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August 13, 2009

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Compose Your Holes

Okay so first, Austin Kleon does the unthinkable, a photo-blockquote:


The part he’s focused on is the line: “It’s learning what to leave out. Like with good guitar players—it ain’t the licks they play, it’s the holes they leave.” Then, Kleon writes:

It reminded me of Ronald Johnson, in his introduction to radi os, a long poem made by erasing words from Milton’s Paradise Lost: “I composed the holes.” (Johnson was quoting a composer whose name I forget at the moment.)

Composing the holes. That’s what we do when we craft a piece of art, whether it’s drawing or making a blackout poem.

It’s often the holes in pieces of art that make them interesting. What isn’t shown vs. what is.

The same could be said of people. What makes them interesting isn’t just what they’ve experienced, but what they haven’t experienced.

He goes on, and it’s worth reading.

There’s a really nice, subtle twist here. Our culture focuses so much on experience: soaking it in, racking it up, putting it to use. There are whole industries built around giving you crazy new experiences. So it seems pretty radical to say: Actually, skip it. Embrace the gaps in your experience, in your reading, in your knowledge. They’re important, and in a way, productive.

(Via Zach Seward in Google Reader.)

Posted August 13, 2009 at 3:09 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Gleeful Miscellany


1. This reminds me a little of Nietzsche: "There are many things I do not wish to know, wisdom sets a limit on knowledge too." (Total paper modernist, that guy.)

2. I initially parsed your opening sentence (which used to read "photographic blockquote") as "pornographic blockquote", which gave "Compose Your Holes" a COMPLETELY different valence. Sometimes it isn't the holes you leave, it's the holes you fill.

I mean, um...

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