Archive for ‘About Fiction’

May 9, 2017

Excerpt from Tesora, a novel

Tesora

From Tesora

I look at her hands
on my hands
on her stomach.
A baby.
I hope to see
into the future,
but all I see is
the basket of shadows
the lamplight makes
of our fingers.

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January 10, 2013

From Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stephenson

Painting by N. C. Wyeth

Painting by N. C. Wyeth

The fire lit in me when I first read the novel as a boy, was
extinguished when I finished my own novel, Tesora.
Reading it now, however, allows me to sail again,
back to my own boyhood days—to find the treasures
of adventure and good writing.

From Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stephenson:

“Livesey,” said the squire, “you will give up this wretched practice at once. Tomorrow I start for Bristol. In three weeks’ time—three weeks!—two weeks—ten days—we’ll have the best ship, sir, and the choicest crew in England. Hawkins shall come as cabin-boy. You’ll make a famous cabin-boy, Hawkins. You, Livesey, are ship’s doctor; I am admiral. We’ll take Redruth, Joyce, and Hunter. We’ll have favourable winds, a quick passage, and not the least difficulty in finding the spot, and money to eat, to roll in, to play duck and drake with ever after.”

November 25, 2012

AnaĂŻs Nin on the Unfamiliar in Books

AnaĂŻs Nin on Embracing the Unfamiliar

It’s the personal insecurities of leadership which lead to paranoia, the need to control the freedom of individual and social personalities, and finally to mass violence. It’s been true throughout history from Atilla The Hun to Obama. It’s the responsibility of each artist to sieze his or her own piece of space, whether it’s geographic or psychic, and to produce art within his or her own chaos of freedom. “A room of one’s own,” yes?

Nin says:

The men who built America were the genuine physical adventurers in a physical world. This world once built, we need adventurers in the realm of art and science. If we suppress the adventure of the spirit, we will have the anarchist and the rebel, who will burst out from too narrow confines in the form of violence and crime.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/08/anais-nin-unfamiliar/

September 11, 2012

A Short Review of Canada, a novel by Richard Ford

The first novel I ever read on an e-reader (the Nook with a Glo-light) is Canada by Richard Ford. Here’s my review of the novel, not the e-reader.

A Short Review of Canada, a novel by Richard Ford
New York : Ecco Press, 2012

Ford forces a personality onto his main character that is as contemplative as a sixty year old. I’m not saying he’s trying to fool us with that fact, because he intentionally has the older man telling the story of his own young life as a fifteen-year-old. Ford’s prose is indeed excellent, but all through the book I craved the experience and voice of the fifteen year. So much of the story seems untold. I wanted the younger main character to have emotions and actions not explained away by his mature self of forty years later.

If an author has so pushed his own psyche so far from inner reality, how can we believe his story is true? It’s as if Ford has delivered a good idea about a story, but not the story itself. It’s a steak dinner without the meat or the sizzle, leaving us only a plate, a fork, and a knife laid out in perfect order. It is certainly an order that does not offend, but it also does not tell us the whole truth.

Are we expected to believe that his parents robbed a bank, split him from his twin sister, and sent him to Canada, and he had no anger about that? He could have become a short-fused boy like The Unibomber—or he could have become an enraged genius like Kurt Cobain—or channeled his anger like Van Gogh, perhaps. He only seems to passively accept his exile and one extremely violent act as if he was stunned silent by it. This is not the kind of character I hoped to read—it’s as if the character was there at the scene, but somehow missed the story. Readers are left with the face of the opacity of the surface of it, so we are left to admire the dinnerware and suck on an empty fork.

July 17, 2012

How Colm Toibin Uses Memory in Fiction

Here’s a fine article about how a writer, Colm Toibin, uses memories of real events, places, and people in his stories—how they relate to reality, how they relate when they’re changed by a story, and how important a true sense of memory is to getting a story to be “right in the mind” and on the page. It’s called “What Is Real Is Imagined.”

He writes: “The story has a shape, and that comes first, and then the story and its shape need substance and nourishment from the haunting past, clear memories or incidents suddenly remembered or invented, erased or enriched.” —Colm Toibin

June 21, 2012

Interview with a Vamp: The Paris Review and Dorothy Parker, 1956

Interview with a Vamp: The Paris Review and Dorothy Parker, 1956

When I read through this interview done in 1956 between The Paris Review and Dorothy Parker, I couldn’t help but wonder what Shakespeare would have thought of her wit. I imagined he’d say: “Call my director: I was wrong, we should be casting women for all those parts. Hell, if we can find any more like Parker, cast her in the men’s parts, too.”

The Interview:

June 19, 2012

Here’s an Interesting Article on Loneliness in Art by Sonya Chung from The Millions

On Loneliness: Art, Life, and Fucking Human Beings
By Sonya Chung

“There are days when it seems to me that what it is to be a fucking human being is to be lonely; to be in this state of deep sadness and estrangement, and to know that there is something terribly wrong about this loneliness on the one hand, and on the other (in knowing the wrongness utterly), something also potentially beautiful.”

April 11, 2012

Vanessa Veselka on the Adventure of First-Person Narrative

I’ve switched the points of view of my two latest novels to first person, because it works to bring out the personalities of the main characters. Vanessa Veselka has some good ideas about this and she also points out some good examples to learn from. Here is an excerpt from her interview with Rob Hart. She is the author of Zazen.

Rob Hart: What attracts you to the first-person narrative?

Vanessa Veselka: I love the speed and the edge. It reminds me of what lit did to me when I first started reading. From Dostoyevsky to Melville, Celine—to all the modern classics of identity and manhood like Happy Baby, Fight Club or things like that. It drives. You hear the voice of the narrator and inside that, you hear your own. It’s a drug. What it lacks in sweeping majesty it makes up for in intensity. I like intensity.

RH: Which authors, contemporary or classic, do you believe are exceedingly adept at writing compelling first-person narratives?

VV: I mentioned some of my favorites above, but also The Lover by Marguerite.

Link here:

March 15, 2012

“Essays from the Edge” Meets “Big Sur” Without a Hangover

There’s a fine review by Patricia Hampl of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Essays from the Edge” in the American Scholar. While the excessive use of alcohol is often associated with an impulse to run away from feelings and, thus, an impulse towards cowardice, it is clear that it took great courage to expose his disease by writing these essays. While he did write fiction, it is clear from the writing that he had first-hand knowledge and that these are autobiographical events.

A generation later, Jack Kerouac came up with a novel called “Big Sur” which is a masterpiece of a chronicle of his own “crack up” with alcohol. I imagine he had read those essays of Fitzgerald’s. It’s amazing to me that great writing does not always require a sound mind. Perhaps writing is more than an intellectual exercise—ya think? The Crack-Up was published in 1945 and by then Fitzgerald was known as a great American writer. “Big Sur” was published in 1962 and by then Kerouac, too, was considered one.

Here’s a quote from Patricia Hampl’s piece:
“John Dos Passos was particularly exercised. “Christ, man,” he wrote to Fitzgerald in October 1936. “How do you find time in the middle of the general conflagration to worry about all that stuff?” The “general conflagration,” presumably, was the Great Depression, but also National Socialism and fascism in Germany and Italy, and the Spanish Civil War, which had ignited in July. “We’re living in one of the damnedest tragic moments in history,” Dos Passos steams on. “If you want to go to pieces I think it’s absolutely OK but I think you ought to write a first-rate novel about it (and you probably will) instead of spilling it in little pieces for Arnold Gingrich,” the editor of Esquire, who had commissioned the essays.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Essays From the Edge:

February 26, 2012

Waiting for Godot, but Not Barney Rosset

From Notebook, a magazine of film culture, is an obituary for Barney Rosset, ground-breaking leader in American publishing. He fed us Beckett, Henry Miller, William Burroughs, and I Am Curious (Yellow) when we were hungry for it.

Rosset’s publishing house, Grove Press, was a tiny company operating out of the ground floor of Rosset’s brownstone when it published an obscure play called Waiting for Godot in 1954. By the time Beckett had won the Nobel Prize in 1969, Grove had become a force that challenged and changed literature and American culture in deep and lasting ways. [Thanks to Richard Nash from Twitter.]

The article is here: Barney Rosset

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