Today, I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which, it must be said, is quite expensive and staffed by some insanely rude and surly individuals). I walked briskly up the Rocky Stairs. I also saw interesting and confusing and awesome art objects but the best exhibit was a retrospective of the work of Arshile Gorky. Toward the end of the exhibit was a placard discussing the end of Gorky’s life which, as is the case for most artists, ended tragically. In one of this final interviews, Gorky stated, “”I don’t like that word finish. When something is finished, that means it’s dead, doesn’t it? I believe in everlastingness. I never finish a painting–I just stop working on it for a while.”
Gorky’s comment has had me thinking all afternoon about when a story or a poem or other creative work ends or is finished. How do you know? Do you, as Gorky does, believe in everlastingness and that to finish something is to kill it?
Jac Jemc all micro-fiction/poem (ah, genre, ala Charles Baxter: “…they are between poetry and fiction, the story and the sketch, prophecy and reminiscence, the personal and the crowd.”). Short form. Something has happened, much of it off the page, much of it white space, white blizzard whirling around tight words. Residue. Stumble. Off the page one serious advantage of microfiction. Some see space. Some use the space (example Joseph Young, example Chelsea Martin). Example Jac Jemc.
Jac Jemc has a razor name and wears killer boots while out in Chicago.
Jac Jemc spits on rejection, polishes it up, tacks its forehead to this wall with a knife.
Jac Jemc opening page:
“Windows of humor roll down low & whistle
At our glorious legs & eyeball the stiff &
Enthronging death of accidents.
The humpbacked light of the moon is the
Funnel cloud of direction, sawn off & mighty.
December 30th, 2009 / 4:49 pm
[Liu Xiaobo is a Chinese literary critic, poet, and dissident. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day for “inciting subversion of state power.” Learn more at the PEN website.]
Tomorrow’s press event/rally to protest the conviction of Liu Xiaobo in China will take place ON THE FRONT STEPS OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, 42nd Street at 5th Avenue, at 11:00 a.m.
We are hoping for a large turnout of PEN supporters to send a strong image, and message, of solidarity. Please join us for this event, which kicks off a year that marks the 50th year of PEN’s organized efforts to defend writers under threat around the world.
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
Last week while I was visiting family in Mississippi, I spent more time in church than I have in the past two years. This reminded me that from the age of 4 and 14, I spent roughly 490 Sundays in church excluding occasional sick days. That’s 1,225 hours when you include Sunday school and “fellowship” time. In addition to regular Sundays there were Wednesday night dinners, youth group meetings, confirmation classes, summer Bible school, youth choir practice, choir tours and weekend retreats. I’m estimating that about 3,500-4,000 hours. Yikes!
But what effect does all this Jesus have on one’s writing? I can’t speak for everyone who has had this kind of upbringing, but for me, church-going led me directly into writing. Prayer led to journaling; journaling led to disgraceful poetry; disgraceful poetry led to disgraceful fiction, then to essays and memoir and more fiction. But church also instilled a reverence for narrative and the inclination to analyze and obsess over stories and books (first books in the bible, of course, but then others.)
Just in time for Christmas, N+1 posted this video of their panel discussion titled Evangelicalism and the Contemporary Intellectual and it’s pretty interesting, though the title is slightly misleading. (It’s not just about Evangelicalism, which is a very particular corner of Protestantism, but about growing up in the church in general.) READ MORE >
These are some thoughts in response to Sean Lovelace’s post the other day, which asked “You do send your Very Best work Every time when submitting to a literary magazine, right?”It started out in the comment thread, but then I decided that his question deserved more of a commitment than that. Here goes.
I think this idea of “best” vs “not-best” is based on a fundamental, and mistaken notion that *every*thing one writes ought to be published. One-offs, exercises, middling poems and pieces of “flash”–well I already wrote it, the logic goes, so why not place it *some*where?
At the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, Wim Wenders set up a camera in room 666 at Hotel Martinez and asked a few directors to answer the question: “Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?” Their answers became a documentary called Room 666. I wonder how you might answer this question if it were reworded to focus on literature…?
First up, via the the always wonderful Steve Silberman–good words from Cory Doctorow:
Anyone who claims that readers can’t and won’t and shouldn’t own their books are bent on the destruction of the book, the destruction of publishing, and the destruction of authorship itself. We must stop them from being allowed to do it. The library of tomorrow should be better than the library of today. The ability to loan our books to more than one person at once is a feature, not a bug. We all know this. It’s time we stop pretending that the pirates of copyright are right. These people were readers before they were publishers before they were writers before they worked in the legal department before they were agents before they were salespeople and marketers. We are the people of the book, and we need to start acting like it.
I’ve been enjoying Eugene Lim’s blog lately. Some highlights: Debussy on mystery, art–the films of Desplechin–photgraphy and book reviews and sonnets.
And Joel Johnson talks about living in New York. Entertaining and mournful as hell.
December 30th, 2009 / 9:40 am