the next writer in the series: february 1, 2014

A Design So Vast

In  The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote, I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we … Continue reading

brattleboro literary festival: after

Brattleboro Literary Festival

More than 50 authors were loose on the streets of Brattleboro, Vermont, for the fun and successful Brattleboro Literary Festival! The Literary Death Match was hilarious–Adrian Todd Zuniga as host. Roxana Robinson read against Rigoberto Gonzales , while Pam Houston read … Continue reading

the forgotten waltz, unreliability, and wine lines

If you were to ask me to recommend a novel written in the first person, I would say Anne Enright’s The Gathering. I’ve read it twice and I’m thinking about reading it again. But I just finished her most recent novel, The Forgotten Waltz, and although I didn’t like it as much, in some ways, it makes better or more use of the powers of the first person, in particular unreliability.

In an interview in The Paris Review, Enright says:

The wonderful thing about this kind of unreliability is that it reflects the unreliability of our own narratives about our own lives.

And,

Gina Moynihan is the kind of person who realizes what she’s saying in the saying of it. And I think many of us are similar. Until you start articulating something, you don’t quite know what it is, and you don’t see the mistakes or flaws in your own argument until they’re in the air. She’s in the process of realizing what she’s saying, in the process of realizing what she knows or what she has refused to know–that’s the journey of the novel.

From Gina in The Forgotten Waltz:

But it was the first time I had said the words out loud, and it might have been true all along but it became properly true then. True like something you have discovered. (157)

Two other things. One of my favorite lines ever, which now makes me look at birds in a new way:

I think how kissing is such an extravagance of nature. Like birdsong; heartfelt and lovely beyond any possible usefulness. (81)

Finally, writer Hermione Lee wrote a dead-on but spoiler review in The Guardian, which includes this great summary of some of the wine lines to be enjoyed in The Forgotten Waltz:

They measure out their lives in large glasses of imported wine: there’s the phase of being “mad into chardonnay”, the “sauvignon blanc” years of happy marriage, alsace riesling as a spur to adultery, cracking open a “Loire white” as a reaction to bereavement.

So I started writing this post early this morning, then stopped to exercise and run some errands, and now it’s almost 3:00, and I have to leave my desk again. But I find I have still more to say about this novel. Until tomorrow…

related posts:

from the airport

I am mid-journey.

On my way home from Montpelier, Vermont and the successful completion of  a two-year low-residency MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. This last residency went by so fast–it’s hard to believe it’s over.

Both my lecture and reading were on January 1st. And graduation was yesterday.

This morning, breakfast at the Skinny Pancake. Then a drive to Burlington and a flight to JFK. Now waiting to board a flight to Atlanta. Then I’ll have an hour and a half drive to Columbus.

As many of you know, I love traveling and airports. Today, especially, it’s nice to have all these hours in transit to mark the transition.

no place on earth

It’s difficult to think of anything other than the stunning crimson and gold leaves outside my windows.

I have been doing too many other things lately. And I have come to the place where I need to set aside time for writing.

Why do you refuse to admit that in poetry, as if in a mirror, I attempt to collect and to see myself, to pass through and beyond myself.

Last week, for a few days, it was doing nothing–long walks on the beach, listening to the ocean, watching the sea foam extract itself from the waves that produced it and scatter down the beach. Staring at the flower of a jellyfish, remembering being stung as a kid.

Sunrise on the Atlantic. Beautiful, yes, but I prefer sunset on the Gulf.

Oh, this innate bad habit of always existing in places where I do not live, or in a time which is past or is yet to come.

One week until I send in my last packet. In seven weeks I’ll be in Vermont. In a little over eight weeks, I’ll have graduated.

The memory of it would have vanished utterly had he not enclosed it in a fortress of words…

No Place on Earth by Christa Wolf (born in 1929) is a different kind of book than what I usually read. Wolf is a German author, who in this slim volume writes about the imagined meeting in June of 1804 of an unknown female poet and a famous male writer at a social gathering “for tea and conversation.”  One hundred nineteen pages of almost no action and some dialogue. Mostly, it’s the back and forth of the relentless minds of these two characters, as if their minds were communing, on the subjects of life and death, the freedoms of men and women, the necessity of art:

That time should bring forth our desire, but not that which we desire most.
The repressed passions.
We are not worthy of that which we long for.
We must understand that longing needs no justification.