For Tuesday, August 15, 2013:
What matters is the book itself. If it is as good a book as you can write at this moment in time, that is what counts. Success is pleasant; of course you want it, but it isn’t what makes you write.
Madeleine L’Engle, A CIRCLE OF QUIET
For Friday, August 11, 2017:
Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position.
(except for the period, punctuation is mine)
For Tuesday, August 8, 2017:
Only art penetrates … the seeming realities of this world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive.
Saul Bellow, from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech
For Friday, August 4, 2017:
My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys, and thriftily save up the larger, more demanding pleasures for holidays and appropriate hours. It is the small joys first of all that are granted us for recreation, for daily relief and disburdenment, not the great ones.
Hermann Hesse, ‘On Little Joys,’ MY BELIEF: ESSAYS ON LIFE AND ART
For Tuesday, August 1, 2017:
Yesterday’s TV news reports reminded me that this might be a good time to rehearse the meaning of an oft-used word that is usually used incorrectly: ‘fulsome.’ James J. Kilpatrick, my favorite go-to source for all things grammar, has this to say:
It always is a shock for a writer to discover that a familiar word doesn’t mean what he thinks it means. So it is with fulsome. For a good many years I thought fulsome was a friendly word. Many others thought the same thing. In 1983 a Midwestern newspaper reported on astronaut Sally Ride: ‘Ms. Ride, appearing fresh and spirited despite her trail-blazing, six-day voyage, modestly accepted President Reagan’s fulsome praise.’
No, no, no! Fulsome does not mean abundant, or copious, or florid, or excessive. Its primary meaning is insincere, phony, offensively effusive. Members of the Senate engage in fulsome speech when they speak of an ‘able, distinguished, erudite, and dedicated’ colleague. This is spatula speech, the kind of no-cal icing that may be piled upon a pound cake.
James J. Kilpatrick, FINE PRINT: REFLECTIONS ON THE WRITING ART (1993)
(See my page above, ‘Those Fulsome Wordplay Blues,’ for more on this word and others that tend to trip up even the best writers.)
For Friday, July 28, 2017:
Making art is all about humans and our psychology: who we are, how we behave, what we do with the hand we’ve been dealt. It’s closer to your own bone when it’s a memoir, but the bone is still the bone.
A. M. Homes
For Tuesday, July 25, 2017:
A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.
Alice Munro, 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, SELECTED STORIES
For Friday, July 21, 2017:
“‘A poet’s work,’ [the satirist, Baal] answers. ‘To name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.'”
Salman Rushdie, THE SATANIC VERSES (pg. 100)
For Tuesday, July 18, 2017:
Great art flourishes on problems or anguish or prejudice. But the role of the writer must be very clear. The writer must not be on the side of oppression. In other words there must be no confusion. I write about prejudice; I write about wickedness; I write about murder; I write about rape; but I must not be caught on the side of murder or rape. It is as simple as that.
Chinua Achebe, in CONVERSATIONS WITH JAMES BALDWIN (1989)
For Friday, July 14, 2017:
Occasionally, in times of worry, I’ve longed to be stylish, but on second thought I say no – just let me be myself – and express rough, yet true things with rough workmanship.
Vincent van Gogh, to Theo van Gogh (1882)