"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sound of Silence

Nah, it's Art Garfunkel, reading.

Hm, wonder what Dylan has been reading.

This came in as a comment from mirrorball, but it's too good not to list: http://ralphriver.blogspot.com/2006/09/more-dylan-thefts.html

Course to me, those "thefts" are more in the realm of homage to earlier masters. See what you think.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Zen and the Art of...

Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.

'I could not sleep and I could not stay awake,' he recalls. 'I just sat there cross-legged in the room for three days. All sorts of volitions started to go away. My wife started getting upset at me sitting there, got a little insulting. Pain disappeared, cigarettes burned down in my fingers ...'

It was like a monastic experience?

'Yes, but then a kind of chaos set in. Suddenly I realised that the person who had come this far was about to expire. I was terrified, and curious as to what was coming. I felt so sorry for this guy I was leaving behind. It was a separation. This is described in the psychiatric canon as catatonic schizophrenia. It is cited in the Zen Buddhist canon as hard enlightenment. I have never insisted on either - in fact I switch back and forth depending on who I am talking to.'

Catatonic schizophrenia gets my vote. I think it's important not to confuse enlightenment with insanity, just as it's important not to confuse artistic talent with insanity. Good book, though.

Here is John Daido Loori, Zen master and photographer, on simplicity:

To be simple means to make a choice about what's important, and to let go of all the rest. When we are able to do this, our vision expands, our heads clear, and we can better see the details of our lives in all their incredible wonder and beauty.

Simplicity does not come easily to us in the West. In general, we don't like to give anything up. We tend to accumulate things, thinking that if something is good, we should have more of it. We go through life hoarding objects, people, credentials, ignoring the fact that the more things we have to take care of, the more burdensome our lives become. Our challenge is to find ways to simplify our lives.

From Zen of Creativity: Cultivating your Artistic Life.

It doesn't require a schizophrenic break.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Happy Anniversary Roe v. Wade

I confess I read this headline as, "How Much Time Should Women Spend in Paris for Having an Abortion." I wasn't wearing my reading glasses.

Link from Jezebel.com.

Erica Jong also has something to say.

I am glad abortion has been legal in the US for my entire reproductive life. I hope it remains so.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

To write about ferrets, this from Newsweek.

Nature writer Paul Tolme was surprised to find his descriptions of black-footed ferrets in a steamy romance novel about an affair between a Native American chief and a pioneer woman.

He was alerted by an email from some smart bitches.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fiction and Nonfiction

And Norman Mailer.

The NYS Writers Institute had an interview with Norman Mailer on May 1, and, on being asked about the difference between fiction and nonfiction, he replied:

I'd say that it's all fiction. I'd say that one of the great swindles that civilization has been pulling on itself is that there are two literary forms - fiction and nonfiction, and that there really is a profound separation between them. And, as far as I'm concerned, nonfiction is fiction. Because you never get it right - in those times which I've really tried to get it absolutely right, when all was done...and I have much more contempt and respect for facts than most nonfiction writers, because I think that most facts are skewed, warped, and twisted in one form or another, whether outright lies or almost correct. And they get put together in these rickety structures which are then called history until somebody else comes along and casts it down for a new structure, and so forth. So, in that sense, it's fiction. Whereas in fiction, what you're doing is dealing with things that are not facts, but you're trying to move truthfully among several imaginations when you're writing. And that makes for some very interesting structures, which I think have more tensile strength, and - how should I put it - when you twist them, they tend to twist back, whereas with history, once you twist it - once you demolish a fact in history - it's gone. The history is savaged. It was a serious fact, and now it's seriously wrong.

Great Swindle? Uh oh, Norman sounded almost like a feminist there for a minute.

The blog of the NYS Writers Institute.

Thanks to my friend Bob Wright, for this.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy 100th Birthday to Simone de Beauvoir. See Her Naked Butt Here.

"My first thought on seeing the magazine was that they would never have considered putting a picture of Sartre's bottom on the front of Le Nouvel Observateur," she [Florence Montreynaud] said. "Luckily, perhaps. Then my second thought was 'what a fine bottom'. No male philosopher I can think of would have had such a lovely bottom. Mme de Beauvoir had a brilliant mind. She also had a wonderful body. Women win on both counts." At the Independent..

Women are made, not born? Incidentally, she is 44 in this photo, Simone de Beauvoir in Chicago, taken by Art Shay in 1952.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Secret to Writing

What secrets there may be are either open secrets, or secrets that would be true only for the individual. Everything you need to know you'll learn, and can only learn, from writing, provided you don't delude yourself.
--David Mitchell at The Guardian.

Hm, wonder what he thinks about the proliferation of writing books out there. A friend once asked which ones I'd recommend, but I think any of them can help at a particular moment. It doesn't matter which books you read about writing, only that you do the writing. I don't think any of them will turn you into a well disciplined writing machine. Caffeine seems to help, though. Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, Number 9 Dream, and Ghostwritten prefers his in the form of tea. I'm a coffee drinker first, and tea drinker second, and even know a few writers and one potter who like mate.

And, while we are at it, the secret to Starbucks. Not my favorite place to get a cup of coffee, but definitely reliable. One of my favorite places locally just broke my heart by downgrading their coffee from a deelicious French roast to some common swill. They'd expanded to a neighboring storefront and are trying to save money -- what a mistake to cut the coffee quality! I'll never have breakfast there again. *SOB!!!*

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tattooed Writers

From the AbeBooks blog.

Friends of mine are tattoo aficionados. For me, it's too much like committing to wearing the same shirt or necklace for the next twenty years (until the tattoo fades and is redone). Good article, though.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"One sheds one's sicknesses in books,"

Plato said that the muses gave us the arts not for "mindless pleasure" but "as an aid to bringing our soul-circuit, when it has got out of tune, into order and harmony with itself". It's no coincidence that Apollo is the god of both poetry and healing; nor that hospitals or health sanctuaries in ancient Greece were invariably situated next to theatres, most famously at Epidaurus, where dramatic performances were considered part of the cure. When Odysseus is wounded by a boar, his companions use incantations to stop the bleeding. And the Bible has the story of David calming Saul: "And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him."

Bibliotherapy, at the Guardian. Reminds me of a friend whose method for recovering from a painful breakup was to read all of Shakespeare. He was better halfway through.