writers


Random quote of the day:

“I think ‘finding your voice’ is a false concept. It leads you to believe that it’s out there somewhere, like it’s behind the sofa cushions. I think your voice is always inside of you, and you find it by releasing things into your work that you have inside. I grew by allowing aspects of myself that I had previously excluded into my poetry.”

—Billy Collins, The Paris Review, Fall 2001, No. 159

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Eighty years ago on this day, William Butler Yeats transitioned from the earthly realm to wherever mystic poets go when they die. He was in the south of France at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour in Roquebrune Cap Martin, kept company by both his wife George and his last mistress, Edith Shackleton Heald. His friends had taken up a collection to help him move there.

Yeats completed Cuchulain Comforted in the last fifteen days of his life, a poem Seamus Heaney referred to as “one of the greatest ever death-bed utterances.” He completed his last play, The Death of Cuchulain, just before New Years’ day. And he handed over the manuscript of two poems, Are You Content? and The Spirit Medium to his mistress as he lay dying.

He asked George to bury him at the local cemetery in Roquebrune and expressed a wish that after a year’s time she arrange to have him dug up and his body moved to Sligo. Unfortunately, due to an unfortunate combination of misconstrued burial instructions and the beginning of World War II, the poet’s wishes were not carried out as planned. Somehow, he wound up in a pauper’s grave with many other bodies. Because he wore a leather truss for a hernia, they thought they might be able to identify his body, and so in 1948 the attempt was made. And this is where things get even more muddled. An English gentleman, Alfred Hollis, who wore a surgical steel corset for his spine died two weeks after Yeats and was interred in the same plot. A body wearing a medical device was exhumed by French authorities. This body was conveyed with great honor to Galway harbor. Friends and family measured and examined the bones and insisted it was Yeats. But who is in Yeats’ tomb? To this day some say an Englishman resides in it—but both the Yeats and Hollis families found the whole thing so painful they decided to leave things as they were.

I would refer you to this fine article from The Irish Times, written on the 75th anniversary of Yeats’ death and from which I gleaned this information—and so much more. A great read.

You can read the entire Cuchulain Comforted here.

They sang, but had nor human tunes nor words,
Though all was done in common as before;
They had changed their throats and had the throats of birds.

 

It’s taken me a long time to realize there are people who love to read but who don’t give a damn about how a thing is written. Yeah, I know, should have been obvious with one browse of bestseller books—but, somehow, the concrete realization of this fact  managed to elude me. Of course, not all bestsellers are badly written. Many are quite well written, in fact. But now and then someone comes along like Stieg Larsson or Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer or E. L. James who are really atrocious at narrative but still manage to concoct a compelling story and capture that certain something in the zeitgeist that has people flocking to them.

Full disclosure: I am again attempting to read Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and this time it seems to be sticking, but I have bounced off Larsson and these other writers. I probably won’t try the others again as there seem to be diminishing returns and too many other things I’d rather read. The thing is, as I have been struggling with my own writing, I have also been struggling with my ability to read fiction. I keep bouncing off of books, even well-written ones, even those by old favorites, and I’ve been longing to become immersed in something. I’m far enough past Larsson’s tell-not-show and long infodump opening that the mystery of Tattoo has had a chance to hook me, so I may actually finish this book. No guarantees, though. It’s been the first part of December since I finished anything, even rereads of old favorites. (The last was Deborah Harkness’s Times Convert, the follow-on book to her All Souls Trilogy. It was meh, but I’d loved the other books and wanted to catch up on the characters.)

My writing and my fiction reading have always been connected. One feeds the other, even if what I’m reading has nothing to do with what I’m writing. Being immersed in someone else’s world for a time helps stimulate the mystic place in my brain where my own singing starts. I can’t help thinking that if I cure one symptom it might help cure the other.

I’m still writing almost every day, and it’s still mostly like pulling teeth, but I do plant butt in chair. Most days it isn’t much more than 500 or so words. Some days I’m blessed by 1000 or so. Today, all I managed was 250. But the important part is sitting my butt in the chair, opening the file, and doing something.

So, readers who don’t care how a thing is written. It’s all good. People should like what they like regardless of nerds like me who care about those things. I once had a friend who absolutely refused to read when he was younger, even though it caused him problems in school. He was a bright, imaginative, funny fellow but he just hated reading. Then one day when he was in high school a perceptive teacher shoved a science fiction book into his hands. He was intrigued by the premise and started to read. From that moment on, he became a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy. He always had a book in his hands. He did confess to me, though, that he often skipped the descriptive parts and dialogue tags and read just the dialogue so he could get through the story faster.

And therein hangs a tale: there are many people like him. Not only do they not care how a thing is written, they want to get through the story as fast as possible to find out what happens. No savoring. They don’t really care about “the art of story,” that immersive feel of a book. It’s a mystery to me why they read at all—but again, that’s not for me to decide. People should be allowed to like what they like and how they like it, and no one—well-meaning nerd, politicizing authors, crusading literati, anyone—has the right to tell them otherwise.

There are no shoulds in reading. Only what gets you through the night. And the book.

 

 

Random quote of the day:

“Publishing a book is often very much like being put on trial for some offense which is quite other than the one you know in your heart you’ve committed.”

—Margaret Atwood, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“I didn’t want to become a writer—it just happened. It’s a kind of gift, you know, from the heavens.”

—Haruki Murakami, The Paris Review Interviews, IV

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”

—Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) on writing, New York Times, May 21, 1986

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.”

—John Edgar Wideman, Conversations with John Edgar Wideman, ed. Bonnie TuSmith

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories’ shadows—and they’re grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough.”

—Joy Williams, “Uncanny Singing That Comes From Certain Husks,” Why I Write, ed. Will Blythe

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Nothing can break the mood of a piece of writing like bad dialogue. My students are miserable when they are reading an otherwise terrific story to the class and then hit a patch of dialogue that is so purple and expositional that it reads like something from a childhood play by the Gabor sisters….I can see the surprise of my students’ faces, because the dialogue looked okay on paper, yet now it sounds as if it were poorly translated from their native Hindi.”

—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.”

—Henry Miller, Sexus: the Rosy Crucifixion, Book I

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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