Tag Archives: Fiction

Posturing

“…we’re especially interested in poems, short stories, or essays that throw shade at the institutions that have whitewashed our literature and history, be they laws or events or texts authored by dead old cisgender white supremacist misogynistic homophobes.”

“The death of the author, proclaimed by Foucault, Barthes, and many clones after them, is another anticanonical myth, similar to the battle cry of resentment that would dismiss ‘all of the dead, white European males’—that is to say, for a baker’s dozen, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Montaigne, Milton, Goethe, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Kafka, and Proust. Livelier than you are, whoever you are, these authors were indubitably male, and I suppose ‘white.’ But they are not dead, compared to any living author whomsoever.” (Harold Bloom)

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Enter Title Here

“Prose is the written form of deliberate expression, a medium that can become an art. Whereas speech is halting, comes in fragments, repeats, puts qualifiers after the idea, and often leaves it half expressed, prose aims at organized thought in complete units. The qualifiers of each idea often come before or during its exposition, as required by clarity, the sound of the words, or their rhythm.”

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“Good prose means hard work; as a modern practitioner put it, it is ‘heavy lifting from a sitting position.'”

                                                                                                  –Jacques Barzun

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What day is it? Not Adam’s.

“The sensibility of man to trifles, and his insensibility to great things, indicates a strange inversion.”

                                                                                                    –Pascal

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Objection

The idols are down. I don’t despair. “Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement…” Run, tumble, swim, ride a bicycle. Few qualify as athletes. Fewer as Olympians.

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Novel-as-a-Tool-for/235565

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Confessional

I don’t write to be liked, I don’t write for acceptance. Countering a steady diet of rejection, I remind myself of this:

“It is not surprising therefore that the most representative literature of our times is light, easy literature, which, without any sense of shame, sets out to be—as its primary and almost exclusive objective—entertaining. But let’s be clear: I am not in any way condemning the authors of this entertainment literature because, notwithstanding the levity of their texts, they include some really talented writers. If today it is rare to see literary adventures as daring as those of Joyce, Woolf, Rilke or Borges, it is not just down to the writers. For the culture in which we live does not favour, but rather discourages, the indefatigable efforts that produce works that require of the readers an intellectual concentration almost as great as that of their writers. Today’s readers require easy books that entertain them and this demand creates a pressure that becomes a powerful incentive to writers.”

This, from Mario Vargas Llosa’s Notes on the Death of Culture, a highly sobering, indispensable discourse on the current state of arts and letters.

Though why not aim high? And especially having read Joyce, Woolf, Rilke, Borges—why not aspire to join their ranks? To match what you admire?

So much talent today, effectively homogeneous: “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”

Believe. Go alone. They’re hardly critics, if all they express is opinion. A critical response must, at the least, situate the work in question. Reviewers—but who cares, except the vastly impressionable consumer?

Last word, Truman Capote: “…I’ll give you fifty dollars if you produced a writer who can honestly say he was ever helped by the prissy carpings and condescensions of reviewers.”

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Prompt

“I have work to do, and I am afraid not to do it.”

                                         –John O’Hara

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Residual

It’s hard, when daily you’re forced to witness the works you treasure, to which you’ve devoted patience and breath, abused and devalued most by those who should be staunch advocates and defenders. I lean on Guy Davenport: “All of this points to our having a society that reads badly and communicates execrably about what we read.” We get what we deserve. We force-feed our children “pleasant, undemanding reading” and do everything to make sure that it positively stays down. Dare to object. Flannery O’Connor’s observation remains spot on: “It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they are reading a children’s book.” That’s To Kill a Mockingbird, incapable of aging—of aging well. “Most recently, librarians across the country gave the book the highest of honors by voting it the best novel of the twentieth century.” How is that possible?

“The case against intellect is founded upon a set of fictional and wholly abstract antagonisms. Intellect is pitted against feeling, on the ground that it is somehow inconsistent with warm emotion. It is pitted against character, because it is widely believed that intellect stands for mere cleverness, which transmutes easily into the sly or diabolical. It is pitted against practicality, since theory is held to be opposed to practice, and the ‘purely’ theoretical mind is so much disesteemed. It is pitted against democracy, since intellect is felt to be a form of distinction that defies egalitarianism.” That’s Richard Hofstadter decades before our great awakening, bolstered by the internet. “I will refuse.”

I lean on my friend and former mentor, Douglas Smith: “Writing and reading always swim together.”

Because an age may fail to recognize genius, or erringly (and stubbornly) approves some lesser talent—is hardly the determining factor: Shakespeare remains foremost…peerless, eminent, unrivaled. To those convinced all writing is equal (as all painting, music, etc.), and that judgment is arbitrary and wholly idiosyncratic (personal/subjective)—there’s really nothing much I can say.

 

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Salvo

“First of all, I don’t wish to touch hearts and I don’t even want to affect minds very much. What I want to produce, really, is that little sob in the spine of the artist-reader. I leave the field of ideas to Dr. Schweitzer and Doctor Zhivago…”

                                                                 –Vladimir Nabokov

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Employment

“Art is a concrete and personal and rather childish thing after all—no matter what people do to graft it into science and make it sociological and psychological; it is no good at all unless it is let alone to be itself—a game of make-believe, of re-production, very exciting and delightful to people who have an ear for it or an eye for it.”

                                                                      –Willa Cather

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Semplice

“In almost every relationship with his fellowmen the artist will encounter a preponderance of shallowness, conceit, envy, jealousy, profit-seeking, treachery, and dumb resistance.”

                                                        –Jacques Barzun

“Truly speaking, it is not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul.”

                                                           –Emerson

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