Songlines, From the Notebooks
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I've said elsewhere that these notes are overwhelming and disorienting and that it's challenging to identify themes or links or main points. They are also wonderfully entertaining.
But what are we supposed to make of them?
I'm working through the first and longest uninterrupted section of notes. In my edition I've read pages 163-200, which ends with the Bedouin proverb, "Raids are our agriculture"
So far these aren't connected in any text form, they are just listed. But the order is carefully constructed with themes touched on before getting briefly highlighted and maybe then leading to the next theme. But there are lots of branches, so, any topic map gets complicated. Also, note the sources of the notes are important, sometimes more important than the the actual note.
I'm trying to figure out themes, but it's just a ball of confusion right now.
dc, remember that Chatwin was very weak after his trip to Australia. His HIV set in with full force and it was really the beginning of the end for poor Bruce. His editors tried to go with him through the draft of Songlines but he could not be interested or give it the necessary time...
Confusion may be all what you will get. I don't think there is pattern in the notes.
Mac - thanks, noting. This is helpful.
I've been trying to construct something like an essay out of these, trying to put it together into a thought flow, or flows. That is because it's the only thing that makes sense to me - find some kind of pattern that will lead me somewhere. But, if there is no pattern, what are we readers to do with these notes?
My thinking is that all these snippets are raw data Chatwin still had from his abondoned "Nomadic book".
His attempt of his first book “The Nomadic Alternative” was a failure. His topic had been too broad, his intentions too vague. But he did not give up the idea to succeed in a second attempt.
The songlines and the aboriginals were a fantastic discovery for him. I think he had found a story on which he could hang his theory on Nomadism which had fascinated him his whole life.
Alas, his health deteriorated very fast after that trip.
DC, you should read Nicholas Shakespeare bio on Chatwin. It is very interesting and it will show that this Nomadic stuff had turned into some kind of idée fix for him.
( whispering ) DC Don't tell anybody here about this, but I do not believe in the biographical fallacy. I call it the fallacy fallacy. Biography does matter in understanding artwork.
( Mac draws his black cape over his face and dissapears into a dark alley )
Regretting the moment I had the biography in hand and chose not to but it.
There is tension reading these notes one after another after another. They are thought provoking, yet nothing is ever resolved. Instead the questions and possibilities ideas keep adding up.
I'll just dip into this group before leaving it again, but for you "libértaires" interested in Chatwin, a major touchstone would be Anatomy of Restlessness. One of the editors, Matthew Graves, did his PhD thesis at the Sorbonne about Chatwin's "Nomadic Alternative." He's likely the leading authority on the question.
If you don't have access to Graves' thesis, then this Picador edition will provide a starting point.
Crikey! That sounds wonderfully interesting, both Anatomy and Graves's thesis. Care to post any summary or theme from there? I'm at work, can't go surfing the 'webs just now ....
Ok, so adjusting my mentality here - the book isn't a success/failure, it's merely incomplete. But the ideas it's going after are complete, or at least they have been worked out more deeply elsewhere. Here, we don't have the "Nomadic Alternative" essays, instead we have all these "raw" notes. So, we jump from the Australian narrative to "raw" notes that apparently address this Nomadic Alternative.
Still not sure how I should read this.
And the notes are organized. There are themes, and groupings. Pieces are intentionally organized in certain ways so that something is hinted at or touched on before it is directly addressed. And there larger thematic links to be made as single notes are divided up, the parts pasted in different sections. Two notes quoting Ib'n Khaldun are sixty pages apart, but the theme is the same, and I assuming the link is intentional.
Finished last night. This was the second time through for me. I read chapters 1-30 in Feb, and read the rest spread over the last ten days. This time I targeted the Notes and got a much fuller sense of them. But I'm not sure what to do with that sense. I might post more on this later.
Please do: I've read through only once, and like you just sort of let the Notebooks wash over me. Very enjoyable, but I did not capture any sense of the organization or thematic counterpoint you've identified. It would be good to hear your take on it.
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