November 28, 2012
“Experiment, play, dare to be really bad, fool around, and just notice what an incredible luxury it is to be in this formative, uncertain, experimental phase, one where you learn and discover new things very rapidly but also haphazardly – you don’t know when and how it is going to happen so it is crucial that you try different things and weird things, and that you read very unexpected things and glom onto influences that are uncomfortable but fascinating. Because you know, later, if you persist and become a writer, the rate of change will slow down, expectations that you produce from within and expectations that are produced from without will tend to slightly concretize this task for you, it will become something more professionalized, so make sure you relish this period that won’t come again. It belongs only to you, for the time being.”
Jonathan Lethem. From an interview at Days of Yore. Lots of other gems over there, from the likes of Lauren Slater and Kate Christensen, so check ‘em out.
November 2, 2012
Elizabeth Cady Stanton on gender parity from 1874:
The talk about women being so much above men, celestial, ethereal, and all that, is sentimental nonsense. … The real woman is not up in the clouds nor among the stars, but down here upon earth by the side of man. She is on the same material plane with man, striving and working to support herself.
Basically says it all. Via Popular History.
May 23, 2012
There are some beautiful books out there. But the ones that leave me cold are the ones where I feel—it’s that postmodern thing—it’s more experimentation with language than it is a deep compassionate falling into another human being’s experience.
Andre Dubus III, via Practicing Writing, via Writer’s Digest.
March 9, 2012
Posted by tpaperny under Journalism
| Tags: homeless
, homeless youth
, sex education
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1.) Sam Taylor just finished an eleven-month tour in Iraq as a chaplain’s assistant with the U.S. army. While enlisted, she hid her transgender identity and even dealt with a fellow soldier who insisted that all ” ‘she-males’ would be rounded up and killed ” in a just world. Taylor is back home in North Carolina and beginning to resume the life she left behind, beginning to take estrogen, coming out to the men she served alongside. When speaking to the Chapel Hill News in a recent article, she wouldn’t comment on how estrogen was changing her body:
“I feel that, because there are so many stories and jokes and ideas about what happens to a trans woman’s body … and because that journey is often so visible to the outside world, non-trans people often feel that they are no longer bounded by standards of politeness when it comes to questions about a trans person’s body,” she said.
2.) The AP did an important story about LGBT homeless youth, a community left behind by politics and budget cuts. The article has photos and stories from homeless youth in Detroit and New York City. It paints a grim picture of the dearth of services, but a strong picture of resilience and self-made community. The good news is that the Obama administration is hosting a “national conference on housing and homelessness in America’s LGBT communities” today in Detroit.
3.) UH-OH: “The [Utah] Legislature gave final passage Tuesday to a bill that would let schools skip teaching sex education and prohibit instruction in the use of contraception.” Schools in Utah already allow parents to opt-out of having their kids attend sex-education classes, but under this new bill, schools can choose to skip the topic altogether, and if they do teach, they must cover abstinence only.
March 8, 2012
It is a rigidly controlled book. It came at a time in my life when I’d been in therapy and analysis for years and just beating at the whole thing. I wanted to know what my culpability was. I literally had this fantasy of a pie graph of all the players involved, and this much is your fault, this much is your fault. I wanted that. I wanted to know exactly how bad I should feel. At some point, God bless my analyst, I hit the wall. I realized that all of this cerebral going around and around and around was not only failing to produce the desired effect, but was preventing me from approaching my own history. There was one moment, where I thought, there’s only one thing I can do with this, and that’s to tell the story. I know how it happened.
From a Days of Yore interview with Kathryn Harrison, author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, The Kiss. In the quote above, she’s talking about the process of writing that book, which is about her incestuous relationship with her father. It’s a daring book to say the least. I guess at some point, she had to just tell her story in book form instead of talking around the issue in circles. There is no neat resolution to one’s own past, no solid answers that can wash away a trauma.
The interview was conducted by my friend and former classmate Kassi Underwood, herself a talented writer.
February 16, 2012
From an op-ed by singer/songwriter/author Alina Simone in the Wall Street Journal:
But as recent headlines make clear, we still haven’t managed to outrun some of our Cold War-era habits. There is an I-told-you-so kind of glee in U.S. reporting of the Russian protests over mishandling of the elections, the same glee that’s reflected in coverage of the “Occupy” movement by Russian news outlets. “Mass arrests in the United States” a nightly news report on Channel 1 bleated. Thirty-one protestors had been taken into custody in Washington D.C. — hardly a revolution, but such is the distorted glimpse we tend to get of one another’s politics.
I witnessed the same thing when I first visited Moscow, Russia in 1994. From an essay I wrote about that trip:
That first time in Russia, I couldn’t figure people out. They had a strange air of contradiction in their essence. Architecture was torn between modernism and an attachment to classical forms, Greek-style columns painted over with awful pastel greens or yellows that were now flaking off. The youth were torn between making jokes at the expense of Americans and between a strong desire to imitate American culture. Life was torn between glamorous fashion magazines and crumbling Khrushchev-era apartments.
I first heard about Alina from this silly article in The New York Times Style Magazine about a new wave of Russian literati and media makers. Can I have in, please?
February 15, 2012
I’m most interested in the book which is completely un-sellable on the basis of a proposal or contract. One of the reasons so many nonfiction books are so boring is because what they’ve done, very diligently, is fulfill the terms of their proposals—they’ve written up their proposal, long-form, and often what this does is then set up a sort of serial deal, where the whole book can essentially be reduced back to the size of the original proposal! What I really like about this book is that the proposal would be turned down instantly: there’s nothing to propose. Nicholson Baker talks about the way in which the most successful nonfiction books are those that can be boiled down into an argument so that everybody can wade in with an opinion without having to undergo the inconvenience of having to read the book itself. The more you can condense it, the better. Malcolm Gladwell is the supreme exponent of this: Blink—oh yeah, I get it! “Blink.” That’s all you need to know.
Quote from an interview at Guernica.
This sounds a lot like advice I got from my favorite former professor Paul Elie. Elie actually just quit his full-time job as an editor at Farrar Straus and Giroux to finish a book about J.S. Bach. He’d always tell us about authors who would just take their book proposal synopsis and turn that into the prologue or first chapter. Don’t give it all away!, he’d say.
January 1, 2012
Here’s a snippet from a recent “Brevity” blog post by Anna Vodicka that really resonated with me:
The poetry class did not make me a poet. I wrote a lot of bad poems. But it did turn my attention to the short form—the art of economy and responsibility. With Kinnell’s poem and Wrigley’s words in mind, I thought, “Yes. Prose, it is.”
I plucked a few lines from their stanzas, let them settle responsibly into the new space of a paragraph, and cautiously let prose in. That’s when I heard the sound. It went, “click.”
I am currently working on an experimental essay all about how poetry and literary translation has affected my nonfiction prose writing and pushed me in a, well, experimental direction.
Can’t wait to finish it and (hopefully) find a published home for it. Then I’ll share it here!