From Page Turner:
“SH: Well, if you’re working on a book, the book poses a bunch of questions. Maybe it’s (in the case of my second book, Ticknor) “What were the early birth control pioneers like?” or “What was Florence Nightingale all about?” Most of your curiosities don’t even make it into the book, but you think they will. Moments come where you have to find out about something or you can’t go on. So you start reading in that area (Havelock Ellis, Marie Stopes) and you take in the stuff at a really deep level because your need to know it is at once mysterious (why is Marie Stopes so important to you right now?) and really practical (it might help you finish a scene). I guess the main difference is that you are led down reading paths as you go, rather than coming up with a reading list at the start. And it’s always changing. Then, in terms of how your life is organized around a book, it’s a question of what kind of person you have to be in order to write that book. Do you need to be married, single, traveling, asking questions of other people, alone in your room? What kind of person does the book demand it be written by? You have to become that person.
What else do think you could get out of school that you can’t get out of your life now? When we last spoke, you mentioned friendships and mentoring. I like what Eileen Myles said about mentoring—that she prefers “parallel” to “hierarchical” mentoring; that is, learning from one’s friends and peers, rather than from more successful, established people. I agree.”
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“My plan was to never get married. I was going to be
an art monster instead. Women almost never become
art monsters because art monsters only concern themselves
with art, never mundane things. Nabokov didn’t even fold his own
umbrella. Vera licked his stamps for him.”
-Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill (2014)
< A R T M O N S T E R >
- frequently moody
- generally irresponsible
- irrational in finances, i.e. buys books / lit mags with credit cards
- impulsive, i.e. might kiss a stranger or leave house without pre-determined destination
- values psychotherapy
- uses prescription or recreational drugs
- quotes people like Nietzsche, Proust; references Anne Sexton, Gertrude Stein, Nabokov
- easily distracted, easily b0red
- late, always late
- when in love, desperately in love; when lonely; desperately lonely
- always thinking, always creating
- highly judgmental of everything, including self
- needy, narcissistic
- unaware of social codes or unwilling / unable to follow them
- perpetually unstable, like an old building that could teeter over at any moment
- lives & breathes art; all else seems insufficient, intangible, lacking substance and taste, airy and forgettable
Posted in Art, Fiction, Literature | Tagged Dept of Speculation, Jenny Offill | Leave a Comment »
And go outside. It’s spring!
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MARGAUX: (laughing) It’s just an autobiography.
Sheila puts her head in her hands.
SHEILA: I know, I know! But my life keeps changing. My life keeps changing!
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At Astor Center today, I tasted delicious Rieslings and Cabernet Francs from the Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes, and from Long Island. Why not drink local, in addition to eating local? I had some Rieslings that were like buttercups, bee pollen, and green onion, and some Cabernet Francs to me were milk chocolate and graham cracker. Let’s pair them with some East Coast oysters, local veggies and game, and have a true locavore fiesta . . . maybe throw some cider in there?
Posted in food, wine | Leave a Comment »
You were reading Nabokov.
I leaned towards you and the eye contact was undeniable.
We sat opposite each other, with a row of seats between.
You were sitting down when i stepped onto the train at the bowling green station, i was standing in front of you, i couldn’t take my eyes off you, very hot, we both got off at grand central, i let you get in front of me when the train stopped, being the gentleman that i am.
I seen you, I wanted you, I was with other people but if I was by myself I would’ve talk to you.
I imagined my own levity as I broke the ice so you and he could pierce the irascible mystery of subway romance.
I got on at Carroll Street and you gave me your seat.
I dream about not thinking about these silly things and not secretly waiting for this day.
This morning on the downtown 6 train we sat across from each other and kept catching each others eyes and eventually a few smiles were shared.
I wanted to give you my number. :)
You were the smoking hot guy with dark skin scruffy beard with the piercing blue eyes which
kept staring at me over and over again, I haven’t been able to stop thinking of you.
Today you were wearing a really cute green tank top with a little pocket in front and rolled up sweat pants.
Prosecco and choc orange – m4w (Upper East Side)
Hi there, these are the drinks we were each having while I was waiting for my take out order .
As soon you read the message then pls reply back..
I thought it would have made you feel uncomfortable under the circumstances; even though I knew you were checking me out.
were you looking at me on the G train this morning?
You were listening to music and seemed to be getting into it.
I was bar-tending and you told me that you worked at the museum.
I had to rush to class, so I was barely able to introduce myself and shake your hand.
The train was down and we all split a cab back to union square.
I wish I had gotten a chance to talk to you more before you went to the game.
If you find this, give me a Disney ending and tell me where you got off the train.
Would love to take you to dinner or coffee!
Anyway describe what I look like and what I was wearing for my info.
I’m sorry I didn’t speak then.
You sit near me in Shul – m4m
Please contact me.
For my part, I wondered what kind of flowers they were, and secretly hoped they were for your daughter.
You seemed kind of amazing and we should try to see what happens being amazing together.
If you think this is you hit me up
Posted in New York City, Poetry | Leave a Comment »
I’m nearly done editing the first draft of a novel, and it’s a very engrossing process. I think I agree with Verlyn Klinkenborg that the most important task of a writer is to work at the level of the sentence. You can worry about plot and character and POV as much as you want but it won’t matter if the sentences aren’t works of art – ideally, every single one of them. I credit poets in particular with an understanding of the import of sentences. They can distill a thought down to a few words, or evoke an entire landscape with a phrase. One of my writing teachers at The Writers Institute, Harper’s editor Chris Cox, quoted someone saying that a short story should read like a poem, and a novel should read like a short story. This may be true and applicable in terms of structure. But in terms of voice, the ways that one can write a novel are infinite. There is no determinate on what makes fiction a work of high art. Over the course of writing my novel manuscript, I did a warm-up inspired by Joan Didion: before working on my novel, I directly copied a few paragraphs from one of my favorite novels, or something I was currently reading. It was a great way to get my hands moving and my brain working at the sentence level, before diving into this world that I was creating in my own novel. It is so weird to create a world, with the intention of sharing it with other people. Who are these anonymous readers I am writing for? Is it you, whomever you are, reading my blog right now? Is it someone in my neighborhood? Young-ish people in Brooklyn? Middle-class Americans? I don’t know; I think my audience is probably small and specific. I think most major publishers would turn down my novel because it is unlikely to sell many copies. I think it’s worth publishing, or will be once it’s edited, and that many readers will connect with what I’ve written. But I don’t know what any of that means for me as I try to make a life for myself, in tiresome New York City, working and working and working. My novel would be so much better if I just quit everything else I’m doing and only wrote and edited. But maybe it’s my vice as a writer to love distractions, all the drama of daily life in this city. I am also thinking about leaving New York. There is still so much I don’t know about the world and I am inherently bored when I am only speaking English. I have Latin languages so ingrained inside me after all those years speaking Spanish and studying French, and when I don’t use it it’s like I’m restraining part of myself. And it’s a very creative part of myself, this Latin aspect. I wonder what my ancestors in Italy were like. I know nothing about them. How little we Americans know, often, about who we really are.
And now, to conclude this free-thought exercise, I leave you with words from Dave Eggers:
“How lame this is, how small, terrible. Or maybe it’s beautiful. I can’t decide if what I am doing is beautiful and noble and right, or small and disgusting. I want to be doing something beautiful, but am afraid that this is too small, too small, that this gesture, this end is too small—Is this white trash? That’s what it is! We were always so oddly white-trashy for our town, with our gruesome problems, and our ugly used cars, our Pintos and Malibus and Camaros, and our ‘70s wallpaper and plaid couches and acne and state schools—and now this tossing of cremains from a gold tin box into a lake! Oh this is so plain, disgraceful, pathetic—
Or beautiful and loving and glorious! Yes, beautiful and loving and glorious!”
-A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Posted in Creative writing exercises, Literature, Millennials, New York City, Writing | Leave a Comment »