The Art of Tetman Callis Lit & Crit The bearable lightness of beings

The bearable lightness of beings

“Love is infinite and one.  Women are not.  Neither are men.  The human condition.  Nearly unbearable.” — Leonard Michaels, “City Boy”

18 thoughts on “The bearable lightness of beings”

  1. I’m not asking this in a snarky way, Tetman, but I’d like to know, why do you post these quotes, as opposed to writing something yourself? I like this one, btw.

  2. There are several reasons. I do a lot of reading. Every one of the quotes I post is from something I’ve recently read. I like to share these quotes to generate interest in works I believe to be good reads. And just to share them. They’re good quotes. But this only partially answers your question. I could share quotes and write something of my own. But time is tight. I prefer to do creative writing in a more traditional manner, which I don’t have time to do if I’m spending much time on a blog.

    Then there are issues of what to write about. The parts of my life that are possibly the most interesting are the parts I am least able to write about. The most interesting work I do is rather confidential. I will tease you and say I sometimes work on matters of national interest. But I also work under a confidentiality agreement, and I work under the confidentiality rules of the New Mexico Supreme Court. As for home life, not only are the most interesting parts those which I most desire to remain private about, they’re pretty much like the most interesting parts of other people’s lives. A few times I’ve written about my life, when it was something I thought worth sharing. I had a falcon in my back yard one morning, eating a dove it had caught. Since I live in the middle of a city, having a falcon breakfasting in my yard was worth posting about. When my wife and I took the train to Chicago to get married, or took a trip to southern Colorado and saw interesting things, those were worth posting about. But I don’t get out much.

    Some people blog about their lives and do a good job of it. Averil Dean’s is always a joy to visit. But she writes under a pseudonym. My blog is part of my public presence. I don’t write under any nom de plume. Not anywhere. I had an avatar on the political site Wonkette for a couple of years and had a great time. I could say things and be a persona there that I couldn’t comfortably do under my own name. But there are only so many hours in a life, so I left that playground behind.

    I started this blog about ten months ago. Since I didn’t want to write about my life, didn’t have time for a lot of blogging anyway, but wanted to have a daily presence, I quickly decided to post quotes that interested me from what I’m reading. And as you can see, I’ve posted copies of every story and nearly every poem I’ve had published in litmags. I like to think the mix is more worthwhile than any trivial nattering I may do.

  3. I would have to say that my blog is my commonplace. Or part of it. The public part. I have a word processing document on my computer called “blog loading zone.” That’s where I write the quotes I later post to my blog.

  4. I feel like I just hit the jackpot on a Vegas slot machine: one little question, and the wealth of Tetman comes pouring out. For whatever reason, I have not been as attentive to your blog as I have to others’, even though yours was one of the first of the Betsy-followers that I dared to visit and comment upon. That will change, Insha’Allah.

    But time is tight. I prefer to do creative writing in a more traditional manner, which I don’t have time to do if I’m spending much time on a blog.

    I think I understand what you mean. Part of me wants to just have a place where I can be read, hence the blog. But it does take time, and I don’t consider it “real”writing, more like creative journalism. I want to write things that require time, thought, and, well—rewriting. Not that I don’t rewrite on my blog, but the best part of writing, for me, is the process of figuring out what it is I’m really trying to say (which may different than what I started out saying), and what that reveals about me to myself (which may be different than what I knew going into a piece). If I can marry that act of self-discovery to a real connection with the reader, I’ll be very satisfied. I don’t know if I can do that kind of work if I’m posting on a blog every day, or even several times a week.

  5. A commonplace, or commonplace book, is a collection a person makes, usually written by hand in a notebook, of sayings or observations or poems or even recipes, usually all united by a shared theme or motive.

  6. I went to Wikipedia. While I had a general, even nebulous, idea of what Tulasi-Priya was referring to, I wanted to be on firmer ground before I responded.

    Wikipedia is a priceless resource for me. When it was down for a day recently in its protest against Congress, I was firing off angry emails to my representative. Apparently I wasn’t the only one (nor did I think I would be).

  7. I use Wikipedia every day. Remember when you’d have to go to the library and thumb through a set of musty encyclopedias to find what you wanted? And by the time you found it, the information would be out of date.

    To Tulasi-Priya’s point about real writing, I think blogging can be whatever you want it to be. I use it as a diary of sorts, and a place to gather information from more experienced writers. But I’ve had the occasional blog-inspired epiphany, and I’ve read other blogs that are so deep and introspective I’d be hard-pressed to call the writing anything other than real. It does take some energy, though, no doubt about it. I can understand why you’d choose to forgo the commitment.

  8. >>I can understand why you’d choose to forgo the commitment.<<

    Ouch, that smarts.

    Averil, I hope you don't think I'm dissing blogging, and certainly not yours. I love reading your stuff and MSB’s, and others’. And can see the benefit to be had from the daily discipline in getting something short and sweet up there for people to read. Most of all I’ve been blessed with the virtual association of writers like you who are much further along in your process and careers. The encouragement you’ve given is totally empowering.

    God this sounds like some kind of pompous speechifying. Sorry.

    ANYway . . .

    But I’m not so quick-witted like you and some of the others. I want to tackle things that I have been thinking about for years, huge subjects that I’ve pulled around my mind like a little tug hauling a freighter. I want to write stuff like Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s “In Praise of Shadows ( or Phillip Lopate’s “Against Joie de Vivre” (I just emailed both you a private link to read it) or just about anything out of The Art of the Personal Essay. I also like Annie Dillard a lot. Whether I’m capable of that kind of writing is another thing, but it’s the genre I’m most attracted to. At 14,000+ words, Tanizaki’s essay isn’t quite blog fodder, and I don’t believe in breaking something like that into pieces. It’s not that blogging isn’t real writing, it’s that it doesn’t lend itself to what is real writing for me.

    I asked Tetman why he didn’t write instead of just (or along with) posting quotes because I suspected I already knew, and he confirmed it. That and the fact that most of his blog’s content is stuff that was meant for print publishing. I could never tell the story of my marriage in a blog post, not even in installments separated by weeks between posts. I only tell a tiny fraction of my life on the blog, not because I don’t want to, but because it’s too immediate, too in-the-face. I would be mortified if I blogged about my sex life, my mother, or even my spiritual practice. I’m a lot more private than I might let on. But these are the topics that most engage me, that I most want to write about. On the other hand, I could write about it all in a book, because the distances between writing and rewriting and publishing would make all the difference.

    I could see using the blog as a promotional tool, but I don’t have anything to promote yet. Or maybe I just need to grow a pair and then let it all hang out. Maybe I’m just scared. There’s more I could say (don’t even get me started on commenting), but I think you get where I’m at. I’m not going to stop blogging. I just don’t know how I’m going to continue to do it.

    Sorry for hijacking your post at such great length, Tetman, but it would have taken me at least an hour to edit this down and still say what I wanted to say, and this is where the conversation started. Averil, if you want to continue it via email, I’m willing. Or if Tetman doesn’t mind, here.

    I think I’m just going to lift this whole dialog and re-post it over on my blog. I spent a lot of time on this defense, might as well make it do double duty. XO

  9. Both of you are welcome to comment on my site at whatever length and on whatever subject you like. I approve almost anything that is legitimate; that is, anything that is not spam, most of which comes to my site from Russia, Germany, Poland, or China and is neither interesting nor informative. And I wrote “almost” because I received one comment that was legitimate and quite interesting but the commenter indicated it was for my information only and requested I not post it.

  10. Whoops. I didn’t mean it that way, TP. I just meant that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a writer directing his or her efforts elsewhere. I will probably need to do that at some point, myself.

    I’m going to keep this response short, because I’m knee-deep in a scene and just stopped for a few minutes while I eat a handful of blueberries. But I appreciate this conversation and all the good food for thought.


  11. Blueberries! The local grocer here in La-La Land had a shipment of blueberries in this weekend from Chile. Same price as blueberries in July at the height of the domestic season. How could I resist? I purchased a pint or two and brought them bad boys home with me. Had some this morning with breakfast.

    Blueberries! Yes!

  12. Oh my god, aren’t they delicious? I usually keep a little bowl of grapes or berries nearby for snacking, but you know what else I ate the other day? Tomatoes on the vine. That tasted like TOMATOES! I was so excited. I have this little pepper grinder with tri-colored pepper, and some flaked salt, and I gave those tomatoes some love and inhaled four of them in record time. (Also slurped out the juice at the bottom of the bowl. So dainty, me.)

    Nom nom nom…

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