Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Play Well

Beg Borrow Stijl is a blog about translation, written by me, Josh Billings. Like everything I do it's an imitation, in this case of the dozen or so blogs that I've fallen in love with over the last five years. It's also an experiment in thinking out loud, meaning something done in front of anybody who wants to watch.

Actually all writing is done in front of somebody, which is the point, since writing practiced in absolute solitude is 1) impossible, and 2) like a chemistry experiment where you get to make up all your own elements. That might sound like fun, but think about how boring video games became when you discovered the cheat that let you walk invisibly past your enemies. Language on the other hand doesn't have cheats - or if it does, they lead to other levels, secret doors, games within games. Finding them isn't the end, because there isn't any end to language, or at least none that those of us trapped inside it will ever be able to find.

In this way there's no difference between Super Mario Brothers 3 and James Joyce's Ulysses: both are, essentially, gigantic advent calendars. Like normal advent calendars, the specific toys hidden behind each of their doors isn't really the point: the point is that, in opening/playing/reading them, we train ourselves to treat the world the same way - that is, as something we can explore, expand, use. To me this, more than snow, is one of the main reasons why Christmas always feels so wonderfully deep.

The best books, like the best video games and Lego sets, are batteries of creative energy. Building them is just the beginning; the eral adventure is taking them apart and rebuilding, combining one set with another until something happens. That something does happen (at least if we wait long enough for the codebreaking attention to be coaxed out of its place) is the article of faith powering this particular enterprise.

When I say that BBS is going to be a blog about translation, this is the sense of the word I want to try and jimmy. The world can be opened. In fact, it wants to be.


  1. "The company name Lego was coined by Christiansen from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means "play well". The name could also be interpreted as "I put together" and "I assemble" in Latin, though this would be a somewhat forced application of the general sense "I collect; I gather; I learn"; the word is most used in the derived sense "I read"."

    - Wikipedia on Lego

  2. Josh,

    I had no idea you were writing this blog. Why the god damn hell didn't you tell anyone (or at least me)? That question probably strikes to the core of your blogging-life, of all blogger's blogging-lives: who exactly are you writing in front of?

    (And have you sent out any of your stories from your thesis?)