Writing Art breaks rules: rules of writing; rules of book layout; rules of what an academic is supposed to do with her/his topic. If you leaf through the book, your gaze will catch that the structure of the paragraph layout on many pages is chopped, layered, and puzzled together, that the usually black text of this work is interspersed with pink fonts, that the font sizes vary. Before reading a word, you suspect that the author is communicating something to you, could it be a caution, an invitation, perhaps both, as in Schopenhauer’s “Preface to the First Edition” of The World as Will and Representation:
The reader who has come as far as the preface only to be rebuffed by it has paid good money for the book, and wants to know how he can be compensated. –My last resort now is to remind him that he knows other things to do with a book besides reading it. It can fill a space in his library as well as any other book, and it will look quite good there with its fresh, clean binding. Or he can leave it in the dressing room or on the tea table of his educated lady friend. Or finally, by far the best option of all and one that I would particularly advise, is for him to write a review of it. (10)
Schopenhauer was a funny guy – playful, yet serious; he knew his work would not be for everyone, but only for so very few, and make no mistake, Jeremy Fernando is an academic, a scholar, a thinker. In his recent meld of ideas, the good Doctor makes this quite evident in what he writes and how he presents it.
I suspect the cheeky Fernando is thinking along the same lines as Schopenhauer: that no matter how inviting he makes his writing, that no matter how important the things he is saying might prove to be (perhaps deemed so by some scholar in the distant future, and if not important, they are at the very least interesting, at least to this reader, who having read it – the binding is bent, the pages dog-eared with pencil muck in the margins – will nonetheless review it, in a manner), very few people, relatively speaking, are going to read it. But it wasn’t written for them: it was written for us, those who read Bataille, Baudrillard, Breton, Cixous, for those that listen to Marilyn Manson, Pink Floyd, the Velvet Underground, for those that hold that “all [one] can do is be in love with poetry,” with art (37).
So how do I encourage you toward this book without destroying what (I suspect) Fernando has done, has intended? The table of contents is hidden at the end, why? Is it that Fernando doesn’t want you to enter into the book with any presupposition cast from him as to where it/he might be going, but rather like some mischievous spirit guide, entice you, with a chuckle, to take a journey with him, so that at the end you can smile knowingly at each other? Or is it simply the style of the publisher? “If one wants to play, one will follow the rules.” Fernando is serious, but he is playing, and “Playing seriously is playing to win” (55). I would say this book is triumphant.
Thus, you might find some paragraphs that are superbly formed, but you will bump into many written in a manner for which some of our professors would have chided us, but this is done through skill, through the art of writing: as Fernando says “Playing the game is playing with the rules of the game” (56). Fernando is a cook: he forms crystals of thought, of possibilities of thought: you will encounter many very well formed ideas, ideas that pose questions that guide you toward rethinkings. Fernando breaks staid academic forms to make his addressing of poignant points clear and accessible, in a frisky way. He is a cunning philosopher, playing with us, and with himself (while reading you will surely discern that he was having great fun writing these pieces, putting them together, assembling them in his mind and on the page). However, play is vital (so much is learned through play), if we are to hazily glimpse, without ever really grasping, art: “For, all we ever can see – Yanyun Chen’s drawings, sketches; [Fernando’s] writing – are its shadows” (117).
He is an/the author, so thus dead, so his intentions are not known to me/us, this is only my reading, and in honor of his possible intent, I will now be mute about the rest of what is inside, even if an online bookseller wants to let us look quickly inside in a furtive manner. So what can I tell you? He investigates (raises questions, but does not necessarily offer answers, for how could he, or anyone) an amalgamation of thinkers, “artists,” art forms, art itself, pays tribute to them all, with an intent (I suspect) of pushing himself, and us, toward the enjoyment of art, toward the enjoyment of thinking about art, if not necessarily understanding from where it springs.
Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Jeremy Fernando. Writing Art. The Hague/Tirana: Uitgeverij, 2015.