This is a cross-post of what is going on at Welcome to the Interdome today. Happy pCARL!
Two years ago, frustrated at a nationally known amateur-writer holiday month thing that takes place in November, but whose name will not be spoke, I created my own little writer's holiday.
I know--creating your own holidays is one of the first signs, isn't it?
Basically, despite being a jerk and a general curmudgeon, I think that setting an arbitrary word count as a month long writing exercise is probably the least effective practice in writing. And the holiday aspect of it is equally silly. Writing a little over 1600 words a day is really not that hard. If you need help to write that much in a sitting, you might want to find a hobby that you actually like.
But I think there could be something in this annual, force-yourself-to-write in a new and different way (just if a "new and different way" is 1600 words in a sitting, then, well... you get it). So I invented pCARL: the psuedo-Creative Annual Ritual for Literature. As originally discussed, part of the charm is the name sounding like a marginal sex act. You can read more about it's traumatic birth here, in the FAQ.
The deal is this: in the month of November, the pCARLer will REWRITE a piece of literature they know, love, admire, hate, or otherwise have casually met. The only rule is that it must have originally been written by someone else.
The prototype is to rewrite the piece directly, word for word. With pen, woodblocks, keyboard, whatever. Of course, pCARL is not the sort of holiday that would get all up in your business by telling you exactly what to do. No! That is for other holidays with much less awesome acronyms. So, if you feel like getting creative with your rewrite process, for example, adding some of the things you think the author meant to say the first time around, but must have gotten accidently cut in the editing, go right ahead. The only rule is that the piece must have been written by someone other than yourself, and when you are done, will be somehow posts and shared, with the original author's name still given credit, albeit with the sub-title, "rewritten by ____."
It may sound stupid, and maybe it is. But once you have taken the trouble to actually rewrite something, you see the benefit. Also, maybe the benefit of doing it only once a year. Even to place an original text next to the keyboard, and bend your head to think about the letters of each word as they flow through your fingers, is good exercise. It's like reciting a Shakespearian monologue. The cadance of the text, and the shape of its symbols pass through your mind like a train through the countryside.
Sure, you can write pages of "original" prose. And you can reread the classics a lot faster than you can rewrite them, and gain more from the reading experience. But rewriting a text is like stepping into history; it's not going back into history, but like lifting the fibers of your historical view of the world and literature, and stepping inside, to see how things look from another vantage point.
The first year I did the first chapter of Melville's The Confidence Man. I don't remember what I did last year, but I think I did end up doing something (other than writing about it on the Internet). This year I re-wrote a section from Heidegger's Being and Time, into which I inserted my own comments about history, time, and the internet, and which I published as a post in conjunction with this one.
Part of the reason I did them together, is because the conclusions I drew from the passage, are relevant to pCARL itself. Clearly, this holiday does not avail itself to the stricter interpretations of what Intellectual Property is. But additionally, it casts the literary canon in a different light than simply paying for a book, and putting it on the shelf. It brings work into the present, into a state of literary being. The passage of Heidegger was written in 1926, but now it was also written in 2009. Maybe you prefer the '26 version better. It certainly will continue to be the "true" version that will be republished, and the next time I want to read the section in question, I will probably reach for the '26 as well. But nevertheless, because I am posting it on the Internet, the 2009 version exists, and will continue to exist. It was here, part of the present, and will remain so, though most-likely ignored. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how today we only know of many great historical works because they were mentioned in other commentary--all original copies being lost. I don't claim this will happen with Being and Time, but still, it proves a strange, dopplegangered existential quality for such referential work.
The original English translation of Being and Time was completed and published in the 60s. My physical copy is the Stambaugh re-translation, completed in the 90s. Translation is a form of re-writing, of course, and definitely suited to pCARL's mission. When I typed the text, I used the older translation, most of which is available via Google Books. Not all of it, however. Because of Google Books' innane "preview" deal, there was one "unviewable" page from the section in question. This renders the work nearly useless, in my opinion. Thanks, for nothing Google. But, since it is easier to retype something on the screen than a book in one's lap, I used the portion that was available, and then filled in the missing page from the Stambaugh translation. Among other fun pCARL experience, this laid differences in the translation bare. I was able to pick up the missing page easy enough (without using the standardized page numbers of the original edition), but I actually had some trouble figuring out where the missing page ended, because the wording was so different. Key phrases are translated differently throughout the text. The newer translation prints "Dasein" as "Da-sein", to better show the composite nature of the term. This gave me some clues, but when the sentences are completely transposed in the clause order, it gets difficult to tell what sentences are "equivalent". I left the language true to each version, but I did write all "dasein's" without the hyphen, just to keep it the same.
So have I violated copyright, or not? I used the publicly available, fair-use Google Books preview of one edition, and then supplemented it with a fair-use portion of another edition, with a totally different copyright. Or have I violated the copyright of the Heidegger estate? I don't think so, because I think 1927, the date of the first edition, renders it public domain. But this doesn't qualify further translations, with their own copyright. But then, isn't all of what I did fair use? I inserted more commentary than original text. Or maybe nobody cares. This is the Internet, after all.
Despite the hard-to-understand measurements of Intellectual Property, what I did was to create a segment point at which this text re-enters world-history. This text is canonical; it is historical. I have reinvigorated it's being in the present, by making it something both old and new. I have made it signify according to all four of Heidegger's listed significations of history, which I discuss in the post. Is it more historical now, or less? I'm not sure.
Regardless, pCARL will press onward, ever pushing to boundaries of what my mind and the Internet will tolerate, or completely ignore.