Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Monkey of the Inkpot

In Borges' The Book of Imaginary Beings, Borges describes a monkey that enjoys the taste of ink. Some years ago, before I started this blog, I made a comment on my Myspace page (long since abandoned) that the image would be a fun way to imagine a muse--leave too little ink for the monkey to drink, and you get writer's block. Use the wrong kind of ink, and you end up with poorly constructed prose or flat characters.

I'm resurrecting that image (with a fancy new logo--oooh) for a regular feature to talk about inspiration. That might mean inspiration in general, but mostly it'll be to highlight whatever I happen to reading or learning about that's influencing my writing, or other things that I'm finding inspirational at the moment.

I'll keep this short this time. I'm reading a nonfiction book about whaling, In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. It's the story of the whaleship Essex, which was a partial inspiration for Moby Dick. The little details of how they organize the ship, the social organization that develops both on board and back in their home actually, is fascinating. It's not something I could incorporate into my main project right now--revising my serial project--but I did play a bit with whaling for a writing exercise this week. The whalers would be gone for two or three years, so complex systems evolved on the ship, and their absence certainly affected life on shore too. In future posts in this feature, I'll look for specific anecdotes or tidbits that I find especially inspiring, but I'll save that for next week.

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