Friday, January 01, 2010

Andre Alexis on Mark Kingwell "and" Glenn Gould

From Globe and Mail book review:

For instance, in trying to define consciousness, Kingwell writes: “Consciousness is the mysterious ability to spatialize time, to move a ‘self' through a metaphoric space.” The two parts of that sentence don't quite fit together. Consciousness is the ability to turn time (succession, a concept) into a thing (space).

Okay, that's interesting and it leads to interesting questions: Is consciousness like our other abilities: the ability to transform oxygen to CO{-2}, for instance?

While thinking about that, you're told – as if the second phrase were merely fleshing out the first – that consciousness is the ability to move a “self” through “metaphoric space.” Also interesting. But it's a separate thought. In my reading, the sentence needs an “and” here, because Kingwell is telling us two distinct things about the “ability” that is consciousness.

Now, it would be inane to criticize a writer for missing an “and” in a sentence. It's not as if, without it, the sentence is meaningless. One could even call the sentence, as is, “suggestive.” But this shotgun wedding of disparate ideas is entirely characteristic of Kingwell's style. Ideas are thrown about, sometimes in ways that are enlightening, sometimes in ways that defer meaning, sometimes in ways that make meaning opaque. It's done, I think, to take us to the heart of the contradictions, swerves of thought and tangents of Glenn Gould's own thinking. But it can make for frustrating or bewildering reading.