Monthly Archives: April 2015

The long-forgotten shape


In later life [ the sculptor Henry] Moore often told the story of how his mother suffered from bad rheumatism in the back. “She would often say to me in winter when I came back from school, ”Henry, boy, come and rub my back.” Then I would massage her back with liniment. He related this experience to a particular seated figure of a mature woman he made in 1957. “I found that I was unconsciously giving to its back the long-forgotten shape of the one that I had so often rubbed as a boy.’

One feels that such early experiences somehow inform the vision he wished to convey through all his later sophisticated sculptural skills.”  (More on this)

Peter Fuller, Henry Moore, Methuen 1993, p 18


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The people from the photograph album

Sometimes I even imagined that I had seen one or other of the people from the photographs in the album walking down the road in Bala, or out in the fields, particularly around noon on hot summer days, when there was no one else about and the air flickered hazily.

W.G. Sebald Austerliz



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Running away from doubt

In life there comes a moment, and I believe that its unavoidable, that one cannot escape it, when everything is out into doubt…And this doubt grows around one. This doubt is alone, it is the doubt of solitude, it is born of solitude. We can already speak the word. I believe that most people couldn’t stand what I’m saying here, that they’d run away from it. This might be the reason why not everyone is a writer, yes. That’s the difference. That is the truth. No other. Doubt equals writing. So it also equals the writing .Marguerite Duras (from here) 

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The image of the father

A photograph showed Thomas his striking resemblance to his absconded actual father, and he realized that his mother, in her hatred of the man who had fed her promises and flatly deserted her and her child, had been constantly provoked to vent her anger upon her first born son who was the unwitting image of the father he had never seen.

Sophie Wilkins, afterforward to On the Mountain by Thomas Bernhard Quartet Books 1993


She [my mother] always made me feel that all my life I had stood between her and complete happiness. When she saw me she saw my father, the lover who had deserted her. In me she saw all too plainly the man who had destroyed her. I had the same face, as I know, because I once saw a photograph of my father. The likeness between us was amazing. It was not just that my face was similar to my fathers; it was the same face.

Thomas Bernhard Gathering Evidence : A Memoir

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Stalking ones demons

Getting even is one great reason for writing. I write because I hate. A lot. Hard. And if someone asks me the inevitable next dumb question, ‘Why do you write the way you do?’ I must answer that I wish to make my hatred acceptable because my hatred is much of me, if not the best part. Writing is a way of making the writer acceptable to the world — every cheap, dumb, nasty thought, every despicable desire, every noble sentiment, every expensive taste.

At a time when people are encouraged to follow their bliss, to pursue whatever makes them feel good, I suggest you stalk your demons. Embrace them. If you are a writer, especially one who has been unable to make your work count or stick, you must grab your demons by the neck and face them down. And whatever you do, don’t censor yourself. There’s always time and editors for that.

Writers take note: your struggle to produce a piece of writing of interest and value means nothing to the reader. The reader doesn’t care what you went through to produce your work. He only cares if the piece succeeds, if it looks as if it arrived whole. William Gass

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Eudora Welty on photography and writing

The camera was a hand-held auxiliary of wanting-to-know. It had more than information and accuracy to teach me. I learned in the doing how ready I had to be. Life doesn’t hold still. A good snapshot stopped a moment from running away. Photography taught me that to be able to capture transience, by being ready to click the shutter at the crucial moment, was the greatest need I had. Making pictures of people in all sorts of situations, I learned that every feeling awaits upon its gesture; and I had to be prepared to recognize this moment when I saw it. These were things a storywriter needed to know. And I felt the need to hold transient life in words – there’s so much of life that only words can convey – strongly enough to last me as long as I lived. The direction my mind took was a writer’s direction from the start, not a photographer’s or a recorder’s.

Eudora Welty One Writer’s Beginnings

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The wedding photographer

The photographer has become part of the pageantry [of the wedding] today. One woman asked me to take pictures as the bridesmaids

came down the aisle. I resisted because I don’t want to be intrusive, and you need flash with moving people in a church. It turned out

she didn’t care if I had film in the camera, she just wanted her guests to see the flashes.

Barbara Norfleet Wedding, New York : Simon and Schuster, c1979

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In praise of the idle moments


He wanted to write the lost thoughts of soldiers. Not the grand heavy story, he has never known his life that way, but the seams and spaces in between.

This is history too, he thinks, the weight of gathered thoughts, the cumulus of idle moments.

Delia Falconer The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers

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burning the letters

When, a fortnight before his death, Samuel Johnson burned his mother’s letters, he burst into tears, thrusting his hand into the ashes to see if any words were legible.

Michael Holroyd,  Works on Paper The Craft of Biography and Autobiography



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Not knowing

The kind of writing that matters most to me is something you don’t learn about. It’s constantly coming out of what I don’t know rather than what I do know. I find it as I go.

W.S. Merwin, The Paris Review,  The Art of Poetry No. 38
Interviewed by Edward Hirsch

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