"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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Posts that almost weren't II

A paean to Chekhov, 150 years after his birth.

There had been sceptics, agnostics, doubters, questioners of every kind before Chekhov, but perhaps no writer in whom the utter mysteriousness of existence was felt so deeply, or counterpoised by such ­inexhaustible interest in the teeming variety of forms – human and otherwise – in which it manifests itself.

"What kept these sixty-five thousand people going? That's what I couldn't see . . . what our town was and what it did, I had no idea."

Posts that almost weren't III

On Drinking What You Know:
“Drink, damn you! What else are you good for?” (Joyce) -- er, I paraphrase.

When you think about it, rules for drinking are not so different from rules for writing. Many of these are so familiar they’ve become truisms: Write what you know. Write every day. Never use a strange, fancy word when a simple one will do. Always finish the day’s writing when you could still do more. With a little adaptation these rules apply just as well for drinking. Drink what you know, drink regularly rather than in binges, avoid needlessly exotic booze, and leave the table while you can still stand.

Leave the desk while you can still stand. Sounds good to me.

Posts that almost weren't

Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses, courtesy of Mark Twain (whose autobiography can finally be purchased, 100 years after his death.

1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the "Deerslayer" tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air.

2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the "Deerslayer" tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop.

3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale.

I'll try to do better next month, but here are some of the posts I would have written about, if I'd had the time this month.