Thrilled to have a craft essay in the new issue of Brevity, which includes fifteen brief wonderful essays by Sven Birkerts, Brian Doyle, Robin Hemley, David Jauss, Thomas Larson, and more. Plus other craft essays by Philip Graham and Mary Clearman … Continue reading
Some of you will remember my September 28th post entitled three things. Well, there’s more. Sometimes I choose a book knowing it will have to do with a certain subject. Usually the choice of my next book has more to do … Continue reading
Well there’s a big question… And I belong to a big family–this month we have four weddings–a godson, two nieces, and a son–and Christmas. Still I want to take time out to begin (yes I just mean begin) again to … Continue reading
Paul Lisicky The Burning House Etruscan Press paperback 2011 . On smell: …her hair, which smelled of grapefruit and smoke. (35) Practical, pleasant smells came off her skin: vaporizer, toothpaste, Vaseline Intensive Care. (43) I loved their smells: laundry soap, … Continue reading
Ann Patchett State of Wonder Harper hardback 2011 . On beginnings: “The news of Anders Eckman’s death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and … Continue reading
I left my house in Columbus, Georgia at 5:15 am and arrived at the Days’ Cottages at 12:15–7 hours door to door. I flew into Boston, a rented convertible waiting for me, but the forecast was for wind, rain, and … Continue reading
Really? you might be thinking. More on The Forgotten Waltz? Yes, there’s more.
Consider the following:
…there was no doubt that we felt easier about the world, for the fact that our father was no longer in it. We loved him, of course, but we both knew that life was simpler now that he was dead and he wasn’t coming back.
Now with Enright’s voice and detail:
…there was no doubt that we felt easier about the world, for the fact that our father was no longer in it. We loved him, of course, but we both knew that life was simpler now that he wasn’t just ‘out,’ or ‘late,’ or even ‘gone on a wander,’ but definitely and definitively dead, dead, dead. No coming back. No late-night key scratching for the lock. (115)
And there’s more, but I think we’ll stop there. Next post, something else.
I want to slow things down. I was planning on writing a post on several stories in Alan Heathcock‘s debut collection, Volt, but I think I’ll just look at the first story. “The Staying Freight”–I love the title–was first published … Continue reading
Thomas grounds the story of this long-ago Christmas in real details–snow and fire brigades and uncles–and yet he tells it as if it were a fairy tale.
The ending: “I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”
- write blog post
- read over 5 pages of novel-details (every day 5 pages)
- make airline reservations for Oct trip to California
- buy birthday gifts (8 birthdays in 10 days in sept)
- grocery (supper!)
- make copy of photo
- cancel exercise apt in Atl
- Claire at 3:00
- work on novel revision-big picture
- play with point-of-view in general
- edit reviews for Contrary
- edit HM piece
Not sure how time feels to the rest of you, but if you have a little to play with, don’t miss Robin Black’s To Do list, the second list of the new feature Lists: Literary & Laundry at Hunger Mountain:
“For as long as I can remember I have made TO DO lists with the letters of TO DO all caps.”
What’s on your list for today?
In Await Your Reply, published in 2009, Dan Chaon uses repetition in a very cool way. Instead of bogging down the original scene, he pushes the action forward first, then a bit later, moves in for a close-up or two, adding additional details.
For example, on page 246, Miles wakes up in bed with a woman and gropes for his underwear, which he puts on. So the assumption is they’ve had sex.
On page 248:
He was standing there in his underwear, still a bit groggy, still a bit dazzled by the fact that he’d had sex for the first time in two years… [new detail bolded]
Then on page 249:
He was standing there in his boxer shorts with their ridiculous hot pepper print… [new detail bolded]
It keeps things moving. It adds texture. It reinforces image.
~3rd in a series
~Cross-posted at Contrary Blog
From the first page of Dan Chaon‘s novel:
On the seat beside him, in between him and his father, Ryan’s severed hand is resting on a bed of ice in an eight-quart Styrofoam cooler.
Dan Chaon’s second novel and fourth book, Await Your Reply, which was published in 2009, intertwines 3 seemingly unrelated narrative threads that exude echoes of each other, assuring the reader that they will eventually come together. And they do. But no spoilers here.
3 threads. 324 pages. 3 parts–each one divided into numbered chapters.
Chaon gets each of the threads off the ground in a hurry: the 1st chapter is 2 pages; the 2nd is 5 pages; the 3rd is 3 pages. Bam. In 10 pages, the reader is aware of all 3 plot lines.
The “severed hand” scene comes first and takes place at night in a car. Chapter 2 begins with Lucy and George leaving town in the middle of the night. “Not fugitives–not exactly.” AND “They would make a clean break. A new life.” (Chaon has a sense of humor.) In Chapter 3 again a character is driving a car. And I wish I had time to count how many times the word hand or hands is used in each of the threads.
As I said, because of the repetition of images and details and echoes of themes, the reader knows that these threads are related. So the reader’s mind is fully engaged as she is reading, trying to answer the question of how. It’s like a treasure hunt. We’re looking for clues, reading carefully because we don’t want to miss anything. All of this creates energy and narrative drive.
In July in Vermont, Dan said that with Await Your Reply, he began with 3 images and a story, but that he had no idea how they were connected until the end of the first draft. He said that the second draft is always “super important” to him because he’s looking for iconography, like tarot cards, to signal where the power is–where an image and/or a moment is important.
Each image distinct and capsulized, like tarot cards laid down one by one. (147)
Read it, if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.
~1st in a series
~cross-posted at Contrary Blog
Sherry Turkle asked scientists, humanists, artists, and designers to “trace the power of objects in their lives, objects that connect them to ideas and people.” In Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, published in 2007, you’ll find thirty-four essays on objects such as a rolling pin, a yellow raincoat, an axe head, a suitcase, a stuffed bunny, an apple.
In “Knots,” Carol Strohecker writes, “I understand being pulled; it is something that I know.”
In “The Archive,” Susan Yee writes about studying Le Corbusier’s drawings and how fortunate she feels to belong to a generation that has both created drawings on paper and on the computer. Drawings now, she writes, “are born digital. They will never be touched.”
Turkle divides the essays into six categories: objects of design and play, objects of discipline and desire, objects of history and exchange, objects of transition and passage, objects of mourning and memory, and objects of meditation and new vision.
My favorite essay was “Death-Defying Superheroes,” written by Henry Jenkins and placed by Turkle in the section on Objects of Mourning and Memory. Jenkins had read comics since grade school but became attached to them the week his mother died.
Retreating from the emotional drama that surrounded me, I found myself staring into the panic-stricken eyes of a young Bruce Wayne, kneeling over the newly murdered bodies of his parents. I had visited that moment many times before, but this time, our common plight touched me deeply.
Over the years, as he ages, the comics remain the same.
As such, they help me to reflect on the differences between who I am now and who I was when I first read them.
As Turkle writes in her introduction to the essays, “We think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with.”
~cross-posted at The Contrary Blog
In the past week, several different readers have commented that either they didn’t know there was a list of all the writers in the How We Spend Our Days series or that they didn’t know what I was talking about when I said an article was mentioned on the Updates page. So put your feet up and enjoy the Delta Rhythm Boys as you read about the 4 blog bones: the header with tabs is connected to the blog feed is connected to the right sidebar is connected to the footer….Did you know there are…
9 tabs currently on the header: home, about me, about blog, how we spend our days, my writing, reading list, literary journals, update, and click here. Sometimes you might notice a new tab that corresponds to a new interest or current obsession. If you hold your cursor over a tab on the header–for example, on tab #4 How We Spend Our Days, you’ll see that you have options to click on 1) how we spend our days, 2) past writers in the series, or 3) next writer in the series. Each one of these is a separate page.
Home is the feed of posts with the most current one at the top. About me and about blog –obvious : )
How We Spend Our Days is the feed of all the posts in this series that posts on the first of the month. On the past writers page, there’s a complete list in chronological order of all the writers in this series. On the 8th of each month, I announce the next writer in the series on that page.
My writing is updated as something new is published. You can either see all categories at one go on the first page or go straight to the essays page, for example.
The reading list tab shows the on-going list of the books I’ve read, starting back in January of 2008, with links to a post if I’ve written one about the book. There’s also a page that shows the book I’m currently reading.
There are four pages for literary journals: general, current, some cool covers, and the One Story thank you to my commenters page. I update these pages when I have a free minute.
On the Update page, I list interesting articles about writing or the writers who’ve appeared on the blog, or new writers I’m interested in. I often list awards. This is an informational page, and you can tell just from the tab the last time I’ve updated it.
Finally, the click here page, which is the list of blogs I like to read. I’m also trying something new at the moment, which is to feature one of my favorite blogs for a month, hoping that you have time to visit that site.
On the footer, which is at the bottom of the blog feed, I have a few little odds and ends, such as a link to Facebook.
On the right sidebar, there’s the calendar that highlights the days I’ve posted. You can also hit the arrows and go to past months. Then a brief description of the blog, lists of my most recent writing on the web, a list of some of my and your favorite posts, another place to see what book I’m currently reading, blog stats, my most recent tweets (and how to find me on twitter), the very important SEARCH BOX in case you want to find out if I’ve ever posted on a book you’re thinking about reading or a writer you’d like to know more about. Then the list of categories, which is TOO LONG. I know. My next project. But even though I’ve only written two posts on William Faulkner, how can I not have his name there??? And finally, yes finally, the archives, where you can click on a month to see the posts from way back then.
So there you go. Have fun and thanks for reading!
Already the third of five has come and gone…
Wednesday, December 29, 2010: As usual, the 3:oo general meeting kicks the residency off. At 3:15 we each meet with our class. This is my critical thesis semester–5000 words. (And the reason I’m so b e h i n d with e v e r y t h i n g is I’ve been writing it.) At 4:30, the first lecture: “Story, Image, Idea” from Clint McCown: the story should be told from as far along the action as possible/find the poem in your character’s story/If you want to send a message, use Western Union. Dinner at Positive Pie, then the student reading sign-up, and a faculty reading.
Thursday, December 30, 2010: Staying at Betsy’s Bed and Breakfast this year, which means gloriously delicious pancakes! At 10:00, the third in a series of lectures on “A Fiction Writer’s Vocabulary” from Jess Row: we make it to IRONY. At 1:15, the first workshop with faculty Abby Frucht and Clint McCown.
Friday, New Year’s Eve: my semester review with Dave Jauss at 8:00 am. Ellen Lesser‘s lecture on “Redemption in End-Times America”: “Will we have created something before it all gets swept away? It won’t save the world, but it could be our own sweet chariot.” 1:15 workshops. More lectures and readings. Then an auction and champagne…
Saturday, 1-1-11: Happy New Year! At 10:15, student lecture on exposition, a panel, then another student lecture by Heather Sharfeddin on what happy endings have done to us…more lectures and readings. Our choices of advisors due to the office by 3:00. Advisors posted around 7:00 pm. Connie May Fowler, it is!!!
Sunday, January 2, 2011: Connie’s lecture at 8:45 on uncovering the good and evil in all of us. Cool exercise where we each wrote a “good” thing we had done on a white index card and a “bad” thing we had done on a pastel index card. The cards were put in two separate hats. Then we drew one from each hat and wrote about a character who had done both. At 10:00: Advisor Group Meeting. Lectures. 2:15 workshop.
Monday, January 3, 2011: 8:45 panel on publishing. At 1:15, Doug Glover‘s “A History of Western Philosophy in 45 Minutes.” Really. And he almost did it. At 2:30 Joshilyn Jackson talked about various ways to begin a novel. More lectures and readings. My meeting with Connie. Barry Lopez at 7:00 pm.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011: 8:45 workshop. Early-ugh. At 11:15 Rich Farrell’s great lecture on emotion with a close look at Lorrie Moore’s “Dance in America.” At 4:45, Abby Frucht spoke on book reviews. “Join the NBCC!”
Thursday, Janurary 6, 2011: Informal Talk with author and graduate Lisa Carey. Workshop. Gary Lawrence’s great lecture, “To Link or Not to Link? Is That the Question?” with a focus on Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine.
Friday, January 7, 2011: 8:45 Informal Talk with the wonderful poet Lynn Emanuel. I first heard Lynn read in 1999 at the Napa Valley Writer’s Workshop. Then the last workshop. The last lecture. The last reading. Graduation. Celebration. At 5:00, three of us head out of Montpelier in the sleet and snow with our destination Hartford, Connecticut. You know the rest of the story…
In The New York Times “Sunday Book Review,” with a very cool cover by Maira Kalman, James Collins wrote the essay at the back, “The Plot Escapes Me,” on whether there’s a point to reading books when we can’t remember what’s in them. Although I do have difficulty remembering what I read, I admit this is a question I’ve never asked myself.
He consulted Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University and the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain“(which I just ordered).
I recommend the essay, but we’re all busy. In what I consider to be the bottom line, Ms. Wolf said:
I totally believe that you are a different person for having read that book…I say that as a neuroscientist and an old literature major.
It is in some way working on you even though you aren’t thinking about it.
It’s there…You are the sum of it all.
I wanted to spread the good news. Keep reading.
Vacation to Life. Suitcase to drawers. Behind to behind-er.
Last week in Colorado, I received stacks of marked-up manuscripts from my writing group. Plus my adviser returned my packet with wonderful annotations on two stories. Where to begin?
I need new running shoes, an idea for supper, birthday gifts, to turn in a housing form. I wrote a friend yesterday that I seemed to be proceeding helter-skelter, with no plan in sight, that I needed a priority list–number one: pay tuition so son can return to college.
One thing from each: Read for thirty minutes. Write for thirty minutes. Creep along Moses, Moses… Read one blog post. Review one stack of notes. Answer one email. Make one phone call. Write one letter. Review the notes on one manuscript. Place one clean shirt into a drawer. Trying to cross the Red Sea…