Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Writer's Needs

"A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others." William Faulkner 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beautiful Sentences: Haunting Power

Ran into some unexpectedly powerful sentences (and literary criticism – or is it evaluation?) while listening to a bio of Nobel-Prize winner Pearl Buck.

Buck grew up as a Presbyterian missionary’s kid in China before the Boxer Rebellion, & devoured Dickens especially, reading his entire ouevre every year for a decade:

“As a prospective writer herself, she responded avidly to the haunting power of an imagination that accesses horrors lurking deep beyond the reach of the conscious mind through symbolic imagery and drama, gluing the narrative together on the surface with the bland sentimentality that soothes and reassures readers. The split between dream-like purity and contaminated reality … would become a crucial part of the implicit bargain she too would make later with her American public.”

-Hilary Spurling, Pearl Buck in China

There’s also a lovely sentence describing the effects of famine:
“Gaunt pregnant women gnawed from within” that grabbed me by its accuracy and its horror.

Death Only Scares Us, Not Them

I was listening to the Teaching Company’s superb “Classics of British Literature” this week and Professor John Sutherland, while discussing Victorian literature, said (and I paraphrase): 'The Victorians avoided the one bedroom scene (sex) but faced the other bedroom scened (death) straight forward.'

Wow! We’re the exact opposite today aren’t we?

BTW, you could hardly do better than listen to this course to fill in any gaps in your literary learning. It’s well worth every penny. Link (which won't embed), is here:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best Books 2011

If you're seeking a killer read as a Christmas present, everyone's publishing their Best Books of 2011 lists, from the New York Times to Publisher's Weekly to NPR to Esquire. If I'm unsure, I like to look at all of them & see which titles appear on multiple lists.

Do you have any favorites for 2011?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Flannery O'Conner . . . Cartoonist

Yes, we know about O'Conner the short story master, but did you know she grew up wanting to be a cartoonist? Yep, and they're quite funny. The Guardian delves into the story here, as does Austin Kleon. There's a new book celebrating her cartooning talents for the first time that may be worth the purchase for completists. I know it's on my list.

Interestingly, John Updike also had great interest in being a cartoonist, but ended up in prose as well.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Writing to Music: My Current List

While I'm writing and writing my long story, I'm often listening to something so that the musical creativity feeds my momentum. At present, depending on my mood, it's Switchfoot's Dark Horses, Bach (anything), Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. A listening list never does make sense, does it?

What do you listen to - if anything - when you write? Any idea why you choose the choices you make? For me, jazz creates that happy medium of an upbeat tempo without lyrics to clutter my mind. Then again, sometimes I need to rock out:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Faith-Based Novels: No More Catholics?

Catholics once helped set the standard for literary excellence, or at least contributed their fair share of classics this century. Think Flannery O'Conner, Graham Greene, Walker Percy, Evelyn Waugh.

This article makes a (not-completely convincing) case that their faith has diminished, as have their novels. Many in the comments dispute that case with facts. Whatever the case, I always find discussions of faith-based novels invigorating.