Old Moon

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Irresistible comment

Probably the remark below doesn't belong in a blog supposedly directed to those interested in writing. On the other hand, if "the pen is mightier than the sword," how much mightier than the pen is the Internet?

The viciousness of much of this primary campaign publicity continues to boggle my mind. People who swear they won’t vote for anyone but a woman, people who swear they won’t vote for anyone who’s black, and so forth. Threatening the party they’re supposed to be interested in seeing in place with failure because of their bigotry! It’s like a precursor of another international meltdown like the one Hitler was able to foment. How can so many be so blind, and worse, how can so many be so sure they’re righteous? (I use that word because it connotes something more than simple “right.”)

If I can receive a forwarded e-mail whose aim is to terrify every non-Muslim it reaches with selective misinformation, maybe we who have access to the Net need to make some attempt to gainsay these wolves in sheep's clothing!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reading for writers

Nothing seems to have been as much value to the aspiring author than reading. Not news, is it? Sometimes the reading inspires better writing or more courageous writing, or maybe it provides useful examples of how and what NOT to write.I just read Alice Hoffman's latest, The Third Angel. Anyone interested in fiction should take a look, unless, of course there seems no need to spur imagination. For a serious writer to find so many ways to engage the unacknowledged fairy tale yen in all of us is one of this writer's greatest talents. She manages to make the fantastic acceptable to the non-fantasy reader, and to make the fringes of actuality fit perfectly well into the truth of her perceptive, sympathetic, honest characterizations. And she can make her reader's eyes fill with tears while doing it. She makes everything she writes about believable. A consummation devoutly to be wished.
Labels: Alice Hoffman, Good reading, reality vs. fantasy, The writing life

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What am I doing this for?

Is there anyone out there trying to be a "writer" who hasn't yet read BIRD BY BIRD? Anne Lamott has become a real guru when it comes to advice on how to get words on paper that someone will want to read. Every chapter has something in it that seems to me to apply to everyone who reads it, and never everything that would apply to everyone. Above all, she makes amusing, if not downright hilarious, the pains a writer must endure to perform the craft well enough to make it art. Inspiring.

But it's also discouraging--at least in this day and time. How often have you gone home from Barnes and Noble with a beautifully produced hard cover novel from the "Bargain Books" in the entry or from the on line catalog? I can't believe that even well-known and well-respected writers like Joanna Trollope or Alice Munro have books languishing out there as though they were beyond ordinary discount pricing! So how does someone with no strings to pull, no influential writer connections, and no thriller ambitions get an agent or publisher to show an interest in something initially guaranteed NOT to make them rich?

In other words, "What am I doing this for?" Well, Ann Lamott has a wonderful short chapter on that, and I commend it to all who are asking the same question.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Writing Life?

Some days seem as if trying to accomplish anything personally is a kind of moral affront. Natural disaster after natural disaster befall the poorest and most helpless, human error and/or fecklessness and/or amorality and/or greed seem to be taking over the entire planet, even on our comfortable doorsteps. If those of us who would like to express anything on paper or on the Net, can we justify ourselves in the face of the larger picture?

The only thing that might keep us going, I suppose, is the store of works going back to the dawn of the written word on which we depend to show us a way to some kind of understanding. We'll never comprehend the pattern of an existence that goes from quarks to universes, but there is some kind of imperative to look around our little corner and both appreciate and interpret it for our neighbors (who should include everyone out there, near and far). Socrates in the 3rd century BC told us that the unexamined life is not worth living. Maybe that's enough.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Who Are We?

I recently had a brief conversation with a reader of these posts on the subject of one my earliest ones about one's identity as writer. In that one I was speaking of labels and whether I could qualify as a North Carolina writer. This person spoke of his youth and his very widely-traveled life, and I thought of the common supposition that if you have been, for whatever reason, confined to the same small locale most of your life, if you haven't seen a lot of places and things and people, you probably are hampered by a view as circumscribed as your geographical setting. But
think of the artists from Sophocles to Emily Dickinson, from Thoreau to Proust. If writers can effectively show us what we can't know first-hand, they're doing their job.

Once I gave a talk on fiction and quoted Rita Dove: Literature gives one a chance to enter into another's world, to understand it intimately, and not to be afraid...

It seems to me that writers must not be afraid either. To take others to new places and ideas is what writers are for! So who cares about the labels that might get pasted on us. If we can show a reader what s/he needs to widen the world, that's what proves we're really writers, and perhaps especially if we haven't seen all of it for ourselves.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What price?

We watched the Derby yesterday with friends. Our hostess is the daughter of race horse insurance brokers from Kentucky. She's devoted to racing. My husband and I, on the other hand, are more devoted to horses. In our little pool, my husband drew Big Brown. I very nearly wept when that gallant mare went down after passing the tape! We once owned a thorougbred who had been off the track for a long time and was a perfect family horse. His poor legs were symmetrically scarred the length of the cannon bones on all sides from "pin firing." Like the "Regap"greyhounds, these creatures bear witness to nothing so much as human focus on a bottom line regardless of the cost. The horses and dogs are perfectly trained, well-mannered, and therefore make perfect pets--if they survive.