Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 25th 2012

I think it was Eudora Welty who said that if you can come up with any good reason not to write, then you should follow that urge. Because a lot of nonsense and romanticism has been fostered around "The Writing Life." There are books by that name encouraging the failing author or the stuck poet. Following Hemingway's lead, the modern author is prone to think that these things can only be endured by heavy drinking. If you're Ernest Hemingway or Hunter Thompson, you think you have to blow your brains out. But stuff and nonsense - I don't even believe in writer's block. If you have something to say, then say it, and if you don't then choose something else.  More literary masturbation we don't need. Find some other way to relieve yourself. This might sound harsh, but the so-called writing life is no picnic. If you mean business, you have to be head strong and you have to believe that what you have to say is worth its space in print. People aren't going to like you if you have this attitude, but all writers have it. Some are just better at concealing it. Why do we write, those of us who choose this way to fill our spare time? We write because we have to. It's a sort of working psychosis, and, as Jung said, if you have a psychosis that works, leave it alone. It's not a question of, "Oh, I'd like to write a novel, but I think I'll go for a bike ride." It's a question of keeping your sanity. If you don't write today, things will begin to teeter. If you like to live in the grips of that kind of obsession, then writing might be for you.
The black hole that is my publisher spoke this week. It spake and saith, "I give you your notes. Six pages. Eight points. Have it in by the end of June." It didn't actually speak like that, because my editor at Simon and Schuster is a nice lady. She said, "Don't fall off your chair, but here at last are the notes." I have waited for these for close to four months. Here's the time-frame: The book was accepted in November; I signed the contract in January and got my editorial notes in May. My book will come out summer of 2013 I'm not complaining. It is the way of publishing. You have to hurry up and wait.
Here's my quote for the day by Andre Dubus: "I really think that if there's any one enemy to human creaivity, especially creative writing, it's self-consciousness."

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18th

An excerpt from Steinbeck's Nobel Prize Acceptance speech:
"Literature was not promulgated by a pale and emasculated priesthood singing their litanies in empty churches - nor is it a game for the cloistered elect, the tin-horn mendicants of low-calorie despair. Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed."
The question is, why do we need it?  Why is it that the human, no matter how hard he has had to slog just to subsist, has always told stories? When our ancestors looked at the sky, they didn't just see shining points of light, but warriors and animals and gods. The sun was a chariot being drawn across the sky. The seven-cluster of stars was a collection of sisters. We can't help this story-telling even when we try. We're coming out of the scientific era now, not because science has been debunked, but because it has turned full circle and is back to story telling. What else is a theoretical scientist than a myth weaver? We're back to accounting for the ungraspable with stories. A multiverse? Science used to hold its mendicants  accountable for such talk, but now it's a free-for-all. And so much the better. There has been nothing more detrimental to the spirit of the human being than the arrogance of the scientific age. It robbed him of that need to reach and grasp, to understand through stories. Because that very act of humility admits our small place in the totality. It places the human species right where it should be, not outside the process looking in, but as a part fingering its way to a connection with the whole.
So, Harry Potter, Witches, Warlocks, Vampires, Time travel. This is what the new generation is gobbling up faster than it can be printed. And no wonder. We are a starved race. Let the pale and emasculated priesthood sing their litanies. It is magic, not the nuts and bolts of things, that is our ticket out of this low-calorie despair.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 11th

"Surreal" is the only word that comes to mind when I think of eating a BLT Sandwich in what used to be John Steinbeck's parlour.  I have to confess I swiped the coaster under my glass, unnoticed by the ladies in the frilly aprons scurrying between the kitchen and the tables.  If Steinbeck had only known his house would become a restaurant! But, then, he came to hold his hometown of Salinas in disdain - that seems to be the way of home towns. The people there are never that pleased when one of their number breaks free. They really don't care for it, and it can lead to acts of vengeance, like removing his books from the local library and burning them. I wouldn't feel so happy about that either.
The people of Eastwood, where DH Lawrence grew up in England, didn't think to highly of poor David Herbert either. They thought he was too big for his boots. They didn't like that he took those boots and marched far away from them. That said something about them that they didn't like.  In Ireland once I heard a Dubliner comment that upon running into Bono (of U2 fame, very big fame) it was best not to let on that you knew who he was, in case he "gets a big head." It's hard on home-towners when they produce a star.
In the tourist office in Monterey, the lady at the desk was a seventh generationer. and some of her family had known Steinbeck. She pulled her lips tight as she said it: "I could tell you some stories." Well, old John wasn't too respectable. He made a point of that. "The code," not as it runs through nature, but as it is configured by men ( and I do mean "men") does not seem to apply. Part of being a hometown star is seeing that. But it doesn't go for making friends. It might even make you hard to live with. But John Steinbeck, DH Lawrence, Emily Bronte (line 'em up - there have been many) never belonged in a church pew or among the moral majority. It's what propels them away from the family parlour "to walk up the stairs of their concepts and emerge ahead of their accomplishments" [Steinbeck.] It's the difference between a frilly apron and a Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 4th 2012
What I don't get is why people in Russia are more interested in this blog than people in the USA, especially since my in-laws live here and are faithful to the cause.  As far as the folks in Britain go - shame on you. You're fading off my audience map!
This week I learned that my book will be published July, August or September of next year. My heart sank. I wanted to shout, "But what if the Mayans are right?" But no one was listening. I am corresponding with a black hole that has a voice which speaks sometimes.  It says (or did say this week) "Thou shalt have thy manuscript back with red marks next week." Unfortunately, or not so unfortunately for me, next week I will be trying to absorb John Steinbeck through my pores by travelling to Salinas and Monterey, California. I'm going to visit the house he was born in and grew up in and banged out some of his great books in. He wrote Tortilla Flat sitting at a table set up outside the front room (where he was born) while his mother died in there slowly. If that is not dramatic irony, it ought to be. At least, there should be a name for something that poignant and contradictory. Existential Irony.
I once visited the Bronte's house in Haworth, Yorkshire. I stood very close to the couch upon which Emily Bronte said, "I will see a doctor now," and then gave up the ghost. Only, I  fervently believe in ghosts - they follow me to the bathroom every night when I get up in the dark and try to be grown-up and above such things. But they come anyway. It was quite overwhelming being in Emily's house. She's the one I gravitate to the most. I see her standing by her windswept window for hours, I feel her vibrant heart. It was almost too much to stand by that couch, cordoned off, kept away from the living. And I am afraid it will be too much to stand outside Steinbeck's front room in the space where he captured whatever this thing is we call life and tied it down for us in words. I'm afraid I might weep.