Friday, 13 February 2009

Imagination leads, reality follows

On page 119 of Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, we learn that according to Stanford archaeologist William Rathje's Garbage Project, contrary to what we might think, plastic accounts for less than 20% of buried waste by volume. The bulk of what is in landfills is construction debris and paper products. Newpapers, for example, don't biodegrade when hidden away from air and water. Researchers pull perfectly readable newspapers out of 1930s landfills. "They'll be down there for the next 10,000 years" says Rathje.

Now hear this:
Story-telling has its own kind of law and order, which can be in conflict with the emotional order of the storyteller. The tragedy of compulsive writers and bad authors is that they often put everything they have into their work but the work itself bears no trace of this. Writing was, after all, rather more complicated than it first seemed to me. This is fortunate. If it were not so, the world would have many more writers than it does today, and would drown in an avalanche of printed paper. Which may well be one of the ends that awaits it.
From 'How I Began', in the collection The Spirit of Prague by Ivan Klima.

The Spirit of Prague is rather mournful in tone - hardly surprising considering its author's life and times - and has a touch of "I told you so" towards its end, but it contains an awful lot which is inspiring, instructive and elegantly argued - and at 6.99 it's positively a steal.

However, the phrase "compulsive writers" strikes me as either ill-chosen or ill-translated. It's clear what Klima means, but anyone who writes does so out of compulsion - or delusion - be their output mean or profound.

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