The Monday review – all out of words

Sometimes you have those days where thought is drowned out by all the other noise and you’re simply moving in circles. So I’ll let these writers use their words to say everything better.

1. ‘In creeps political conservatism’ by Marieke Hardy

And they put it out there, they set it out amongst us and let it seep. They’re well aware of it, each and every word. The ‘beauty and danger’ nonsense, the ‘gays’, the ‘dignified wives’. We watch and listen. In it goes, in it goes.

2. ‘A lover of Israel‘ by Gideon Levy

It isn’t Purim every day, so I’ll allow myself this madness: to dress up as a lover of Israel. Not the kind I consider myself to be in any case – that is, no less a lover of Israel than my readers – but the sort that is the total opposite of a traitor and an Israel hater.

3. ‘Hellhole: Is long-term solitary confinement torture?’ by Atul Gawande

It wasn’t always like this. The wide-scale use of isolation is, almost exclusively, a phenomenon of the past twenty years. In 1890, the United States Supreme Court came close to declaring the punishment to be unconstitutional. Writing for the majority in the case of a Colorado murderer who had been held in isolation for a month, Justice Samuel Miller noted that experience had revealed “serious objections” to solitary confinement:

“A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.”

4. ‘What is an author?’ by Michel Foucault

The author’s name is a proper name, and therefore it raises the problems common to all proper names. (Here I refer to Searle’s analyses, among others.’) Obviously, one cannot turn a proper name into a pure and simple reference. It has other than indicative functions: more than an indication, a gesture, a finger pointed at someone, it is the equivalent of a description. When one says “Aristotle,” one employs a word that is the equivalent of one, or a series, of definite descriptions, such as “the author of the Analytics,” “the founder of ontology,” and so forth. One cannot stop there, however, because a proper name does not have just one signification. When we discover that Arthur Rimbaud did not write La Chasse spirituelle, we cannot pretend that the meaning of this proper name, or that of the author, has been altered. The proper name and the author’s name are situated between the two poles of description and designation: they must have a certain link with what they name, but one that is neither entirely in the mode of designation nor in that of description; it must be a specific link.

If I discover that Shakespeare was not born in the house we visit today, this is a modification that, obviously, will not alter the functioning of the author’s name. But if we proved that Shakespeare did not write those sonnets which pass for his, that would constitute a significant change and affect the manner in which the author’s name functions. If we proved that Shakespeare wrote Bacon’s Organon by showing that the same author wrote both the works of Bacon and those of Shakespeare, that would be a third type of change that would entirely modify the functioning of the author’s name. The author’s name is not, therefore, just a proper name like the rest.

5. According to Victor Hugo Central, Hugo wrote a sentence in Les Miserables that is 843 words long, and Proust had a sentence in Volume 4 of À la Recherche du temps perdu 847 words in length. These were originally written in French, and have since been outdone, anyway, by writers who followed.

Molly’s monologue in Joyce’s Ulysses contains two sentences. One is 11 281 words and the other is 12 931. Then in 2001, Jonathan Coe wrote a sentence consisting of 13 955 words in The Rotter’s Club. Victor Hugo Central also reports that a Polish novel, Gate of Paradise, is rumoured to contain a 40 000 word sentence.

I tried to find female authors who were contenders, but Google seemed confused by the question.

6. And now I bow out with Saul Williams’ performance of Coded language:

Jacinda Woodhead

Jacinda Woodhead is a former editor of Overland and current law student.

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