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By: Matthew Cheney,
Blog: The Mumpsimus
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from "Power" by Audre Lorde:
|Ferguson, Missouri. Nov. 24, 2014. (Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters)|
I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.
|(photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)|
Continuing my transcription of notes I took five years ago, I offer you quotes from the outstanding book On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta:
The faces of the dead or missing, so young and happy that all I can think of is, how can they be dead? Toothy grins, mostly those school photos that you keep hidden. - Page 60
After the narrator finds all of the songs that Hannah mentions in her manuscript, she downloads them, making her own soundtrack:
I wrap myself in the music, curled up in my bed, thinking of Hannah, eyes wide open, forcing myself to keep awake. Unlike Macbeth, who has sleep taken away from him, I can take sleep away from myself. - Page 135
My mother deserted me at the 7-Eleven, hundred of kilometres away from home.
Hannah, however, did the unforgivable.
She deserted me in our own backyard. - Page 135
"Hold my hand because I might disappear." - Narnie to Jude, Page 188
She looks as me intently. "She used to talk about you. She'd tell me that when I came to the school, I would have you and that she'd be the luckiest person in the world because she'd have both of us. I used to think she was your mum." - Page 242
How can you just forget a person completely until the moment you see his face again? Who else is back there lurking in my head? - Page 331
I'm holding one of only two people left in the world who share my blood: my father's sister, who one night sat in the same spot for four hours just to protect her brother from a sight that would have killed his spirit. - Page 397
So what is On the Jellicoe Road about? It's about a girl named Taylor was abandoned twice: once at a convenience store by her mother when she was 11 years old, and again by Hannah, her guardian and mentor six years later. It's about the manuscript Hannah left behind, filled with stories about teenagers from two decades ago. It's about the struggle of power between different groups of students at Taylor's boarding school. It's about alliances, and secrets, and personal histories, and hazy memories. It's about the past. It's about the future. It's about Taylor. It's about Hannah.
Read this book. Read it now.
Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Booklist: From a Land Down Under
Booklist: Coming-of-Age Novels aka Bildungsromans
Hope: Melina Marchetta
The novel Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman starts with a prank. Readers quickly learn that these characters aim to do things that will make people stop and think, to consider what's happening - no whoopee cushions or silly hacks, but rather, something that means something, that makes a statement.
The bet is to get someone into Harvard that wouldn't get in otherwise. Not a prank, Max clarifies, but a hack. Forget the kid stuff they've done before - this will be something huge, powerful, meaningful. Schwarz doesn't want to get expelled. Eric doesn't want to do something immoral. They find out that this is a bet Max made with the Bongo Bums. Named after Richard Feynman, a prankster and bongo player, they are two juniors from Boston Latin High School who make bets and do things for bragging rights, and want a rivalry with the other boys, who'd rather be left alone and do their own thing. Max pretends the bet is for $100 but the amount increases throughout the book.
"We're going to take the biggest loser we can find - the least ambitious, least intelligent, least motivated, most delinquent and drugged-up slacker we can get our hands on - and we're going to sucker this school into letting him in." At least, that's what is shared with the readers on page 46. Our players are not so forthcoming with the full details. Readers learn more about the terms and the payout as the book goes on.
It's not about sabotaging the other party's candidate but getting your own candidate IN. They get a tough guy named Clay who beat Eric up as a kid, when Eric tried to stand up for other kids and ended up as the punching bag.
Also along for the ride is Alexandra Talese. Wanting a name that is a little daring and edgy, she has decided to go by Lex in college. She takes the name out on trial run during her first in-depth conversation with Eric, after the SATs.
Lex wants to go to Harvard of her own choosing, not for the sake of "superficial, society-imprinted, consumerist non-entities," not legacy, but because she wants it, because she thinks it's the best school to attend, the result of her extensive college research:
"I had made my pro/con charts, carefully weighed all the options, and chosen a winner. There was a reason Harvard had a reputation for being the best, I'd decided, and the reputation was self-fulfilling, because it meant Harvard got the best -- the best students, the best professors, the best resources -- which I meant I wanted it to get me. I wanted to get lost in the country's biggest library; I wanted to learn Shakespeare from a grand master while staring up at a ceiling carved hundreds of years before. [...] I wanted to be in awe of the school, the teachers, the history, the legacy -- I wanted to be terrified I wouldn't measure up. I wanted to prove that I could." - Page 83
Lex reveals that she uses knowledge to her advantage - not just her book smarts, but the things she knows about certain people. She doesn't sabotage them in a physical or evil way, but she casually (or otherwise) lets people's secrets slip out so that she is picked over them: running for sixth grade president, talking the other girl out of joining the newspaper staff in ninth grade, then holding her position on the yearbook staff - this girl's theme song should be Use What I Got by Lucy Woodward!(1)
So why would an overachiever team up with the bums? Because although she had great grades, community service, leadership positions, and school staff positions, she felt like there was nothing outstanding about her, nothing that set her apart. No national awards or anything unique, outstanding, international, or amazing. She was not one-of-a-kind, she was not a special snowflake, she was merely one of many smart fishes in the sea: "Nothing set me apart. Nothing to make me special." - Page 213
Throughout the story, Eric is the voice of reason. He considers himself a realist, and he normally abides by the honor system, doing the right thing because it's right, so he really struggles with the bet. Eric is Jewish and says that instead of doing good deeds in life in order to earn a wonderful afterlife in an eternal paradise, "Judaism isn't about what happens next. It's about what happens here, in this life. You don't necessarily get rewarded for doing the right thing; you don't get punished for doing the wrong thing. You're supposed to be a good person just because that's the right thing to do. Doing the right thing -- that's the reward." - Page 170
Max Kim is a legacy, with his father and two older sisters all Harvard grads. Max likes to sell 80s items on eBay and thinks things should have a 500% profit. He's in this not just for his father or Harvard, but because of what they've been told: "It's about all the (nonsense) they've been feeding us since preschool: Do your homework, be good, fall in line, do what we say, and maybe, if you're lucky, you'll get the golden ticket. We're supposed to act like the only thing that matters is getting into college -- getting into this college - and so most of the people who do get in are the ones who buy into the (nonsense) so completely that they've never done anything for any other reason. It doesn't matter what they want, what they like, what they care about, who they are -- they don't even know anymore, because they're trying so (darn) hard to be the people Harvard wants them to be. In the end they're not even real people anymore. They're zombies." - Page 47 (Yes, I replaced the swear words for the sake of my younger readers. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.)
Let's not forget Schwarz: geeky fellow, camera peeping got him out of their high school and homeschooled for two years. Now 16 and a Harvard freshman, this 96-pound weakling prefers numbers and photographs to real-life people, as humans are inherently flawed and photographs trap beauty on the page. Schwarz is eloquent. He doesn't necessarily use huge words, but he always uses full sentences and sometimes sounds a little antiquated ("I was not doing anything of any importance") as he actively avoids swearing and contractions (he tends to say "it is" rather that "it's"). He is awed by beautiful college girl named Stephanie who whines to him about her dates and breakups. He would be right at home in an 80s movie - and Max would then sell the movie poster on eBay.
The book also closes like a classic teen movie, providing information on what happened to all of the major players after high school - what colleges they attended, what career paths they followed, et cetera. There's also a disclaimer from the author asking readers not to hack in because it would be wrong, illegal, and dumb, and it's clear that she has both compassion for rising seniors dealing with college applications and total respect for admissions officers.
Wasserman is great at creating characters who are fueled by their goals and intentions, be they good or bad, selfish or selfless. The following speech is particularly awesome:
"Imagine there was something you really wanted. Not something petty, like knee-high leather boots or a new boyfriend, but something major. Something so significant that it would change your life forever. And imagine that you wanted that thing the way a child wants, without perspective, a wholehearted longing that consumed your entire being with the certainty that life would not, could not continue without it. Imagine that, like a child, you had no control over getting your heart's desire. You couldn't do anything other than lie awake at night and wish, furiously, desperately, hopelessly -- because, not actually being a child, you would know that wishing was useless. You would know that there are no magic wishes, no fairy godmothers descending with a wink and a want. Still, useless or not, you would dutifully squeeze your eyes shut every night, curl your hands into fists, listen to your heart thus, and, like a child, let yourself believe that someone was listening when you whispered: I wish. Now imagine that your wish was granted." - Pages 205-206
The book is mostly told in third person with first person woven in at the start, making readers curious about the narrator's identity until it is revealed - and it totally works.
Enjoy the book - but don't get any ideas, okay?
(1) Use What I Got by Lucy Woodward is an amazing song I have been known to listen to/belt out in order to pump myself up before a big event. I had the opportunity to sing it at an audition once - and I booked the gig.
Related posts at Bildungsroman
Interview: Robin Wasserman
Playlist: Seven Deadly Sins by Robin Wasserman
In the novel Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman, a young woman named Savannah - named after the tornado that was passing through and being announced on the radio when her mother was in labor - struggles to find her strength. Troubled by her severe asthma, she is one point of her three-person family, alongside her younger brother Dog (Dogwood) and her single mother, who can't hold job due to Savannah's frequent hospitalizations and emergencies. Her father left when she was three - and the asthma started the day he left. Meanwhile, her mother won't tell her employers about her daughter's condition due to pride. (See the quotes below the review - I include part of her speech from pages 211-212.)
Savannah has a summer job at the public library, where she works alongside a librarian called Miss Patsy. Her main task is re-shelving books. She also runs storytime sometimes, and some days it's a headache, but some days the kids are attentive.
Then Savannah meets Jackson. She hopes it's something more than summer love, and it seems to be, as Jackson supports her through hospital stays and other worries. But when Jackson has to leave, Savannah must live for herself, to fight her fragile trappings and find strength.
Meanwhile, Savannah's English teacher, Mrs. Avery, put Savannah's name in for the Program for Promising High School Students, a semester-long college experience for tenth graders in Blue Ridge Mountains. Only 50 kids from both Carolinas can go. She filled out apps even though she knew they couldn't afford it. This, more that anything else, struck a chord in me because my family had to let opportunities go because we couldn't afford them. And goodness, how that hurt. If you've been there, you get it.
Now comes the part of the review where I inundate you with quotes from the book. Read them and weep.
It may sound dorky, but I love books - the feel of the paper, the old, musty smell, and especially the way the words roll over you and take you somewhere altogether different. They've been my escape long as I can remember. Whether I need a break from schoolwork or my brother or just life in general, there's always a book that can take me someplace far away. - Page 7
"And one of my feelings comes over me -- one of those itty bitty moments when time seems to freeze -- just for a breath. And I get the feeling that this moment fits, matches somehow, with something from the future. And I know this ain't the last I'm going to see of Jackson Channing." - Page 80
Mama to Savannah: "When you love somebody, you got to set 'em free. If they love you, they'll come back."
"Daddy didn't come back," I whisper.
"No, he didn't," she says real quiet. "And maybe that was for the best." - Page 125
Denny Caterpillar, DC - You'll get it when you read the book.
I go hide in my room and read through some printouts I made at the library about course choices for that program in the mountains. I know it's only dreaming. But I reckon if you go on and act like something is real, sometimes it just believes you. Next thing you know, there it is staring you in the face. - Page 173
Savannah's mother gives a great speech on pages 211-212 about not wanting handouts from others. The speech includes her not wanting to have to thank "those same folks whose faces, full of pity, I'd been forced to thank for their broken games all those years. [... I] promised myself we wouldn't never take a handout or let nobody drown us in their pity ever again, not so long as there's air in my lungs."
The book has some really nice chapter closures, such as:
Suddenly, I feel so happy, it seems like I got the opposite of asthma, like I got more air in my lungs than I know what to do with. - Page 222
"You hold my dream. I hold yours." - Jackson to Savannah, Page 244 - "You got to know that you can breathe all on your own."</i>
Spoilers - Highlight to read - [ Savannah ultimately realizes she has to find out if she can breathe on her own and be her own cure, not wait for somebody to come and rescue her like her mom waited for her dad for 12 long years.
Here are the final lines of the book.
Then up out of nowhere comes one of my too-true feelings. Even though everything is going all right, the sense I get is that what's on the way is even better. I imagine me and Jackson strolling down the beach together when I get home. Only the me in my mind has changed somehow -- in a way only I can discern. It's in the way I hold myself, in the tilt of my head, in the easy swell of my lungs, 'cause what's different is who I am inside. That new me there has a knowing this me here doesn't quite have a grasp on yet, a knowing that comes from scaling my own mountain, a knowing that comes from breathing -- all on my own. - Page 262 ] - Here endeth the spoilers.
If you're a Sarah Dessen fan, you should read Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman. Now.
I read A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly nearly five years ago, when it was a readergirlz book selection. Planning to write a review, I took notes, but the paper filled with quotes rather than commentary. When I happened upon those quotes today, I thought I'd share them here see which of my readers also read and enjoyed the book. Let me know in the comments below!
"It was a strange feeling -- worrisome and exciting all at once. Weanxilicious?" - Page 186
...to which I added, Hello, portmanteau!
"Emily Baxter's poems made my head hurt." - Page 208
Spoiler alert: Emily ends up being her teacher.
Weaver smiled a sad smile. "You know, Matt," he said. "Sometimes I wish there really was such a thing as a happy ending."
"Sometimes there is. Depends on who's writing the story."
"I mean in real life. Not in stories." - Page 366
Mattie considers Paradise Lost:
It was a dreadful thing that he did, and he is not to be admired for it, but right then I felt I understood why he did it. I even felt a little sorry for him. He probably just wanted some company, for it is very lonely knowing things. - Page 372
I know it is a bad thing to break a promise, but I think now that it is a worse thing to let a promise break you. - Page 374
When Weaver asks her why she's going now, she tells him, "Because Grace Brown can't." - Page 376
She considers turning back, but:
There's no going back once you're already gone. - Page 377
All page numbers refer to the hardcover edition.
One of my notes that was not a quote. I wrote, "Mattie has a dictionary that her mother bought - her mother saved up money to get it. Mattie looks up a word a day." I took note of this because when I was very little, my mother gave me my own small dictionary so I'd be able to look up words whenever I happened upon one I didn't know yet. Due to both its size and its importance, that dictionary was the top-most book on my stack of reference materials for years.
Related posts at Bildungsroman
Roundtable: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
By: Tiffany Luckey,
Blog: Guide to Literary Agents
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With Halloween just one week away, we’re getting into the spirit of the season with these 13 quotes on the writing life from famous authors of horror, thriller and suspense:
1. “So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious.”
—Stephen King, “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973, WD
2. “The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday. There are two reasons for this rule: Getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.”
3. “I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another.”
4. “When one is writing a novel in the first person, one must be that person.”
—Daphne du Maurier
5. “When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me, and try to put those feelings into books.”
6. “[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.”
7. “Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem.”
—Edgar Allan Poe
8. “I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.”
9. “Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and nonfiction. And even there, who can be sure?”
10. “I always wanted to be in the world of entertainment. I just love the idea of an audience being happy with what I am doing. Writing is showbusiness for shy people. That’s how I see it.”
11. “I don’t think there is enough respect in general for the time it takes to write consistently good fiction. Too many people think they will master writing overnight, or that they are as good as they will ever be.”
12. “What I love about the thriller form is that it makes you write a story. You can’t get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don’t want to ever get complacent. If a book starts going too well, I usually know there’s a problem. I need to struggle. I need that self-doubt. I need to think it’s not the best thing ever.”
—Harlan Coben, WD Interview, January 2011
13. “My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature.”
Want to write your own horror, thriller or suspense novel? Then learn from a master with The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic: Dracula.
Tiffany Luckey is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest. She also writes about TV and pop culture at AnotherTVBlog.com. Follow Tiffany on Twitter @TiffanyElle.
Writers are notorious procrastinators, and the trend is not limited to hobbyists or young, aspiring authors. We talk a lot about procrastination indirectly—setting personal deadlines, how to schedule writing time around life and family, how to write a draft—and fast!, how to write an outline for anything.
We also discuss wasting time rather frankly in our forum, and occasionally offer assistance to writers who don’t want to work, necessarily, but in a productive way. Sometimes we give direct examples of how to not procrastinate.
Famous time-wasters tend to fall into two camps: There’s the hedonistic band of enthusiastic lollygaggers, and there’s the anti-dillydallying brigade of outputters. The logic follows that non-famous writers follow the same pattern. For both sides, here are some thoughts and advice from the greats on the art and craft of wasting time—or not.
Mark Twain: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
Marthe Troly-Curtain: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Rita Mae Brown: “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”
Herodotus: “Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal, while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.”
Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”
Ellen Degeneres: “Procrastination isn’t the problem. It’s the solution. It’s the universe’s way of saying stop, slow down, you move too fast.”
Dorothy Parker: “Live, drink, be merry, love the reeling midnight through, For tomorrow ye may die, but alas we never do.”
Jerome K. Jerome: “Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.”
Susan Orlean: I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done.”
Auguste Rodin: “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”
The Writer’s Digest Retreat on the Water is your chance to escape the demands of everyday life and immerse yourself in your craft for a few purposeful and peaceful days. Enrollment at this Retreat is limited—you’ll enjoy the close mentorship of the instructors and the attention to your individual manuscript that only an event this small and exclusive can provide.
Pablo Picasso: “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
Benjamin Franklin: “You may delay, but time will not.”
Charles Dickens: “Procrastination is the thief of time; collar him.”
Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
George Bernard Shaw: “If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve done it.”
Oscar Wilde: “Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old.”
Victor Hugo: “Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.”
J.R.R. Tolkien: “It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.: “How soon ‘not now’ become ‘never.’”
Henry Ford: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”
Which camp do you fall into? For myself, I’ll only say that this post was supposed to run yesterday.
Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.
Poet, playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde was born October 16, 1854 in Dublin. While his most famous works, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, live on, Wilde is most frequently remembered for his wit. Here are 15 of his best quotes for writers, readers and artists in honor of his 160th birthday.
1. All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
2. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
3. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.
4. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.
5. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.
6. An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
7. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
8. I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.
9. A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
10. Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless.
11. In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.
12. I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
13. With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
14. The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.
15. A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.
If yours isn’t listed, share your favorite Wilde bon mot in the comments!
Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.
I love you,’ Buttercup said. ‘I know this must come as something of a surprise to you, since all I’ve ever done is scorn you and degrade you and taunt you, but I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn’t matter.’ Buttercup still could not look at him. The sun was rising behind her now; she could feel the heat on her back, and it gave her courage. ‘I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now then when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison. There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you; anything there is that I cannot do, I will learn to do. I know I cannot compete with the Countess in skills or wisdom or appeal, and I saw the way she looked at you. And I saw the way you looked at her. But remember, please, that she is old and has other interests, while I am seventeen and for me there is only you. Dearest Westley–I’ve never called you that before, have I?–Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley,–darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love.’ And with that, she dared the bravest thing she’d ever done; she looked right into his eyes.
-William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Writers are always anxious, always on the run — from the telephone, from responsibilities, from the distractions of the world.
Whatever You Are, Be a Good One: 100 Inspirational Quotations Hand-Lettered by Lisa Congdon
Chronicle Books, 2014
Why am I just learning about this artist? Why have I not been following a blog entitled, "Today is going to be awesome
I love this little book because I love quotes and I love calligraphy and I love giving myself crazy challenges (like writing a poem a day, or taking 30 pictures every month and then making a mosaic).
That's pretty much how this book was born (minus the poetry and photos). Lisa Congdon noticed that she gravitated toward art that included lettering, decided she wanted to get better at calligraphy, and then started a project where she published something hand lettered on her blog every day for a year in 2012: 365 Days of Hand Lettering
. I could get lost in her archives. It's pretty amazing that she started by just doing single letters that look clunky and forced, but within a month, her own unique style began to emerge. And then she started doing quotes. They are beautiful...unique...a perfect marriage of text and art.
Last year, instead of posting any class rules, I challenged each student to choose their very own "Words to Live By." Instead of one set of generic rules for 20+ individual students, we had 20+ individual rules to represent the fact that each person is the boss of his/her own self.
This year I want to help my students think about the graphic design of their Words to Live By posters that will hang around the classroom all year long. This will be our mentor text.
By: Vicky L. Lorencen,
Photo by Vicky Lorencen
If you’ve ever visited Frog on a Dime
, you know I’m a sucker for a crackerjack quote. (I include one with every post to make sure my blog is inspiration-fortified.)
Now through Friday, August 15, visit Frog on a Dime and leave your favorite quote as a comment. You’ll automatically be entered into a drawing for a keen package of fun, schlock-free writing supplies, hand-picked to inspire you. Trust me. You’ll like it–I’ll have a hard time parting with it.
Now, hop to it!
Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird/That cannot fly. ~ Langston Hughes
I've never seen the life of the writer Raymond Roussel
condensed so marvelously as in David Macey's The Lives of Michel Foucault
(Foucault wrote a book on Roussel
), where it becomes a kind of perfect literary life: a life of weirdness, alienation, mental illness, addiction, and suffering, all capped with a mysterious death:
Enormously rich, [Roussel] travelled the world but rarely left his hotel room or his cabin. He financed the publication of his own writings and the staging of his own plays, which were invariably expensive failures accompanied by riots among the audience. His writings excited little interest in his lifetime, though some of the surrealists — notably Breton in his Anthologie de l'humour noir — appreciated them. For much of his life Roussel suffered from serious neurotic illnesses provoked (or at least triggered), it is thought, by the spectacular failure of La Doublure (1897), a long verse-novel, written in alexandrines, about a stand-in actor. He was treated by Pierre Janet, who failed to see any literary talent in him and described him as un pauvre petit malade; Roussel is the "Martial" whose case is discussed in the first volume of De l'Angoisse à l'extase (1926). Roussel was a homosexual, though little is known about his sexual tastes and activities, and became totally dependent on barbituates in his later years. He died in Palermo, where his body was found in his hotel room, lying on a mattress which he had — presumably with great difficulty, given his physical state — pushed up against the door connecting his room to that of his travelling companion. The door, habitually left unlocked, was locked. Whether Roussel was murdered or committed suicide has never been determined. (125)
You have succeeded as a writer if someone can describe your work as "invariably expensive failures accompanied by riots among the audience".
Alfred Hitchcock in conversation with Francois Truffaut:
To insist that a storyteller stick to the facts is just as ridiculous as to demand of a representative painter that he show objects accurately. What's the ultimate in representative painting? Color photography. Don't you agree? There's quite a difference, you see, between the creation of a film and the making of a documentary. In the documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is the god; he must create life. And in the process of that creation, there are lots of feelings, forms of expression, and viewpoints that have to be juxtaposed. We should have total freedom to do as we like, just so long as it's not dull. A critic who talks to me about plausibility is a dull fellow.
Two passages from Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot by Anna Beer
, concerning the early 1640s:
As with the Internet in this century, people expressed real fears about the sheer number of new works appearing. Others condemned the whole notion of publication, particularly for money. Publication was imagined as "epidemical contagion", and "Pamphlet-mongers" were castigated for writing for "a little mercenary gain, and profit", as "poetical Needy-brains, who for a sordid gain or desire to have the style of a witty railer, will thus empoison your pen". The proliferation of new pamphlets was also resented by more (allegedly) serious writers, who complained that "such a book as that of thirty or forty sheets of paper is not likely to sell in this age were the matter never so good, but if it had been a lying and scandalous pamphlet of a sheet of paper ... to hold up Anarchy" then the printers would print it, knowing it would sell, be "vendable ware". (128-129)
Print proliferated because almost every opinion generated a response, which in turn necessitated a counter-response from the maligned author. When the Smectymnuans, for example, attacked Bishop Hall, he replied, condemning their views, to which their response was a 219-page answer. The speed of these exchanges was often remarkable. Milton's own first pamphlet on Church reform received a reply within days of its publication. Vicious abuse of one's opponents characterised much of the debate. When in May 1642, around the time of his marital expedition to Oxfordshire, Milton wrote An Apology against a Pamphlet (in itself a response), he claimed to be furious at the way he had been personally attacked. Immersed as he was in this world of cheap print, he cannot have been genuinely surprised. Colourful, personal, and at times obscene invective was the order of the day, the religious and political pamphlets picking up the techniques of the earlier forms of popular writing, whether ballads or jestbooks, almanacs, or tales. (139-140)
Are you a writer who will work on songs on a daily basis, regardless of whether you’re feeling inspired?
Yes. I still think you have to wait for the inspiration, but unless you’re there, waiting at the bus stop, you ain’t gonna get on the bus. If you’re doing other things all day, a song ain’t gonna get on the bus.
[So get on up there to the bus stop, y'all.]
The late David Markson
did not have a computer. In March 2004, Laura Sims told him that there were things written about him on blogs. He replied:
NO, I've no idea what a Blog is. BLOG?
Sims sent him print-outs:
Hey, thank you for all that blog stuff but forgive me if after a nine-minute glance I have torn it all up. I bless your furry little heart, but please don't send any more. In spite of the lost conveniences, I am all the more glad I don't have a computer.
HOW CAN PEOPLE LIVE IN THAT FIRST-DRAFT WORLD?
They make a statement about my background, there's an error in it. They quote from a book, and they leave out a key line. They repudiate a statement of fact I've made, without checking, ergo announcing I'm a fake when the statement is 100% correct. Etc., etc., etc. Gawd.
I have just taken the sheets out of the trash basket & torn them into even smaller pieces.
From the wonderful little book Fare Forward: Letters from David Markson
, edited by Laura Sims.
|Guy Davenport, illustration from Apples & Pears|
I've just begun reading Andre Furlani's Guy Davenport: Postmodern and After
, a magnificent book (so far), and went to track down one of the items cited there, a 2002 interview by B. Renner for the website Elimae
. Alas, the site seems to have died, but god bless the Wayback Machine: here it is, cached.
The interview is not as meaty as some others, for instance Davenport's Paris Review interview
, but it's always interesting, and I was particularly struck by this:
DAVENPORT: At Duke I took Prof Blackburn's Creative Writing course (Bill Styron and Mac Hyman were in the class) and got the wrong impression that writing is an effusion of genius and talent. Also, that writing fiction is Expression of significant and deep inner emotion. It took me years to shake off all this. Writing is making a construct, and what's in the story is what's important. And style: in what words and phrases the story is told. (William Blackburn, the full name. His guiding us all toward autobiographical, confessional, "emotional" writing is -- in reaction -- why I write about concrete objectivities that are fairly remote from my own experiences. I like to imagine how other people feel in a world different from my own.)
ELIMAE: Almost none of your stories take place in the U.S. or involve American characters. Is there a particular reason for this? Are Americans and the U.S. less noteworthy than other peoples and places, especially Europeans and Europe, or is it as simple as a matter of going to subject matter that hasn't already been done to death by other American writers?
DAVENPORT: A clever critic might note that they are all set in the USA. "Tatlin!" is a fable about totalitarian governments strangling creativity, not always blatantly and openly. At the time I was lecturing on Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil, the classic study in our time of Government and The Poet. Vladimir Tatlin's genius suffocated by Stalin seemed to me to be paradigmatic and timely. I learned from Kafka's Amerika that you don't have to have a realistic knowledge of a place, and from Nabokov that "realism" is simply a fashionable mode.
We are still immigrants. Culture imports and exports. There was a great anxiety that European culture would be obliterated twice in the 20th century. I became interested in "Europe" through Whistler's etchings.
And then there's a Davenport desert island list!
ELIMAE: Here's my version of the "desert island" question: if you could select any six books (besides your own) originally written in your lifetime, and be the author of those books, which six would they be?
DAVENPORT: Your 6 books question is diabolical! I couldn't have written any of 'em.
Eudora Welty, The Golden Apples
P. Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower
Michel Tournier, Les Meteores
Isak Dinesen, Anecdotes of Destiny
Mann, Doktor Faustus
Finally, I also found an interesting mention of Davenport in this interview with John Jeremiah Sullivan
, whose whole response about the connection of writing and reading is great, but here's the Davenport part:
That said, how do you get to be a better reader? I asked Guy Davenport this question one time, because talking to him could really make a person despair; he just knew so much, he’d read so much in many languages, but not in a pedantic or scholastic way, in a really passionate way. He gave me what I thought was very solid advice, which was: first of all, start reading and don’t stop. The other thing is to follow your interest. He said there ought to be a phrase, “falling into interest,” to go with falling in love.
Follow your interest; follow the writers who energize you, not the ones who exert a sense of obligation on you. The books that do the one or the other will change, as time gone on. The landscape shifts. Don’t adhere to systems unless that feels good.
Some photos from the filming of How to Steal a Dog in South Korea:
Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
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Corey Robin, from The Reactionary Mind:
One of the reasons the subordinate’s exercise of agency so agitates the conservative imagination is that it takes place in an intimate setting. Every great political blast—the storming of the Bastille, the taking of the Winter Palace, the March on Washington—is set off by a private fuse: the contest for rights and standing in the family, the factory, and the field. Politicians and parties talk of constitution and amendment, natural rights and inherited privileges. But the real subject of their deliberations is the private life of power. “Here is the secret of the opposition to woman’s equality in the state,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote. “Men are not ready to recognize it in the home.” Behind the riot in the street or debate in Parliament is the maid talking back to her mistress, the worker disobeying her boss. That is why our political arguments—not only about the family but also the welfare state, civil rights, and much else—can be so explosive: they touch upon the most personal relations of power.