Month: March 2016

“Testing 1 2 3 I’m testing this voice to text…

The above is what happened when I started trying Google’s new voice to text program. This program is available on Google Docs or Google Drive, and I’m using it right now to write these words. or to speak these words. And to have Google right them for me. there are occasional issues with the software. sometimes homonym confusion happens sometimes words are not capitalized when they should be, but these are minor errors. they are easily fixed with a little editing – this program is wonderful for knocking out a very quick first draft.

But it raises some interesting questions. Dictation is a different expression of idea than writing. I’ve noticed differences in my writing style when I write long hand in a journal as opposed to when I type a composition. There all kinds of reasons for this. typing and writing speed vary from person to person I can type faster than I can write, But this is a minor difference compared to that experience when composing via dictation. I find myself pausing, often, giving myself time to collect my thoughts giving myself time to fight my predilection to cliche, the default forms of tired and uninteresting language that is forgivable in conversation but unpardonable in composition.

This is not a condemnation of the tool itself. the tool is good. but must be borne in mind that a tool of dictation will, foremost writers, create a different sort of end result in their composition. this might the incredibly useful – it seems a fantastic way to break out of a rut, to unstick oneself from writer’s block. and for someone like me, someone who hates typing out something previously handwritten, it’s an easy work around that allows me to persist in a benign form of laziness. I certainly intend to use it for that, extensively, and I intend to experiment with it as a mode of original composition as well.

note: this entire post was composed on Google’s voice to text software and left unedited. 


Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets”

Maggie Nelson

“Bluets” is an essay written in short bursts, meditations in miniature on the color blue and all its Western connotations, on depression, on sex, on tranquility and recovery. Nelson delves into Goethe and Wittgenstein, both of whom wrote extensively on the color and the ideas behind it. She also dives into the world of visual art, looking at the medieval, impressionism, and the postmodern.

Nelson’s “bluets” vary from a few words to a few paragraphs, building beautifully on each other in a way that reminded me of the essays of Kundera -there is a much more interesting sense of understanding to be arrived at by the intricate latticework of “blueness” than by any isolated examination of the constituent parts. There is an interesting juxtaposition between philosophy’s inability to comment with effect on this kind of blueness (evidenced by Wittgenstein’s failure) and her own perceived limitations, set into relief by the breadth of the combined whole of blueness as an idea.

I feel as though my writing and talking about this book make it out to be a far more abstract thing than it actually is, but “Bluets” is deeply personal, narrative even, often taking the form of an address to an unknown (to us) lost lover, or as a journal entry about a friend, recently quadriplegic. “Bluets” is a constructed recreation of a mind at work, a mind rotating a very wide but specific idea and contextualizing its experiences within it.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s short, it’s an easy read, and it’s fascinating.

Matthew Vollmer’s “Future Missionaries of America”

Future Missionaries of America
Matthew Vollmer

This was my favorite short story collection of 2016 (of meaning “read during”). Vollmer’s book “Inscriptions for Headstones” was high on my list in 2014, and I seem to really enjoy everything he writes and edits. I’m looking forward to reading his two other short stories as well.

The stories in here often relate to the religious -some, like the titular short that closes the book, and a handful of others, revolve completely around that theme. Others interact with the idea more subtly, portraits of men and women wandering around those struggles and questions that lead others, not them, to faith. Vollmer’s illustrations of religion pass no judgment either way -happy families come together in their faith and a schizophrenic interprets her hallucinations as divine instruction, and both of these are written with an authentic sense of remove that belies the author’s deliberate relationship with organized religion.

Vollmer writes very good contemporary literary fiction. He plays with form, (a story written as a will) his structure, mechanics, and narrative change to fit the piece, and everything is meticulously edited and clearly worked out. It’s tempting to call people like Vollmer “writer’s writers,” but that seems to sell them short. This is very good fiction that deserves -and ought to appeal to- a wider audience than currently read it.

Recommendation: Read it. Long live the short story!