Prison Diary: On Writing Fiction

Here are some notes on writing and “my method,” especially related to producing first drafts; from March of 2010.  This was written early in my prison career; I will post further material on writing from the Prison Diary (which continues for another six years) as I get it dictated into the computer; this particular material...

Epistemology: Models & Mysteries

Some of these, maybe all of these questions can be answered, but the sense of mystery remains: what am I that I can understand these things and ask these things? What kind of answer am I looking for? What kind of answer would not be “just words”? Must there be something unanalyzable, always, at the base of our knowledge?

My New Diary, 11/28/2018

If I cannot rely on my calm, reasoned judgment of how the world works, but must instead follow every will-o-the-wisp twinge to its illogical conclusion, then I don’t know how to live. I neither feel a need of any god, nor can I accept any intellectual argument that pretends to prove the existence of a god or anything supernatural, or to prove the “necessity of religion in life.” I don’t claim to have “all the answers.”

Prison Diary: Books and More Books

“The Danes in particular have made sloth a policy. Blithely unaware that Indians are working 35 hours a day [sic], the Danes average 22 hours a week. partly that’s the result of the ‘laziness’ written into law: employers must provide a minimum of 5 weeks paid vacation. The official week is 37 hours, but non-vacation weeks average 28. Worse, there’s paid maternity leave! The Danish minimum wage is $10 and health care is free…. Danes earned an average $26 an hour in 2001, a solid 61% more than Americans.”

My New Diary, 11/7 to 11/14/2018

Yesterday I had pretty well decided to start a Nietzsche Club; today, I’ve decided not to. Reading the Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche and finding that “experts disagree” on many important concepts in his works (including the “will to power” and the “superman”), I’m thinking that maybe he’s not worth so much attention after all. As it is, I’ve already read all his best books, and a couple of them more than once, though I am reading The Will to Power now as my bedtime reading. Perhaps I could start a philosophy reading group. I’ll think about it.

More Book Thoughts from My Prison Diary

{8/16/08} Finished Stephen King’s Bag of Bones, a fine but ultimately disappointing ghost story. The disappointment is with the overdrawn villains and some illogical plot points. Of the latter: a ghost assaults our hero with a 400 pound desk, but fails to make use of the many knives in the kitchen or the knitting needles … Continue reading More Book Thoughts from My Prison Diary

My New Diary, 10/25 to 10/27/2018

My idea is to take cultural icons for the Major Arcana, and other bits of modern life as the other features, to remove the need for study and make richness of association readily available. I settled on Marilyn Monroe, Henry Thoreau, Muhammad Ali, the Automobile, the Atom Bomb, Adolf Hitler, Laurel & Hardy, Queen Victoria, Abraham Lincoln, and so on, as the Major Arcana, as I tried to adapt my personal interests and existing knowledge to the standard structure of the tarot deck.

Knowledge and “Christopher Columbus”

“Columbus discovered America in 1492.” This paradigmatic bit of knowledge was taught to me in the innocent 1950s (were they “innocent”? Or was this just another of the Lies My Teacher Told Me?). It might still be taught this way somewhere in the U.S., perhaps in a few schools in Tennessee or South Carolina as required by state law, but a likelier formulation might be...

Prison Diary: Bateson’s Peripheral Visions

Finished Bateson, and I must confess that I got a lot out of this third reading, as the wealth of quotes above make clear. She is no [Rabbi Harold] Kushner, pushing for his “authoritative” absolutes, but a rich and mature mind fertile with ideas. Her writing is sometimes troublesome, but there was ample reward in wrestling with her prose. An author to read again.

My New Diary, 10/9 to 10/11/2018

What I most like here is the idea that we learn to be bored. It may be possible to study our boredom to learn ways to turn it into something positive, either to increased self-understanding or as a cue to something subtle. [Mary Catherine] Bateson suggests, when bored, taking a closer look at what’s happening in the environment. But then, she wasn’t in jail. How about the Perfect Moment?

Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes and the Value of Literature: Prison Diary

Unless analysis and self-examination and increasing self-esteem are good in themselves, and I think they are, then it does not matter what is consumed by each consumer. But if they do matter, then what is consumed and what is available for consumption and what is taught about literature and its analysis also matter, because they help determine what kind of society we live in, and the quality of life of those who live in it. And if anything matters, these things do.