Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe. Follow @RianVDM
The power of words to defy the laws of nature
Adam Kirsch’s Neverending stories is a very interesting exploration of fairy tales, and why they’ve had such longevity in our culture. The essay struggles to find its way in the first half, but it picks up steam when Adam starts to speculate about why these ancient stories continue to be so popular. I especially like this theory:
Rather, what fairy tales obsessively conjure up is a world of mutability, in which things and people are not immured in their nature. The frog becomes a prince, the wolf becomes a grandmother, the little mermaid becomes a woman, the beast becomes a handsome man, the 12 brothers become a flock of ravens. So much of the appeal of these stories, in a preliterate, premodern culture, must have been simply in their demonstration of the power of words to defy the laws of nature. In this way, the storyteller enacts the magic powers he describes and possesses the wealth he fantasises about.
All good writing conjures up thoughts and images that go beyond the immediate realities of the story that is being told.
I recently finished reading Paul Soulellis’s essay in Issue #3 of The Manual called “Design Humility”. I’ll write about it more at some point, but for now, phrases like “walking slow, but looking hard” and “amplified vulnerability” are racing through my mind at such speed that I don’t know what to do with it all yet. I love writing like that. Writing that makes you dizzy with sudden understanding and new ideas. Writing that defies the laws of nature.