"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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dostoyevsky, Ken Follett and Scott Turow

"Here’s a secret. Many novelists, if they are pressed and if they are being honest, will admit that the finished book is a rather rough translation of the book they’d intended to write. It’s one of the heartbreaks of writing fiction. You have, for months or years, been walking around with the idea of a novel in your mind, and in your mind it’s transcendent, it’s brilliantly comic and howlingly tragic, it contains everything you know, and everything you can imagine, about human life on the planet earth. It is vast and mysterious and awe-inspiring. It is a cathedral made of fire.

But even if the book in question turns out fairly well, it’s never the book that you’d hoped to write. It’s smaller than the book you’d hoped to write. It is an object, a collection of sentences, and it does not remotely resemble a cathedral made of fire."

Michael Cunningham, at NY Times.

Also, you can't imagine what people will make of it -- the author describes how he found his ideal reader, the one he writes for:

"...some years ago, when I was working in a restaurant bar in Laguna Beach, Calif., ...I discovered a better method. One of the hostesses was a woman named Helen, who was in her mid-40s at the time and so seemed, to me, to be just slightly younger than the Ancient Mariner. Helen was a lovely, generous woman who had four children and who had been left, abruptly and without warning, by her husband. She had to work. And work and work. She worked in a bakery in the early mornings, typed manuscripts for writers in the afternoons, and seated diners at the restaurant nights.

"Helen was an avid reader, and her great joy, at the end of her long, hard days, was to get into bed and read for an hour before she caught the short interlude of sleep that was granted her. She read widely and voraciously. She was, when we met, reading a trashy murder mystery, and I, as only the young and pretentious might do, suggested that she try Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” since she liked detective stories. She read it in less than a week. When she had finished it she told me, 'That was wonderful.'

"'Thought you’d like it,' I answered.

"She added, 'Dostoyevsky is much better than Ken Follett.'


"Then she paused. 'But he’s not as good as Scott Turow.'”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Paralyzing Inhibitions and Middle-Aged Emerging Artists

One of the great things about getting older is that other people's opinions have less power over us than they once did. I work with a physical therapist who recently told me, "When I turned 40, I stopped worrying about offending other people. When I turned 50, I started enjoying offending other people." In many ways this is the best time to do something that others might view with skepticism, and to risk a little ridicule that might once have been unendurable.

Robin Black, at Oprah.com.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For the love of ...books

Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman at Slate.

Writing by Hand

"Writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development."


Let the Reader Do Some Work

Humor works best when the reader has to connect some dots. The smarter your audience, the wider you can spread the dots.
Scott Adams telling a risque story about a friend who never had any children, in the Wall Street Journal.