Of Grammatology – Jacques Derrida’s 1967 structuralist tome, which is at the intersection of his subsequent deconstructive analyses. Incidentally that critique has to do with the idea of ‘writing’ vis-à-vis speech as a subject of philosophical enquiry, rather than – of interest here – with writing as compositional praxis. However, an important link can be established between both approaches, namely that the breath of Derrida’s philosophical enquiry can be perceived in, and is therefore necessarily transposable, unto the utilitarian and earthy subject of writing as praxis.Against all first appearances, my concern is not directly with that seminal work titled
For my purposes, writing is synonymous with meaning, or thought and its explication as text, as ‘writing’ – the combination of words in sentences to express a simple or complex idea within the rules of traditional grammar. The goal is neither to give writing (as discourse) primacy over speech – as Derrida accuses ethnocentric Western philosophy of having done towards the dismissal of oral cultures – nor is it to make writing a ‘direct’ translation of ‘thought’. It is more a ‘transliteration’; hence the necessary idea of writing as ‘work’ in the process of that transliteration towards arriving at an approximation of what is being thought. That is all quite simple enough, apparently – but not really, if we bring Derrida’s basic but complicating logic to bear on that easy equation.
(originally delivered as a speech at the 16th International Literary Symposium in Seoul, Korea on 16 September, 2009).
The icebergs are melting, grizzly bears are wandering ever farther north and mating with polar bears; the Arctic sea ice is cracking open bit-by-bit, retreating from its inaccessible mystery. The temperature is rising. None of this is very complicated. In fact, if you tell the story in this way it comes to resemble a desperate, romantic novel by Jules Verne. Why would an approaching catastrophe of planetary proportions resemble an adventure story – a good quality adventure story – designed for boys, or perhaps for men who want to be boys? It has always been difficult to turn enormous human disasters into great fiction for the simple reason that great fiction prefers a local story which, through the genius of the writer, becomes universal.
Amatoritsero Ede: I was fortunate to hear you read from The Convict Lover at the Bancroft playhouse in 2005. Very moving story, and faction. I would like to take another detour to arrive at the literary. You are an avid gardener and write on the subject extensively. Is there a connection between literature and gardening for you; does one reflect the other in some way.
Merilyn Simonds: Yes, and it's not just me: Jamaica Kincaid, Germaine Greer, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Smart, the Czech playwright Karel Capek, Colette, Thomas Hardy, Pliny. The list of gardening writers is as long as literature itself. Why gardening and not boxing? Or needlework? Or collecting ink bottles? It’s a matter, I think, of control. Wrangling plants or wrangling words: it’s all the same. What you’re really doing in playing god. You can tell yourself you’re trying to understand, to make sense of nature or human nature, but underneath it all lies the pressing need, the overwhelming desire to fashion a world. To create.
Green, ripe or shrunken
all on one branch. What is lowbush
law? A map, perhaps, that relates
past, present or future
with a kind of light
In the past month or so I have noted several references to Adichie’s ‘The Danger of a Single Story’. I have received e-mails from admirers of the Orange Prize for Women’s Writing winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pointing me to a video of the Nigerian writer talking about her riveting ‘new’ idea.