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PostPosted: 02 Jun 2013, 16:57 
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Quote:
Continuity of the Parks, by Julio Cortázar

He had begun to read the novel a few days before. He had put it aside because of some urgent business conferences, opened it again on his way back to the estate by train; he permitted himself a slowly growing interest in the plot, in the characterizations. That afternoon, after writing a letter giving his power of attorney and discussing a matter of joint ownership with the manager of his estate, he returned to the book in the tranquility of his study which looked out upon the park with its oaks. Sprawled in his favorite armchair, its back toward the door--even the possibility of an intrusion would have irritated him, had he thought of it--he let his left hand caress repeatedly the green velvet upholstery and set to reading the final chapters. He remembered effortlessly the names and his mental image of the characters; the novel spread its glamour over him almost at once. He tasted the almost perverse pleasure of disengaging himself line by line from the things around him, and at the same time feeling his head rest comfortably on the green velvet of the chair with its high back, sensing that the cigarettes rested within reach of his hand, that beyond the great windows the air of afternoon danced under the oak trees in the park. Word by word, licked up the sordid dilemma of the hero and heroine, letting himself be absorbed to the point where the images settled down and took on color and movement, he was witness to the final encounter in the mountain cabin. The woman arrived first, apprehensive; now the lover came in, his face cut by the backlash of a branch. Admirably, she stanched the blood with her kisses, but he rebuffed her caresses, he had not come to perform again the ceremonies of a secret passion, protected by a world of dry leaves and furtive paths through the forest. The dagger warmed itself against his chest, and underneath liberty pounded, hidden close. A lustful, panting dialogue raced down the pages like a rivulet of snakes, and one felt it had all been decided from eternity. Even to those caresses which writhed about the lover's body, as though wishing to keep him there, to dissuade him from it; they sketched abominably the fame of that other body it was necessary to destroy. Nothing had been forgotten: alibis, unforeseen hazards, possible mistakes. From this hour on, each instant had its use minutely assigned. The cold-blooded, twice-gone-over reexamination of the details was barely broken off so that a hand could caress a cheek. It was beginning to get dark.

Not looking at each other now, rigidly fixed upon the task which awaited them, they separated at the cabin door. She was to follow the trail that led north. On the path leading in the opposite direction, he turned for a moment to watch her running, her hair loosened and flying. He ran in turn, crouching among the trees and hedges until, in the yellowish fog of dusk, he could distinguish the avenue of trees which led up to the house. The dogs were not supposed to bark, and they did not bark. The estate manager would not be there at this hour, and he was not there. He went up the three porch steps and entered. The woman's words reached him over a thudding of blood in his ears: first a blue chamber, then a hall, then a carpeted stairway. At the top, two doors. No one in the first room, no one in the second. The door of the salon, and then, the knife in his hand, the light from the great windows, the high back of an armchair covered in green velvet, the head of the man in the chair reading a novel.


(source: http://www.utdallas.edu/~aargyros/continuity_of_the_parks.htm)

*to be continued and commented on* (discussion welcome :))


Last edited by rilu on 04 Jun 2013, 09:44, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 03 Jun 2013, 22:21 
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I moved last Thursday in a haze overlaid by weariness, at five in the afternoon. I’ve closed so many suitcases in my life, I’ve passed so many hours preparing luggage that never manages to get moved anyplace, that Thursday was a day full of shadows and straps, because when I look at valise straps it’s as though I were seeing shadows, as though they were parts of a whip that flogs me in some indirect way, very subtly and horribly. But I packed the bags, let your maid know I was coming to move in. I was going up in the elevator and just between the first and second floors I felt that I was going to vomit up a little rabbit. I have never described this to you before, not so much, I don’t think, from lack of truthfulness as that, just naturally, one is not going to explain to people at large that from time to time one vomits up a small rabbit. Always I have managed to be alone when it happens, guarding the fact much as we guard so many of our privy acts, evidences of our physical selves which happen to us in total privacy. Don’t reproach me for it, Andrea, don’t blame me. Once in a while it happens that I vomit up a bunny. It’s no reason not to live in whatever house, it’s not reason for one to blush and isolate oneself and to walk around keeping one’s mouth shut.

Letter to a young lady in paris - Julio Cortazar - http://akissonthephiltrum.wordpress.com ... -cortazar/

I'd been working in the emergency room for about three weeks, I guess. This was in 1973, before the summer ended. With nothing to do on the overnight shift but batch the insurance reports from the daytime shifts, I just started wandering around, over to the coronary-care unit, down to the cafeteria, et cetera, looking for Georgie, the orderly, a pretty good friend of mine. He often stole pills from the cabinets.
He was running over the tiled floor of the operating room with mop. "Are you still doing that?" I said.
"Jesus, there's a lot of blood here," he complained.
"Where?" The floor looked clean enough to me.
"What the hell were they doing in here?" he asked me.
"They were performing surgery, Georgie," I told him.
"There's so much goop inside of us, man," he said, "and it all wants to get out." He leaned his mop against a cabinet.
"What are you crying for?" I didn't understand.
He stood still, raised both arms slowly behind his head, and tightented his pony tail. Then he grabbed the mop and started making broad random arcs with it, trembling and weeping and moving all around the place really fast, "What and I crying for?" he said.
"Jesus. Wow, oh boy, perfect."

Emergency - Denis Johnson

https://www.texarkanacollege.edu/PDFFil ... ohnson.pdf

http://www.newyorker.com/online/2009/05 ... udio_wolff

Lots of links little discussion, just wanted to keep this alive and indicate that I am interested in it. Will return with some other more considered selections, and something to say about Cortazar (Hopscotch is so far removed from some of his rather more basic short works).

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Last edited by Rayuela on 04 Jun 2013, 10:50, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 10:19 
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Thanks for posting these, Rayuela! :)

The Esher-like story "The continuity of parks" posted above develops, on the one hand, this motive of fiction blending with reality, and on the other hand, fiction ruling over reality due to one's "perverse pleasure of disengaging himself line by line from the things around him". I found an interesting Dewian reading of this Cortazar's story (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~scolas/Teaching/Reading%20and%20Class%20Notes/jccontinuity.htm)

Quote:
Dewey teaches me that the view separating art from reality is another version of the view separating work from play and that this is another version of the view separating our "self" from the world around us. He also spells out why all these putative separations are deadly. For Dewey grounds his theory of art in his understanding of the essential processes of life. Today, long after Dewey wrote, scientists have begun to describe "living systems" in terms very close to his. [...] Or, in slightly different terms, "the living system is both open and closed - it is structurally open, but organizationally closed. Matter continually flows through it, but the system maintains a stable form, and it does so autonomously through self-organization." Reading as the businessman wishes to do it works like a completely closed system. He shuts reading off from the environment of other living activities that ought to feed it and feed off it and in so doing sets reading against the basic forces of life. Is it an accident that this should have fatal consequences? "Continuity of parks": this title could point also in the direction of the continuity of the life process. It could caution us against believing in the stability of the compartments we have set up.
[...]
But Dewey shows me that whenever I read to inhabit a world in which I can feel safe from the claims and altering influences of others and the world around me then also I assume the deadly stance of the businessman.
[...]
Julio's work - I emphasize the word - arms me against the initially painful (but ultimately insidiously numbing) process whereby I can lose touch with the joy of living. [...] In this way, Julio gently opens my white knuckles to release the vanishing lump of tightly bounded self to which I fearfully cling. In this way, Julio shows me the pen I didn't realize I had in my hand so that I can plot my own stories, compose my own piece of life.


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 10:41 
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Rayuela - the Denis Johnson stories collected in Jesus' Son are among the best I've ever read - excellent choice!

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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 12:57 
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ah rilu, that was really good. cortozar has that sort of involute quality so admired in borges, i've never read much of him and will have to pick something up. good stuff.

dewey's analysis affirmed my initial reactions, now to go one further...

The woman arrived first, apprehensive; now the lover came in, his face cut by the backlash of a branch. Admirably, she stanched the blood with her kisses, but he rebuffed her caresses, he had not come to perform again the ceremonies of a secret passion, protected by a world of dry leaves and furtive paths through the forest. The dagger warmed itself against his chest, and underneath liberty pounded, hidden close. A lustful, panting dialogue raced down the pages like a rivulet of snakes, and one felt it had all been decided from eternity. Even to those caresses which writhed about the lover's body, as though wishing to keep him there, to dissuade him from it; they sketched abominably the fame of that other body it was necessary to destroy.

so there's all kinds of symbology here, all of it pointing to an eden-like state of naivety with a response conditioned by the tree of knowledge: the woman, betrayal, snakes and eternity, the stereotypical placement of business in a study and freedom in the woods. the woman and the garden are life unbounded, the lover could be freedom or knowledge or unrestraint. however, the businessman, the lover and the woman are not separate entities or agents any more than the man exists separately from the story he's reading; killing the businessman will end the story, but erase both it and him from mutual restraint (this same man even "discuss[es] a matter of joint ownership with the manager of his estate" at the beginning). all of this points to a paradisaical resolution, the murder is not like murder but like the biting of an apple which is as dangerous as it is liberating.

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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 13:25 
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^ ahh, what a nice input, MJRH! I love how you've noticed these details!
I think this line adds to your reading: "He tasted the almost perverse pleasure of disengaging himself line by line from the things around him..." - this indicates that the threat, the "temptation" comes from removing oneself from the world, from escapism. At the same time, it is exactly this escapism that leads the businessman into the deepest entanglement with The Other(s). In other words, the withdrawal from the world leads paradoxically to his ultimate surrendering to the will of the other.
At the same time, from the perspective of the lovers, they are to set themselves free from the businessman, but their freedom is only ephemeral, or better said: only an illusion, because they are just part of a story that has been predetermined. They too seem to seek this "perverse pleasure of disengaging" themselves from the things (in this case the businessman) that surround them, they seek for their own escapism, but again only to surrender to the will of the other (in this case, the author of the novel).

The story is then a critique on escapism as an illusion of the possibility of removing oneself from the world. The only way to do that, Cortazar tells us, is by ending the story in a complete entanglement with The Other.


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 13:44 
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P.S.
I'd love to hear Mail-Moth's thoughts on this topic :)


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 13:50 
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oh good stuff. and he disengages himself line by line, because the only way to disengage oneself in any way from reality is in one's reading (or writing) of it. which makes me wonder what the story would look like if the man was not the reader but the writer, and wrote his own death. escher, indeed.

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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 13:55 
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^ yes, i thought the same! when i first read this story, i somehow automatically assumed (misread) that the businessman was the writer. but then i realized that this would go against the level of determination that's present in the story. it would make things easier, because he would be disengaging himself by his own conscious will, thus engaging himself fully. no, he has surrendered to the withdrawal, and thus to the other: to the story, and to the author.

p.s.
it would be great if this thread would evolve in this way, so that we can really discuss interpretations of stories one by one :)


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 14:36 
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rilu wrote:
P.S.
I'd love to hear Mail-Moth's thoughts on this topic :)


I need some time to elaborate. But I clearly can't agree with your conclusion because it somewhat presents Cortazar as a moralist, when I'm pretty sure that, as a true fantastic writer, he simply likes to blur the lines. Of course you could detect many allusions to sins or guiltiness in lots of his works, but they may as well be there as nothing more than a narrative pattern, devoid of any value or interest outside the story.

I'm afraid I don't read that way, to be frank : what interests me the most in that short story is this : Not looking at each other now, rigidly fixed upon the task which awaited them, they separated at the cabin door. She was to follow the trail that led north. On the path leading in the opposite direction, he turned for a moment to watch her running, her hair loosened and flying. It would be easy to propose a symbolic reading of those few sentences, but I honestly don't care. I simply like the way that woman makes her way off the page.


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 14:52 
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:) I knew something interesting would come from you!
But why do you think this reading above is a moralist one? A critique on escapism may simply be an analysis of what that means, and in so far, an attempt at showing how lines - conceptually - blur here. The "sins" don't have to have an ethical meaning attached to them either.


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 15:57 
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I understand, but I don't share that view of an artist meaning something about anything. Did Cortazar necessarily write this story to make a point, or to explain something ? Of course we are allowed to take this story as the illustration of such and such concept. As I could take Fragonard's Young woman reading as an illustration of fantasy overflowing behind the apparent stilness, and thus as the demonstration that one can't paint anything but motions.

But is it what Fragonard wanted to tell us ? I can't say. Nor can I say that Cortazar wants to demonstrate something through his short story. Ventriloquism or pareidolia are clearly parts of the critical game, but to me they only are bearable as long as they're conscious. Only this way are we able to take everyting without touching anything in the stranger's house.

As for the rest, I can agree with most of what both of you wrote. Voluntary disengagement reversed into absolute helplessness, passion returned to its original sense (since it drives the adultery couple into action)... A mirror showing the back of the beholder, too. Not to be forgotten. Which is what happens when you're following the trail of the character that finally appears behind you to stab you in the back - and you can't see him - but you do - and you are him, as well as you're the man patiently expecting for the unexpected.

I could perfectly read that as a tale about masturbation and suicide, in fact :)


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 16:16 
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I have to protest! I've never said any of this was Cortazar's intention! Who cares about the author's intention! :D I completely side with a view that the author is just the first interpreter of his/her own work, but that doesn't in any way qualify him/her to be the best or the most competent one. So let's put that whole idea on the side.
I'm more intrigued about possible ideas underlying the story, the symbolic network which gives us a coherent whole (or rather, which we are able to see in the story). That's the primary way short stories, same as poems, make sense to me. They are incredibly condensed and we can do justice to them only by dissecting them and inspecting them to the fullest.

Masturbation or a suicide, now that's interesting... but then we let the other slip away... well, especially in the case of masturbation, i mean, suicide could still be understood, for example, as a result of the pressure from the other. Masturbation, not so much I think.


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 16:50 
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Are you implying that the others don't take any part in masturbation ? They sure do, as mental images. And they are completely subdued to one's fantasy, and at the same time given some appearance of independant life - like a child playing with a puppet and at the same time trying to forget that his hand is pulling the strings.

When you're reading, are you really letting others slip away, or are you merely expecting to meet the others that you elected, but that you are willing to ignore at the very same time, because it's part of your pleasure not to decypher them completely ? Are you the master of the game, or are you manipulated ? Same question goes for masturbation, or voluntary death, I suppose.

But no, just reading. Simply the status of the reader. I'd keep to that. Sounds solid.

P.S. : we can do justice to them only by dissecting them and inspecting them to the fullest. This is an option, of course. But I believe you can do justice to a poem with half a verse you truly love, or with the blurred memory of a metaphor.

For exemple, I once read a poem containing this verse : Je ne veux pas aller dans le lieu sans lumière (approximatively translating into : "I don't want to go into the lightless place"). I don't remember anything of the rest, I don't even remember who wrote that. For some reason only that part remained. It is a pretty bland verse, frankly. Maybe it sticked because it is merely the bland assertion of an universal fear by, well, just some random voice. It must be enough for me, since it's still here. I'm not interested with the whole thing anymore.


Last edited by Mail-Moth on 04 Jun 2013, 17:32, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 16:59 
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These are great points, M-M! Yes, you're so right, the other is there in masturbation too, and the reading as well. For the same reason that an image of a lonesome genius working in a house isolated in the midst of a forest is one of the biggest bullshit cliches out there, so is the idea that reading or masturbating are self-sufficient also. So, I agree :)


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 17:31 
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I don't know. How wouldn't it be self-sufficient, since it also constitutes an experience of alterity ?

(French people : they will never agree.)


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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 04 Jun 2013, 17:38 
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:D


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PostPosted: 06 Jun 2013, 01:20 
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"Good morning, Hashimoto, good morning," Fukushima said to his friend.

"Ah, Fukushima, what do you want?" Hashimoto said.

Fukushima rubbed his hands and stomped his feet. "It is cold. The sun is not warm enough."

Hashimoto laughed. "You are usually asleep at this time," he said. "What do you want at this early hour?"

"I came to see you and the pine trees," Fukushima said. "Do you not walk among your trees every morning?"

"Yes, you know that," said Hashimoto.

"Did you already take a walk this morning? I want to walk with you among your pine trees," said Fukushima.

"No, not yet," Hashimoto said, looking curiously. "I am going to my garden now. Come on, friend."

The two walked to the rear of the house. The sun climbed higher and the garden became warm. They walked among the pine trees. They crossed many times the little stream running alongside the path. The sparrows chattered noisily overhead. The two circled the garden several times. Then they went up and down many times, crisscrossed, and finally sat down to rest on an old stone bench.

"Hashimoto, I am your old-time friend," Fukushima said. "What do you see in the trees?"

Hashimoto looked sharply at his friend. "Why, I see the trees," he said a moment later.

"No, I do not mean it that way," Fukushima said. "That is a common expression. I want you to tell me how you really see these pine trees."

Hashimoto laughed.

"Please. I am am your friend," Fukushima said. "Please tell me your secret of happiness."

"Fukushima, there is really nothing in it. I simply see the trees. That is all."

"No, that is not all. Why, anyone could see the trees," Fukushima said.

"They could and should," Hashimoto agreed.

"I came here early to see the trees. I have walked with you among the trees, and still I don't see anything in the trees. Why is that?" asked Fukushima.

The two friends looked silently at each other.

"Did you not say you were cold a few minutes ago?" Hashimoto said.

"Yes, I was cold," Fukushima admitted.

"Look at yourself now," Hashimoto said. "You are warm and perspiring. You are very warm."

"What of it? That is a fact," said Fukushima. "What are you talking about?"

"The difference between warmth and cold is movement," said Hashimoto. "And movement makes warmth and cold."

"Hashimoto, I do not want to hear about warmth and cold," pleaded Fukushima. "I want to share your happiness. I want you to explain the trees you see."

"I cannot explain the trees, Fukushima," Hashimoto said. "But listen, friend. The warmth and cold I talk about is in the trees."

Fukushima shook his head. "You are not my friend. You do not want to tell me your secret."

Hashimoto shook his head. "You are my friend, and the secret you mention is the most exposed of all."

Fukushima looked coldly at Hashimoto. "If you do not tell me your secret we shall be friends no more. You know what happened to me. A year ago I was fairly rich. I owned stocks and properties. And then fate overtook me and I lost all. I am a defeated man but I want to fight on, and I came to you."

Hashimoto nodded. "Let us try again. You were cold when you came here, but when you walked about the garden you became warm and experienced warmth. Do you see, Fukushima? You would not have known warmth if you did not walk?"

"But the trees—people tell me you have your trees, and that is why you are happy," Fukushima said.

Hashimoto shook his head sadly. His eyes roamed about the garden.

"Why are you so happy?" asked Fukushima.

"I am not always happy," cried Hashimoto. "I am cold and warm too."

"Our age is unkind to men," Fukushima said bitterly. "And you do not help a friend."

"I have tried my best," Hashimoto said.

"Some day you will see me join our friend Makino. I will join him at the crazy hospital in Stockton. He reads many books like you but he went crazy," Fukushima said.

The two looked at each other silently.

"Hashimoto, when I leave here today I shall never see you again. Please, tell me," begged Fukushima.

Hashimoto looked up eagerly. "All right, listen. You were cold when you came here, but when you walked about..."

"I do not want to hear any more!" cried Fukushima, leaping furiously to his feet. "If you cannot tell me about the trees do not talk!"

"Fukushima," cried Hashimoto. "Fukushima!"

He stood by the old stone bench and watched his friend go out the gate and into the highway.

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PostPosted: 06 Jun 2013, 01:21 
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the question "what do you see in the trees?" parallels what you see in a short story or in clothing.

it's said that many do not see the trees for the forest, but even more do not see the trees for the trees.

rayuela, can you explain what you see in 'emergency'? i'm not seeing the trees.

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 Post subject: Re: Short Stories
PostPosted: 06 Jun 2013, 10:45 
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this was a great post, MJRH :D who is the story by? it links with a discussion i've had with a friend about the ways different people perceive the world, and communication breakdowns that happen in conversations due to the lack of shared meaning that participants in a conversation ascribe to the words they are using. and sometimes, it's like with Gestalt Switches: where one sees a rabbit, another sees a duck; or someone third sees both, but no matter how much she tries to explain this to the former two, they just don't see it.
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