Archive for the 'visual_resoning' Category

Sep 16 2008

Visual Thinking in Engine Summer by John Crowley

some notes from an article I wrote on the Visual Reasoning wiki

Engine Summer is set in post-apocalyptic distant future, hundreds of years, at least, after a series of anthropogenic catastrophes, known collectively as the Storm, have reduced human populations to a fraction of their former billions. The teller of Engine Summer is Rush (as in reed), a member of the Little Belaire community, all of whom are “truth speakers.” Truth speakers attempt to communicate in such a way that “they mean what they say, and say what they mean.” One of the ways they do this is by telling lots of stories. As a boy, Rush — Rush that Speaks is his full name — spends time with a “gossip,” a wise woman, named Painted Red.

Storytelling allows for the creation of communal meaning; but by what cognitive means is that accomplished? In as much as Crowley’s novel is a meditation on this question, he seems to argue that the means is through perception. For instance, the young Rush is being counseled by Painted Red while they are both in a heightened state of consciousness thanks to the use of a “rose-colored substance” dabbed on the lips:

What I did notice was that Painted Red’s questions, and then my answers, began to take on bodies somehow. When she talked about something, it wasn’t only being talked about but called into being. When she asked about my mother, my mother was there, or I was with her, on the roofs where the beehives are, and she was telling me to put my ear against the hive and hear the low constant murmur of the wintering bees inside. When Painted Red asked my about my dreams, I seemed to dream them all over again, to fly again and cry out in terror and vertigo when I fell. I never stopped knowing that Painted Red was beside me talking, or that I was answering; but — it was the rose-colored stuff that did, of course, but I wasn’t aware even of that — though I knew that I hadn’t left her side and that her hand was still on mine, still I went journeying up and down my life. (359; references, unfortunately, to an oddball 3-in-1 edition.) Continue Reading »

No responses yet

E-mail It