outside language, robert stewert

In an oral culture, capitalization doesn’t matter, or punctuation. The hems and haws get chinked away in the listener’s ear. Imagine Paul the apostle with a cell phone, e-mail, satellite dish, and cable access. Spontaneity hawks us back to the days of abbreviated gestures, little pictorials, lapses between thoughts like a string of dots that trail off into the bushes. Multilingual influences on language affect us at the speed of a channel selector, with infusions of innovation and nuance. The question is, why would one fret even a minute for capitalization used with consistency, for commas that set off nonessential phrases and appositions, for modifiers tucked in tightly where they belong? Why the hassle to distinguish when to use “which” and when to use “that”?


A writer must know this. All suffering is random. To begin, you begin anywhere. I begin with the dream. What I saw in the window was nothing I did not see every morning in the mirror, and every day on the street, in buses. It might seem illogical, that death is not death, that you can’t always tell without pulling back the eyelid. The world always has designs on us, like a siren, a Lorelei, an ad guy, polishing the mirrors we fly into; and I have had designs on the world.

We like to think that art comes of hardship, that suffering and anger have their payoff, that every roach crawling across our cell carries on its back an inspirational glow. Art comes from taking out the trash, from washing the floor, from sweeping up after the quake, after the fall.

“…the depression is a purely chemical state. Yet it feels for all the world like the result of empirical, clinical observation.” — Karl Taro Greenfield

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