March 4, 2012
Yoko Ono has collected the Oskar Kokoschka prize, one of Austria’s most important awards for contemporary art.
Speaking at a press conference, she said: “I think this is very special because Kokoschka is not only an icon of Austria but he is a world icon in the art field.”
“He’s always going to be known and his work is always going to be known because he was always true to himself. And I think truth is something that’s very important now,” she added.
—Oskar Kokoschka had a passionate, often stormy affair with Alma Mahler, shortly after the death of her four-year-old daughter Maria Mahler and her affair with Walter Gropius. After several years together, Alma rejected him, explaining that she was afraid of being too overcome with passion. He continued to love her his entire life, and one of his greatest works, The Bride of the Wind (The Tempest), is a tribute to her.
January 22, 2012
A new writer recently protested while writing his first novel that he frequently felt disgusted and incompetent. He felt that perhaps he should give up—that he didn’t feel “normal” enough to be a novelist. My response was this:
Who told you writing novels was easy? Writing is like life, but more intense—like a life that if all you do is ride a ferris wheel crossed with a roller coaster that breaks down a lot and the only mechanic you know can only be accessed by psychic smoke signals and the only ink available consists of your own blood mixed with stomach bile and the sweat off your back.
It is like that, but it’s also harder than that for a true artist who writes. Also, it’s more fun than real life sometimes because you get to make it all up from your own imagination, although if you don’t have one of those, give up right away. It’s all those hard, sad times that make the good ones so great. Also, it makes for a unique book, and that’s the main point. If it feels like nothing else you’ve ever felt or read, pat yourself on the back—you have arrived. Enjoy the ride.
May 21, 2011
Coming to any conclusion regarding the value of any particular literary work or group of literary works against any other standard, whether it be an educational, political, or economic one, is simplistic and ludicrous. It’s as intelligent as rating the quality of paintings by the total number of brush strokes.
Let’s see, that’s Rembrandt with 11,534 strokes versus Jackson Pollock with 0. Or to make a literary comparison: it’s Tolstoy with 450,000 words versus Emily Dickinson with 3,250. Now, how fun is that? But if you want to keep warm during a Boston winter while avoiding news of American deaths in Afghanistan, read War and Peace and feel smug against the comparison with Moscow and Napoleon. If you want your brain to toy with the many times your feelings have reacted to a snake in the grass, read Dickinson’s poem about it. The joy Tolstoy and Dickinson had it creating those writings is there for all to read again and again. There is no way to create a definite product from that, but readers do keep coming back to it.
Ultimately, art cannot be put into any box besides its own creation. It is profoundly anti-establishment, anti-ideological and of course, anti-narrow-minded. Marjorie Garber says: “Literature is a process rather than a product, and if it progresses, it does so in a way that often involves doubling back upon a track or meandering by the wayside rather than forging ahead, relentlessly and single-mindedly, toward some imagined goal or solution.”