Posted by: cboulay | January 14, 2009

working with weschler

Please choose one of the articles to address (the readings for next Wednesday, 1/21 include: “Expressions of an Absolute”, “Girls in their Turning”) and relate it to Weschler’s interview with Transom. He goes on at length in the interview about several concepts that seem to me to be related to his ideas about convergences, and that could help us think about them, and about writing, more effectively. In a comment on this post, please write a paragraph or so explaining your thoughts/ideas. Feel free to respond to each other as well.

As you read the long interview, feel free to click on the links and read those as well, although that’s not required. If you’re going to listen to any of the audio pieces, I highly recommend “A Season with the Borrowers.”

A favorite convergence of my own to get you started:


Richard Barnes: Starlings in flight over Rome


Sarah Sze: Hidden Relief



  1. January 16, 2009
    Response to Weschler’s Interview

    My first attempt to read Wesclher’s interview with Transom I was very confused. I didn’t really get what he was trying to say but after I had read it a couple of times, it turned out to be extremely interesting. Such a brilliant man, with an immense amount of talent for writing, reveals his secrets to his great works. He mentions how he is constantly comparing his writing to music and sound. Weschler mentions, “It seems to me that story-telling (whether on paper or over radio) has much more in common with music than, say, with painting.” He claims that most of his writings have tone, harmonics, and he even finds himself pacing himself like musicians do. What I noticed was that throughout all of Weschler’s essays that we have read so far in this class, he is constantly comparing things. Whether it is old photos to modern pictures or his own writing to the “musicality of narrative”, he always finds something to relate back to. In “Girl in their Turning”, one of Weschler’s readings in the book Everything that Rises, Weschler analyzes and compares a series of four different paintings. Through these painting and through music Weschler depicts his style and compassion for writing. Wecshler can take a painting, of a girl for example, and break it into fundamental pieces in order for us to understand it. And in the same respect this is what he does for his writing, with music.

  2. What I found most interesting was the ways that music influenced Weschler’s own writing. Especially poignant was his discussion on his grandfather’s music. In one passage he explained, “When I’m alone, typing at my keyboard, I often hear music in my head…there are passages of my own prose that turn out in pacing and melody and formfulness, to be virtual transcripts of passages from his quartets.”

    This quote brought to mind Weschler’s interview with photographer Joel Meyerowitz, in which he said, “None of us are free from references.” I feel that this is an important discourse in convergence, in that, artists (whether visual, musical, writers, etc) see and hear things in a “context of a long tradition,” which inevitably influences their work. This can often lead to convergence. Maybe a photographer (consciously or unconsciously) takes a photo that resembles a painting of the past. Maybe we see a painting of a tilted building that reminds us of that photo of our grandmother hunched over in laughter. Maybe this is how convergence happens.

    This idea of convergence lead Weschler to question whether Richter’s treatment of Betty’s hair was indeed influenced by and even “consciously alluding” to Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus. It seems that convergence, how we see it and how we create it, is heavily influenced by those things that have stuck with us and became a part of us, whether we knew it or not.

  3. After reading Wesclher’s interview with Transom, I found the concept of convergence is everywhere in Wesclher’s context. Every time the artist is inspired to create, he is facing a lot of choices. As he cited, “If it is at least in part true that everything is random chaos, it is also true that the writer’s task is to discern, to discover–or, perhaps, to impose–order on all that chaos: a form, in other words, that in turn rings true. ” The creater’s task is to find a form in order to express what is happening in his mind in the most clear and impressive way. However, sometimes we don’t know what we want to say until we write it down and read it to ourselves. Then things become clear. Maybe this is the unknown power from deeper inside, which was raised by some early life experience. To Wesclher, it may be his grandfather’s book, The Shaping Forces in Music. To Allison, it may be the painting of Jesus in that church. And to us, whatever, we never know it before being provoked.
    Another point I want to say is the question Snow asks, which is cited by Wesclher in his writing, “Girls in their turning” in the book Everything that Rises. In both Betty and Head of a girl, we can feel the tendency of the girl’s turning but we can never tell whether she has turned to us or is about to turn away. Image is a one-second picture without movement, however, the artist is able to make it vivid as moving inside. I found this a good example of convergence, not only the similar pictures, but also the combination of comparative stillness and movement, which we must feel it with our fictive thinking. As Wesclher stated at the very first, “All narrative voices–but especially the voices in true narratives–are themselves fictions.” Aren’t the real girls full of fictive elements?

  4. In Weschler’s interview he proposes that “if it is at least in part true that everything is random chaos, it is also true that the writer’s task is to discern. to discover–or, perhaps, to impose–order on all that chaos”. Every person has unique life experiences that shape the way we see the world, and thus how they create order. In “Echoes at Ground Zero”, Joel Meyerowitz says “none of us are free of references” and that the references we carry in the back of our minds can also shape the order we create. These references create convergence between pieces of art.
    In “Girls In Their Turning” Weschler points out the convergence between Betty and Head of a Girl. Weschler and Snow mention the similarities of Betty’s bun with the girl’s turban, and the fact that both girls are turning. What I think is interesting is that these two pictures were made over two hundred years apart, and yet they both seem to express a similar situation. Perhaps our human experiences are more universal than we thought.

  5. I loved the most reading Weschler’s dissection of his own style in “Transom” and then performing that same dissection of his on work in “Girls” and “Expressions.” I liked to think of him collecting the strands of the stories, especially the narrative of Pollack and Rothko, and the fact that he is admittedly creating a fiction, regardless of how accurate he manages to be. I admit that when I saw the Rothko piece I experienced a white expanding space and felt as though I was standing on the moon…I was delighted by the comparison and painting’s placement into a social context. It’s not really enough to examine art as a separate artifact of culture–how then would it be anything but a representation of your desires?

    I don’t know what to do with this statement: “How can the writer keep not just the illusion but also the fact of all that freedom continually alive across the length of any retrospective tale?” That’s a really great question Weschler. I have no idea how to answer that. Once you’ve chosen a direction for interpreting a piece of art or literature, there’s really no going back—I’ve never once successfully interpreted a situation by exploring every single possible option, leaving complete freedom and a semblance of accuracy in my narrative. So yeah, how do you do that?

  6. Like Monica, I was also very confused when I first read Weschler’s interview. I found it very interesting how he always compares his writing to music. “…almost all of my judgments about the process tend to get framed in terms of musical metaphors: questions of pacing, modulation, tone, harmonics, counterpoint. I’ll sense that a given passage is out of key, or could use a little more syncopation, or needs to shift from the dominant to the subdominant — and I don’t even know exactly what any of those terms mean, technically speaking.” This struck me, because, as a writer, and as an artist, he is able to use other forms of artistic expression to enhance his own, creating a convergence of writing and music. Another thing I found interesting was his constant use of convergences and comparisons. He is always comparing old photos or paintings to modern ones, drawing from multiple sources such as his personal and professional experiences. All in all, Lawrence Weschler is an amazing mind and an amazing artist. To me, he is a kind of genius that has such interesting points of views that he can only make you wonder.

  7. Although I’ve been able to understand and draw meaning from the readings we have been assigned, by Weschler I wasn’t as captivated by any of Weschler’s work until i read the interview. I found that even though Weschler is a talented enough writer to be able to be published without the intention of ever being published (i.e. the letter he wrote to his editor outlining the reasons why he absolutely couldn’t write fiction). I found it humbling that he himself didn’t feel himself a strong enough fiction writer when his writing is entertaining and so well orchestrated. I enjoyed reading Weschler’s interview and critique on his own work as well as the comparison of him to his grandfather. I thought it was very interesting how he held so many of the same beliefs as his grandfather about music (so much so that he assigned his grandfather’s book as required reading for his class). Weschler goes as far as saying, “When I’m alone, typing at my keyboard, I often hear music in my head — especially as my pieces approach their climaxes — and almost invariably the music in question (when I stop to think about it) turns out to be my grandfather’s. In fact, in retrospect, there are passages of my own prose that turn out, in pacing and melody and formfulness, to be virtual transcriptions of passages from his quartets or symphonies.”
    It is fascinating that Weschler is capable of evoking so much thought from a piece simply on writing by using convergences and relating writing to music (and even to radio).

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