online: 20 november 2002

20 november 2002 what's wrong with newspapers?

11:00 Drizzly day. Indoor cafe. Reading The Times.

Taliesin- Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin house and studio is cracking up because of subsidence and growth of tree roots...

I feel sad. I was and am attached to Frank Lloyd Wright, and to Taliesin, both the name and the house. Frank Lloyd Wright influenced me greatly when I was young and Taliesin is the name of a central figure in Welsh myth and of a Welsh poet of the sixth century. And it is also the name of a village near Borth - where I used to live and loved to be - and in which some of Frank Lloyd Wright's relatives were said to live. You can see one village from the other.

No other news I read in the paper seems to speak to my mind - all that I scanned seems, after reading it, to be something I wish I'd not read - not spent a part of my life on. Newspaper stories nearly always give me that feeling - is it that they are in some way misleading, mistaken, or distorted to the point of being untrue to anyone's real or actual experience? ...I doubt if I'm writing what I really mean. Have I, in writing this note, become infected by whatever it is that makes journalism so unsatisfying, empty?...

Gertrude Stein used to say that what is wrong is that journalists are prevented, by the fact of their reports appearing next day (having to be written in the past tense?), from being alive to the present... I don't think I'm remembering her reasons* correctly but I believed them when I read them.

As I arrived here today I passed two people with a pile of professional photographic equipment as tall as themselves. When I asked what they were doing one of them said they were shooting a cover for Penguin Books. That made me feel sad - sad that a day in the life of two skilled people, and all that expensive equipment, were being devoted to the concocting of an illustration for an already written text - so as to make it sell. Not photographing the world but composing it to fit a purpose.

All this seems to me to be a profoundly mistaken process - the imposition of industrial economic goals and sequences on human thought and picture-making in order to ensure that people will buy something.

Oh dear, I don't like writing this - I don't wish to spend time criticizing the industrial system - the source of these enslavements of mind, difficult as they are to describe with any truth. I've described and fought with them enough - and what I write here is meant to be my way of doing otherwise, of escaping the industrial trap!

So get out in the open? ... I try to resume writing something that is not industrialised, not enslaved, not trivial...

...but, still sitting indoors, amidst the simultaneous voices of many people who've arrived for soup or cakes or lunch, I feel only half liberated from misguided humanity... I guess I will have to go outside, despite the impending rain, to feel free of what's wrong wrong wrong - the word itself is mistaken (though it's quite melodious) ... But now I hear, above the music of many adult voices, the screams of a one-or-two-year old. So I get up to go. Yes, it's a baby in a high chair. It's cries are certainly not the report of an event - they are the event itself!

* Gertrude Stein:
...and so I wrote about newspapers being dull reading because they repeat every day the news of that day and they have to print it as if it were just happening and it always had happened some time ago at least some hours ago and after all a thing is interesting that you see happening...
I don't have the lecture (on Narration) in which she stated this thought 'as it happened' - this quotation is from Everybody's Autobiography(Vintage Books, New York 1973, page 263)- in which she is retelling her thought about newspapers. But it's still interesting - the way she writes it!

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© 2002 john chris jones

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