The Moments Between: Vanquishing the Language of Defeat

Jeff VanderMeer • February 19th, 2011 @ 11:39 am • Writing Tips

I really enjoyed this recent post from John Ginsberg-Stevens, which riffs off of my essay “The Language of Defeat.” The essay is part of my forthcoming collection Monstrous Creatures and can also be read at Clarkesworld. The argument I put forth is just a more detailed version of the sentiment I expressed in my recent post about the direction of my blog going forward.

Ginsberg-Stevens does a nice job of examining the general ideas in my essay while also putting forth some thoughts that I think push forward from my essay, or inhabit the empty spaces within its structure.

The trick is to think about those moments between, what lies inside and between the categories and assumptions that we project and ingest and wrestle with as we read and think and imagine. It is easy to conflate the cultural and literary utility and pleasures of genre with other considerations, and create not just borders, but outright barriers that inhibit our ingenuity as readers and writers and editors. The syntax of defeat creates obstacles, rather than conditions for creativity. The question for me is, what ideas enrich our experience of literature, increase our insights into what it gives us, and help us to recognize and incorporate the little moments between into the life of the mind and spirit that literature invigorates in us.

In the above quote, I might suggest that “conditions for receptivity” would be as appropriate as “conditions for creativity.” It’s our receptivity that feeds into our creativity, that allows the conditions for creativity, or imagination, to find the most fulfilling and unique manifestations. Which is vital in the struggle against cliche, stereotype, and received ideas. The more we find unique ways to think about books and the more we are receptive to the complexities a good book offers, the less we are colonized by groupthink and The One Right Way.

PS The books lists at the end of my original essay are incredibly random, as this was an added element. They’re not to be considered definitive, or a top 10 or anything like that.

One Response to “The Moments Between: Vanquishing the Language of Defeat”

  1. John Ginsberg-Steven says:

    !) I agree, Jeff. Receptivity gives us the stuff of our creativity, and it is how we take in those moments, how we see through (or are perhaps blinded by) the obstacles that genre and translation can put in the way of our vision, that gives our imaginations the nourishment to create.

    2) Holy crap, you quoted me! :-) Thank you, and I am pleased that you found the riff off of your work useful.

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