Posts Tagged 'Rural'

Literary Blogging and the Digital Countryside

Link for the day: Society for Literary Excellence – an excellent example of the ways that analog living adapts to a digital world.

My senior thesis as a creative writing major is centered around a similar theme. I go to school in the middle of Amish country, cornfields, and apple trees. I’m saturated with the quirks and the brilliance of rurality, and at the same time, the sadness of rurality: the superficial attempts to imitate urban culture, the sense of cultural inferiority, the rude ways that city students treat the locals.

It’s complex. I like working it into words. I’m in the middle of writing a shorter essay about this topic, so look for that post in the coming weeks.

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Summer in Fujicolor

What has my life been lately– a few low-internet, high-humidity months:

Blessed. Privileged. Hard work.

Saturated in history and dirt.

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In Which She Admits to Having Whittled a Pen

It’s not that I’m bored, honest. But a girl can only read so many books before she needs to do something with her hands. And given that I’m redeveloping my farmer’s calluses, it felt natural to take up a hardier hobby. There’s something artful and meditative about shaving off curls of wood, weighing the gentle balance of a knife in your hand. 

It appears that whittling has its own website, even appearing above the Wikipedia article in the google results (I figured that if I was going to admit my newfound love of whittling, I had better do my research). In any case, I remembered this post over at Leigh Reyes’ blog and knew my first project would have to be a pen. After a somewhat-successful but highly unattractive first try with a piece of stale bamboo, I came up with this beauty:

Finished Product

To be honest, I’m not even sure what type of wood this is, or if I went about it the “right” way. I just grabbed a piece of scrap from the wood pile, whittled it down to a shape I liked, sanded, and carved the reservoir. After sanding, I oiled the top half to keep the ink from absorbing into the wood. I left the bottom rough because I liked the look of it. The shape fits well in my hand.

Early Phases

early phase

Finished Details

Obviously the wood has absorbed some ink, and I noticed a discoloration when I tried to write with a lighter ink after using a darker ink the night before. But in general, I’m shocked that it writes so well. After figuring out all those angles, it was really a matter of imagining the capillary action of the ink itself, and how it would react to the surface of the wood. As my hippie kindergarden ballet teacher used to say, “be the tree” …

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Rurality 101

No pictures today– sometimes I have to rely on words alone. This is probably good for me, given that I’m an English major. Which brings me to…

A book recommendation!

amusing

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman.

I first read this book as a senior in high school, when my father gave it to me (on top of a stack of other books) for my graduation. This is one of the top ten books that changed my life– not necessarily because it was beautifully written (in fact, Postman’s style can be pretty obtuse) but because it provoked me to re-think my relationship to technology, the media, and the world in general. Given that we live in a media-saturated (post)modern world (I am writing a blog post, not a letter, after all), it’s tricky to turn a critical lens on technology. But this book isn’t a sermon, and Postman is no Luddite. Rather, Amusing Ourselves to Death is a historical, psychological, and social exploration of media in the broadest sense, and the evidence that turns up is hard to ignore.

Here’s the foreword, which I’m quoting in full because it’s short and worth reading:

We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

After reading AOTD, at 17 years old, I drastically reduced my time on the computer and in front of the television. It wasn’t a disciplinary cold-turkey sort of thing; I actually began to feel physically disgusted in front of a screen. I needed more conversations; more fresh air. More dirt. As a result, I began to reconnect with something I had forgotten: my rural, solitary, Southern, low-income, dirt-filled childhood.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m living on a farm. No cell phone service, no internet. Just ploughed fields, piles of scrap metal and construction remnants, and me. Maybe it’s the free time, or maybe because I just finished reading Huckleberry Finn for my senior comps in the fall, but I’ve begun to do really Southern things. Like whittling.

I’m sure my posts will get comically rural over the next few weeks.


Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

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