guide today’s youth to good things in life. Perhaps there is a need to reinstate the faith of Jainism.”

8:21 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WERE WEON THE MOON IN 2039 BC???/
http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/luna/esp_luna_10.htm

10:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a remote northern area of Tibet lie the ruins of the Hsiung Nu capital, discovered by Duparc in 1725. Within the city, Duparc came upon a mass of monoliths (once coated with silver), a pyramid, part of a tower of blue porcelain, and a royal palace, containing thrones with sun and moon images. There was also a large milky white stone surrounded by exquisite drawings.

Now for the stunning sequel. In 1952, a Soviet expedition arrived. The group was shown by Tibetan monks some ancient documents, whose descriptions agreed with those of Duparc.

But here is the breathtaking part: the milky white stone, so said the documents, was "brought from the moon." Moon rock? Is it possible? COULD MAN ACTUALLY HAVE LEFT THIS EARTH AND GONE TO THE MOON IN AGES PAST? Was space travel a natural adjunct to his civilization? Are there clues?

Indeed there are. Indications of the reality of ancient space travel do come from widely separated parts of the world. Written and oral tradition is widespread - and, it seems, reliable.

Chinese historians in particular never tried to please their rulers at the expense of truth. Death was preferred to untruthful reports of history. As an example we have the fate of historians in the reign of Chi in 547 B.C. We should therefore take seriously the historical reports of China, even if they seem at first to he far-fetched.

There is a tendency in scientific circles nowadays to regard ancient documents and even mythology and folklore - as sources of history. Anthony Roberts expresses it this way:
"Legends are like time-capsules that preserve their contents through ages of ignorance." 1
In regard to some of the chronicles cited hereafter, internal evidence will carry its own proofs of authenticity.

10:10 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Re typos I once typed the words phrase "the golden cauldron" as "the goldren", and it was a typo but I decided to leave it in (in a poem I wrote about 1990 or so).

Then, once, using Word, I was using the spell checker and the grammar re worker thing and inonce case it mca up with what I thought was a much better few lines of a poem. It was so good I left it in.

I have my spell checker set for US spelling so I leave things I know can be "correct" in (NZ) English (there is a complicated technical reason I keep the US spell checker going but I have forgotten what is is or was...I might try to get it back to NZ English or Australian as they always call it.)

Well if you wrote that you thought that the All Blacks were all a bunch of pedophiles or that everyone on (say Kiwi Blog) takes it up the arse you might get a response (albeit not very coherent!!) but if you write something that is intelligent or insightful, you get abuse or The Mad Ones writing about subjects totally unrelated! (Don't look at me!)

Poetry is either put in the "too hard" basket or is just not considered worth writing about by all the Proles, or the "Social Realist" Commos, or the Proles etc who frequent your blog otherwise!!

It doesn't auger well for "progress"...if you want to cheer yourself up by observing the social rituals of Proles (and the Great Hope of Human Progress), have a butchers at Jeremy Kyle's program on problems people have (marital, girl friends, drugs,stupid arguments etc) on British TV !!

The Poms always look (on there) as though they are somehow all malformed or are unhealthy. It is the lack of good food (and the general degeneration of the Prole classes! Some of those may contributing all this alien stuff!!) in Britain and the poor sunlight I think...

Au contraire: US, Aussie and Kiwis are all almost always obscenely healthy... (but we all have as many social issues, problems)..

Good poem though Scott.

4:52 pm  
Anonymous Maps/Scott said...

Hi Richard,

I know you're not a bushman - neither am I, of course - but I think you'd enjoy The Wild Places, as well as Macfarlane's earlier book Mountains of the Mind, which explores the British obsession with climbing, and Mallory's fatal love affair with Everest.

There's sometimes the question, isn't there, of whether a typo is deliberate or not? Looking at Murray Edmond's contribution to the forthcoming brief, I see him mentioning, in the midst of a memoir about the bohemian milieu in Grafton forty years ago, the music of one 'Jimi Hendricks'. Is this, I wonder, a typo, or a deliberate reversion to the great guitarist's birth name?

12:05 am  
Anonymous GIVE THIS MAN A DB said...

Man tried to swim to North Shore
MICHAEL FOX Last updated 09:40 30/03/2012
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A man was pulled from the water by police this morning after trying to swim from Point Chevalier to the North Shore while fully clothed and under the influence of alcohol.

Police said they were alerted by witnesses who saw the man enter the water wearing jeans and other clothing near Coyle Park at around 8am.

The police helicopter, maritime unit and several land-based officers responded to the scene, with officers on the police launch pulling the man from the water around 200 metres offshore.

Inspector Matt Rogers said the man was attempting to swim to the North Shore though the 22-year-old was yet to reach deep water.

"He had probably got about 200m from the beach although he could basically walk for most of that way."

He was taken to police officers who were waiting on the shore, and he would undergo a mental health check.

Rogers said the man had also been drinking.

It was fortunate that the police helicopter and launch were available as they had probably prevented the man from drowning, he said.

12:20 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Maps - yes I had look at the writer on Wiki (where else!). There are a lot of these travel books, he looks interesting. (I also had a look in supermarket at the article by Braunias walking it would be interesting but Metro is out of my fiscal reach! Might be able to squize it via the Library system...

Yes it is strange that obsession. It is universal. (A Japanese eta was trying to ascend Everest at the same time as the British team...) years ago I read Hunt's book - the Ascent of Everest - and I loved it, I also had Hilary's account of his travels across the Antarctic. My traveling is in my mind! Jack said I went to Mongolia but trouble is I never came back!!

My brother loves traveling an camping etc etc but he doesn't have much interest in politics.

About 1969 or so when we were all in an old house in Ponsonby (which was slum (or at least a working class area with a high proportion of Pacific Island and Maori people living there) in those days)) Hendrix, Joplin, Dylan and others of the time were played constantly. Hendricks was played almost continuously as was Dylan to the extent I stopped hearing it.

I wasn't very interested in any of the music but Hendrix and Joplin were good. My brother liked the Beatles etc. I tried to and also dabbled with Jazz but I don't really like jazz at all much (My musical heroes were Brahms and Beethoven but now I default to Bach almost exclusively!!! But I don't think anyone else shared my interest...)

I didn't know Murray in those days as I stopped writing poetry but I did go to parties in Parnell. Just about everyone was on drugs (I wasn't and - I didn't drink either, but I cheated as I was on prescription medication! In fact the anti-depressants I took changed me from being (extremely) introverted and to rather talkative, outgoing and almost aggressive etc hence my interest in "street politics" etc))...in fact I saw some young men destroyed by illicit drugs).

Typos are typos. I make them all the time and also miss spell. Without a spell checker I would be completely lost.

But recall that Shakespeare signed his own name in about 6 different ways. he also coined many new words and invented quite a few. So, we can thank or curse Dr. Samuel Johnson!

But I make up words in my poetry all the time.

What does "quag apparat" mean! I have no idea it just seemed to fit! To me it was just right ! A bon mot!! I like John Ashbery - in one of his readings he has a poem that talks about going into some (theoretical) room, and a book, which he goes on about for some time, then he suddenly drops in, in media res: "if only I had ever read any of it" !!

Writers can feel free to make their own reality!! We re-order the world. WE are gods, as a writer I am God!! I AM GOD!! Like Joyce of Finnegan's Wake, I have created the Universe!!

1:05 am  
Anonymous NEP/CCCC said...

For a few brief decades in the 20th century important
writers were expected to break the rules, violate all
conventions, and in general rock the bloody boat.
Instead of garnering praise by mastering the
techniques of the trade, they made their name by
subverting the accepted
methodologies.

WHAT THE FUCK HAS CHANGED?

ITS TIME 4 A NEW LITERARY AVANT-GARDE IN THIS COUNTRY THAT BREAKS WITH THE TIRED OLD FAKE RADICALISM OF BRIEF AND THE LIKES OF RICHARD 'DON'T ROCK THE BOAT' TAYLOR

THATS WHY THE NEW EXPERIMENTAL PARTY/COMMITTEE FOR THE CLARIFICATION AND CONTROL OF CULTURE HAS BEEN FOUNDED

WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU...SOON

10:01 am  
Blogger Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!
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11:38 am  

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