Saturday, October 09, 2010

Dylan Thomas Comments On AVI's "Best of" Series

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I remain a person raised in a book world, where having your ideas put down on dead trees, able to be stored on shelves of dead trees, was a mark of permanence, as if some stray thought of yours might descend unto succeeding generations - that some great-granddaughter might take up the volume with curiosity and some pride.

That the actual status of what is in books, unless you are of the 1% of writers who are still consulted a generation later, is ridiclous impermanence, does not seem to have dented this. The 50%-, 75%-, 90%-off book tables at Borders or B&N (the few times I even go), with dozens of titles only a few years old, do not dissuade me. Even the $2 bookstores have not dented this. The romantic vision of the library of my youth, the used book store, even the (be still my heart) antiquarian and rare bookstore, remains more powerful in my imagination. That is permanence in the imagination of the book people of my generation: that a hundred years later someone might still read you., it is the George MacDonald character in The Great Divorce - refers with pity to souls of dead authors hanging around libraries to see if anyone still reads them.

Online writing seems less permanent, despite the fact that the internet has increased access to older material a hundredfold, and people actually read older stuff far more than they would have, simply because it is easier to get hold of.

The internet is, however, the Library of Now, and the impermanence of its words are brought home forcefully - if we stay in the world of romantic vision instead of reality. I read things I posted a few years ago and bring them forward, because I said them better then, or don't want to write the same idea a twentieth time now. That no one is ever going to read these archived documents otherwise hits me with force and regret. How do I know this? Because I barely read them myself, and don't go back through the archives of even my favorite sites.

Yet the reality is, hell, it's archived. Who in the world would have ever even bothered to archive anything I ever wrote before five years ago? Now a machine does it for me, with a reasonable chance that someone might actually be able to dig it out twenty years from now, or even stumble on it by accident while looking for something else - just like in the stacks of the library.

I probably wrote 500 songs between the ages of 15-30. One hundred were not completely worthless, having some part of them worth keeping. Perhaps ten or a dozen were worth keeping in whole. Did even I put in the effort to preserve them? A few. With effort - effort, I should add, that I am unlikely to make - they could be retrieved and organised. But I can't sing in that range anymore, I no longer have the guitar skills to play the accompaniment, I don't see the point of teaching them to others, as they would require harmonies and rehearsals to be salvagable... And, I observe, the world has gotten along pretty well without them to date. Ephemera.

So now I have greater permanence, but feel worse about it. And this feeling ties directly to the power of the romantic vision versus the actual reality.

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