“What the young American writer most often appears to feel is his ‘own’ misfortune. The injustice is done to ‘his’ talent if life is brutish and ignorant, if the world seems overcome by spasm and beer, or covered with detergent lathers and poisonous monoxides. This is apparently the only injustice he feels. Neither for himself nor for his fellows does he attack power and injustice directly and hotly. He simply defends his sensibilities”—Saul Bellow, Some notes on recent American fiction (1963)
“The American writer in the middle of the 20th century has his hands full in trying to understand, and then describe, and then make credible much of the American reality. It stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates, and finally it is even a kind of embarrassment to one’s own meager imagination. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents, and culture tosses up figures almost daily that are the envy of any novelist.”—Philip Roth, Writing American Fiction
“After all, one of life’s greatest pleasures is reading a book of perfect beauty; more pleasurable still is rereading that book; most pleasurable of all is lending it to the person one loves”—William T. Vollman, Europe Central
She wore loss like a wristwatch. They stopped on her. She had to go digital but never liked the look. He was the man she wanted to leave, but the act was harder than the dream. Thirty years went before she remembered what she was supposed to be doing. By then there was a child and a dog, at least two cats. She’d certainly lost track of time. She thought about getting something to keep tabs on the passing minutes, something she could wear like her loss on her wrist like a handcuff.
“You can write at any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love.”— Ernest Hemingway
Mouthfuls of rain spread slander over my rooftop; I don’t know your eyes anymore.
If I look down, I’ll see someone else’s nipple peaks ascending from pale savannah to areola apex, and if my fingers make the cautious climb I will be numb as if learning a stranger.
Remember my details as the shapes and shadows you left me in; remember the gaping jaws set and craterous fields of cheekbone you neglected to sow, the seeds of freckles that were gathered and planted without design.
Remember a patchwork of expressions sewn by rows of hands mostly yours your fingerprints rooted in the clay of my earth.
Remember me like that, and each evening gather the grains of me you have hoarded away, greedy.
Corpus canvas replaces itself unnoticed. I’ll be tracing the contours of my body, pretending these hands belong to someone else.
Jump! That patch of grass below sports your name In goose feather pillow scrawl Like the cushion fort you built in your living room, Or your mother’s thighs when you first encountered land. Faith is a prerequisite Crafted by your one third eye, Two toned arms and Ten billowing fingers Designed intelligently For wind catching.
“Writing is simply something you must do. It’s rather like virtue in that it is its own reward. Writing is selfish and contradictory in its terms. First of all, you’re writing for an audience of one, you must please the one person you’re writing for. I don’t believe this business of “No, I don’t write for myself, I write for the public.”
That’s nonsense. Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself. He writes not to communicate with other people, but to communicate more assuredly with himself. It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.”—Harper Lee
If I speak of distance now, for once I don’t mean the kind that punishes – not this slow train south, but rather what arrives unexpected through the train window – a beauty that rises tender and recedes.
In the observation car I sit clutching a styrofoam cup feeling each jolt of the rail in my skull. The woman across the table, with the face leftover from the Great Depression, tells me to steady myself.
Far from home? Not home, just far.
Everything depends upon distance, she tells me. She tells me that desire…is like pointillism – too close or too far and you’re lost.
I assume you’re selling maps, I say. She hands me a book on mindfulness meditation. Practice this discipline long enough and you learn that there is a space between thought and self. Control can be exerted in either direction.
Yet there is a limit to control, isn’t there? I write a good letter, but persuasion is proximal. All the things I could only prove in your bed.
If I speak of distance now, I don’t mean closing it, but learning to live inside it. A string of imperatives set to the rhythm of the tracks. Come here. Lie down. Go deeper.
“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.”— Flannery O’Connor