A Writer’s Journal

The second entry

As there was a danger of neglecting this journal, although I have much to write about, I decided to make a second entry today. Here, I’ll say less about what a Writer’s Journal is and go straight into discussing ideas I am writing about – for a series of books. In my Works In Progress page, I have outlined three of these books. I’ll ignore the first one here, as it is a work of investigative journalism which I will talk about at some later date. (It’s enough to say it’s about spies; and I was recently interviewed at length about one part of the investigation by Kit Klarenberg of the Russian news service Sputnik: here.)

The two other planned books mentioned in the Works in Progress page are: The Spirit of Imagination (a study of the works of 8 imaginative writers); and The Enigma of Knowing, a book of interlinked essays about Knowledge. I also want to mention here another book I have begun to consider writing which will be a companion to the two mentioned above. This one has the working title: Spirituality: an Investigation. Although this book is at a very early stage of development, I mention it for reasons which I hope will become clearer as I go on, in this entry.

I have planned then – three books about ideas: on Literature, Knowledge, and ‘Spirituality’. (This last one will need some clarification, in order to explain why a materialist is writing about this subject at all, but I’ll come to that.) The other two subjects – Literature and Knowledge – are perhaps easier to grasp or see at least why I would be interested in them. I often blog about my love of reading books, and my planned book on Literature comes out of that passion. My interest in knowledge is more obliquely referred to in my essays in my Blog. I mean – all those points I make about wonder and seeing the world from fresh perspectives.

From when I was at university, a long time ago, I have had a kind of philosophical and literary interest in all the subjects I have decided to write about, in books. Whenever I read something about one subject, I would always link it to another and want to know more about it. So, for example, I’d read some book – say: the novel The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. I was astonished at his capacity to tell a story which began with mundane details – a man cooking pasta and listening to classical music on a radio, and then the story progressed to entering a mysterious and surreal world. I went on to follow this marvellous writer through novel after novel: a universe of talking cats and multiple enigmas, and I could not see how the believability was achieved. So, over time, I related that wonder to my reading of other writers. (Eventually, I decided that there is an echo of Murakami’s magical writing in the works of an earlier, English writer: Walter de la Mare.) And, I would consider the spiritual or semi-spiritual thoughts or feelings of writers such as these. This was a difficult and puzzling thing for me to do, as I am not religious. And neither is Murakami, at least not overtly. The ‘Spirituality’ I was interested in seemed to have some relation with religion but is not a part of it. I’ve had moments of religious feelings – but they don’t last long. The spirit of wonder or the spirit of imagination in my thinking has, in contrast, lasted and strengthened all of my life. And, mixed in with all of these interests, I was interested in the science and philosophy of what I was studying. So, I was interested in the science of language, of cognition, and in philosophy, I was interested in what is called ‘epistemology’ ie theories of knowledge.

 It would take a lot of space and time here to outline my ideas about literature, knowledge, and spirituality and how they all evolved together. In fact, it will take about three books. Yet, I hope to give progress reports from time to time in essays in this Blog and elsewhere. I’ve recently started to refer to my three planned books as The Quest. Here, I’ll end this short update with a quote from one of my written journals. It gives an idea of what I am trying to do.

‘One very important idea, which I think will tie together the three main strands of the Quest is: the idea of identifying a unit which helps to describe and explain Literature, Knowledge, and Spirituality. Such a unit will also be the core study unit for studies of cognition, language, and other major subjects of importance within the three main strands of the Quest.’

I know what this unit is, but I need to write the books to explain it fully.

I’ll say more soon.

Harvey Duke 29th September, 2019

The first entry

I began this page a few months ago, and then almost immediately ignored it! I now intend to make occasional entries here, and the entries will be dated.

All I want to say to start with is: I have used Journals for decades to note down ideas for writing articles, essays, poems, and books. Altogether, those notes make up hundreds of thousands of words. This is my first effort at doing the same thing – but on a computer, and with the possibility of it being read by someone else. It feels weird: to be thinking ‘out loud’ publicly on to a screen, rather than privately on to one of the dozens of notebooks which are stored on my shelves. It may seem that I do this kind of thing already, in my blogposts. That’s true – up to a point. The big difference is: in my journals, I’ve always speculated about ideas which are often a lot more complex and detailed than the sort of things I usually blog about.

I am deeply interested in – language, the nature of knowledge, imaginative literature, psychology and mental health, and there is barely a day goes by without me reading an article from a science journal plus something about philosophy and some poetry, bits of literary appreciation and criticism, and lots of other things. This all makes me sound like some kind of genius or a strange, deluded character. I’ll let others judge. The reason I’m mentioning these habits here is that – there’s a lot going on in my thinking and writing I not only do not regularly blog about, but hardly ever discuss with anyone. I have a personal library of around 3000 books; and whenever I am asked about it, it’s much easier to go along with the idea that I am mainly a fanatical book-collector. While there is some truth in this – I love books! – there’s something more important happening. I’m gathering facts and ideas, as I have for a long time, in order to write about subjects which puzzle or amaze me. And my notes towards writing articles, essays, and books are becoming more and more organised.

I’ll say more soon.

HARVEY DUKE 4th August 2019

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