August 19th, 2010 / 9:57 am
Snippets

So is the published work the apotheosis of the work, or its death? Or both? Does it die to you the moment it lives for others? Or is it then born? Or reborn? When and where does the work best live? Oh I’m so tidbitty lately, so curious.

12 Comments

  1. Fritz Bogott

      I find it useful to regard the moment of publication as equivalent to the moment you drop a letter into a blue mailbox. You wrote it, you sent it, you can’t pull it back. Time to start writing another letter.

      Writing and baking are delightful but quotidian habits. Neither is deeper or more profound than the other. The deliciousness of the cookie pleases the eater, but it doesn’t imbue the cookie with a soul.

  2. Richard

      That’s a great question.

      In many ways, as the author of it, the moment it leaves you, even for submissions, it dies a bit. Upon publication, its “final” resting place, it is dead, you are done writing it. For the most part. There are always anthologies (speaking of short stories here) and reprints, and some people like to keep tweaking. For me, upon publication, it isn’t so much “dead” but maybe…married off? Off to college? It has left me, found a home, and I’m thrilled for that, wish it the best of luck, and hope that it gets a lot of love out there in the world. People may comment on this story later, so it’s still “alive” and will be for as long as it is out there (online, or in print).

      Novels, that’s kind of the same, thing but with the possibility of a sequel, or characters carrying over into a new novel, or even writing in the same genre, it isn’t dead, still there for reference. AND as a longer piece of work, it might get more discussion, more press, more people talking about it, so it has a longer life, an extended life.

      But I am reminded of something Palahniuk said at a reading when asked what his favorite book is, from his own work. The answer? THE NEXT ONE. Which, as I’ve published my first, written the first draft to my second, and am contemplating my third, is so very true. You do get sick of a work, you’ve written it for a year, edited it for another year, so many times, workshopped it, and now it’s out in the world, you’ve done interviews, you’ve sold it to people in every conversation you’ve had, and now…it’s time to move on.

      I think our work, it will always hold a place in our hearts, especially the better stories or novels. So I don’t think our work is really ever dead.

  3. herocious

      thanks for the prompt. i thought about this, and then i made Schr√∂dinger’s Cat purr.

  4. Adam R

      I am really looking forward to reading Tan Lin’s new book, “Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. . .” It’s reviewed here (http://www.themontserratreview.com/bookreviews/tan_lin.html) brilliantly by Maureen Thorson.

      Tan Lin discusses this question in terms of a book by Laura (Riding) Jackson called “Rational Meaning,” which took 40 years to write. In all that time, the book became not just the book, but the documentation of writing the book. That’s pretty exciting. In Lin’s own book, he published it once in 2005 then again recently through Wesleyan, he has incorporated prefaces to different sections and written sections on how he finished the writing, and apparently just released a new appendix for the book.

      So, while we know the answer is going to be different for every writer, I think Tan Lin’s innovation shows how far we can go to avoid asking the question.

  5. Peter Jurmu

      Seems it leaves the room so you can talk about it behind its back.

  6. Fritz Bogott

      I find it useful to regard the moment of publication as equivalent to the moment you drop a letter into a blue mailbox. You wrote it, you sent it, you can’t pull it back. Time to start writing another letter.

      Writing and baking are delightful but quotidian habits. Neither is deeper or more profound than the other. The deliciousness of the cookie pleases the eater, but it doesn’t imbue the cookie with a soul.

  7. Richard

      That’s a great question.

      In many ways, as the author of it, the moment it leaves you, even for submissions, it dies a bit. Upon publication, its “final” resting place, it is dead, you are done writing it. For the most part. There are always anthologies (speaking of short stories here) and reprints, and some people like to keep tweaking. For me, upon publication, it isn’t so much “dead” but maybe…married off? Off to college? It has left me, found a home, and I’m thrilled for that, wish it the best of luck, and hope that it gets a lot of love out there in the world. People may comment on this story later, so it’s still “alive” and will be for as long as it is out there (online, or in print).

      Novels, that’s kind of the same, thing but with the possibility of a sequel, or characters carrying over into a new novel, or even writing in the same genre, it isn’t dead, still there for reference. AND as a longer piece of work, it might get more discussion, more press, more people talking about it, so it has a longer life, an extended life.

      But I am reminded of something Palahniuk said at a reading when asked what his favorite book is, from his own work. The answer? THE NEXT ONE. Which, as I’ve published my first, written the first draft to my second, and am contemplating my third, is so very true. You do get sick of a work, you’ve written it for a year, edited it for another year, so many times, workshopped it, and now it’s out in the world, you’ve done interviews, you’ve sold it to people in every conversation you’ve had, and now…it’s time to move on.

      I think our work, it will always hold a place in our hearts, especially the better stories or novels. So I don’t think our work is really ever dead.

  8. herocious

      thanks for the prompt. i thought about this, and then i made Schr√∂dinger’s Cat purr.

  9. MM

      “leaves of grass”, “naked lunch”, “the surrealist manifesto”, “paris spleen”, “pierre”.
      To which version do we refer?
      it’s upsetting and confusing, but who cares.
      (BB said very recently, up just one post, somewhere,
      “all words are words”.)

      Titles to me, beyond being labels, which i eschew, or try to,
      are opportunities to track the phylogeny, endlessly.
      I use a peculiar number system, denoting dates,
      (if I ever publish, editors will scrape it off presumably),
      YYMMDD (it snaps order on computer).
      To every edit is appended another six figures.
      A friend wondered:
      should he input it to a cookie-box toy decoder to try and decipher?
      Some might snook: sloppy! Shut up if no finality!
      But really, though I will die,
      this breath after breath allows life,
      some hindu hoodoo looper evolution.
      I love it, the cut-up, the cover version, collaboration, the mixtape, the jazz “tease”,
      the variation form.

  10. Adam Robinson

      I am really looking forward to reading Tan Lin’s new book, “Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. . .” It’s reviewed here (http://www.themontserratreview.com/bookreviews/tan_lin.html) brilliantly by Maureen Thorson.

      Tan Lin discusses this question in terms of a book by Laura (Riding) Jackson called “Rational Meaning,” which took 40 years to write. In all that time, the book became not just the book, but the documentation of writing the book. That’s pretty exciting. In Lin’s own book, he published it once in 2005 then again recently through Wesleyan, he has incorporated prefaces to different sections and written sections on how he finished the writing, and apparently just released a new appendix for the book.

      So, while we know the answer is going to be different for every writer, I think Tan Lin’s innovation shows how far we can go to avoid asking the question.

  11. Peter Jurmu

      Seems it leaves the room so you can talk about it behind its back.

  12. MM

      “leaves of grass”, “naked lunch”, “the surrealist manifesto”, “paris spleen”, “pierre”.
      To which version do we refer?
      it’s upsetting and confusing, but who cares.
      (BB said very recently, up just one post, somewhere,
      “all words are words”.)

      Titles to me, beyond being labels, which i eschew, or try to,
      are opportunities to track the phylogeny, endlessly.
      I use a peculiar number system, denoting dates,
      (if I ever publish, editors will scrape it off presumably),
      YYMMDD (it snaps order on computer).
      To every edit is appended another six figures.
      A friend wondered:
      should he input it to a cookie-box toy decoder to try and decipher?
      Some might snook: sloppy! Shut up if no finality!
      But really, though I will die,
      this breath after breath allows life,
      some hindu hoodoo looper evolution.
      I love it, the cut-up, the cover version, collaboration, the mixtape, the jazz “tease”,
      the variation form.