Joy (cithra) wrote,

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Ursula LeGuin - Seattle Arts & Lectures

From my paper journal in part - because I wanted to write about this even though it took place when I was off-line, and because I want to see how the backdating feature works. [No, actually I think I'm constitutionally unable to have only one reason for doing something...]

9 April 2002 2:42 p.m.
The talk last night was wonderful. I did not, in fact, get asked to move. It was a more - sophisticated? no, that's not quite the right word, but neither is 'deep'... I'm not sure, but what I'm getting at is this lecture seemed to take as granted a certain level of background in the audience. It reminded me of a college lecture in tone, and in the depth of ideas it addressed. Less of a "lowest common denominator" feel than some of the other times I've seen her speak (at the NW Bookfest, for example). Perhaps because this was a prepared lecture rather than a reading plus Q&A session? It was nice, in any case, to attend something that was willing to address some fairly deep artistic questions. Her topic was "Where do you get your ideas?" and she focused not on the obvious facet of the question (other than a nod to Harlan Ellison's address in Schenectady) but rather on the aspect of how to get your ideas to come out and play. She quoted a marvelous letter by Virginia Woolf who writes about her head being full of ideas she can't at the moment dislodge for want of the proper rhythm. She talked about having the patience to wait until the right words come - not grabbing for them, or forcing them but being open and aware and watchful, so you can catch that all-important rhythm. She didn't specifically mention the word inspiration but it's one I like, in the original sense of being inhabited by the god/dess, the sacred, the spirit of the work. Writing is making yourself open to that possession, on some levels. Allowing yourself to be the screen the universe projects itself upon. She did mention vibrations, in that physics measures all sorts of vibrations in the universe, light and sound and matter, and somewhere along the line things fall into resonance if all goes well. Fantasy writing may not deal with fact, but it does deal with truth. I hope she publishes this lecture, I would really like to hear it or read it again. I know I'm forgetting things I wanted to remember.

She's an amazing woman. Cogent and full of understanding - and able to communicate that understanding to other people. I wish I could note down all the things she said last night that just resonated with my experiences - how experience and things we read all mix together, become "composted" and allow us to create imagined places and situations we ourselves haven't actually lived through that are still valid and real, realistic and true if not strictly factual. She defined the difference between reading and viewing - something I haven't heard articulated much in the critical literature. Reading is a collaboration with the text; you tell yourself the story while you are reading it. She characterized it as active, truly inter-active in a way watching a movie or a set of cut-scenes on a CD-ROM game/program is not. With text, you take it and make it your own by imagining the details, filling in the gaps; a movie makes you its own, by taking you in and showing you the director/programmer's vision. Viewing is much more passive than reading. She said (and I really like this analogy) that readers eat books, but movies eat viewers; that it is a wonderful thing to be eaten by a good movie, but it is different on a fundamental level from eating/reading a book. I think this is a good deal of why when books are made into movies - even with the blessing/collaboration of the author - they are usually disappointing in some way. If you've read a book, and moreso if you've read and loved a book, you have made it your own to some degree. You've populated it with inhabitants, dreamed its weather, walked its roads - you've filled in all the little background details the author hasn't made explicit. It's more than likely that someone else's vision, though derived from the exact same words-in-text, will be substantially different than your vision of the same world. What you think of when I write "eyes the color of the ocean" has its foundation in your ideas of ocean which are of a certainty different than mine. Where I see slate-gray someone else would be perfectly reasonable seeing blue or green...

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