Monthly Archives: December 2015

On meeting the author

We tend to identify the author with the person who has written the book. It’s not like this. The author is the book, is the writing, coinciding with the whole range of techniques, expressive strategies, and linguistic material with which the author addresses the reader. The person who has created the writing is, beyond the writing, so redundant, so fragmented, that often she cannot account for the book other than in an approximate, changeable way, and is not even sure that she will know how to write another. When readers today think they are meeting the author, in reality they’re meeting a man or a woman, rich or poor in humanity, but who has already left the role of author. The author – and his capacity to develop the quality of the linguistic material to which he resorts – is present only in the works. Jennifer Levasseu interviews Elena Ferrante,

Elena Ferrante: The mysterious Italian writer talks about her acclaimed novels

The Age December 19, 2015 (from here) 

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A woman observing

Chair-by-Angie-Hiesl-Yellowtrace-1

Photography by Roland Kaiser.   X Times People Chair by Angie Hiesl

German artist, director and choreographer Angie Hiesl has been presenting her performance art piece X Times People Chair in various cities and festivals throughout Europe and South America since 1995. Senior citizens (both from the original ensemble and locals) are perched on white chairs bolted to the façades of buildings, 15m or so up from the ground. They perform uneventful tasks such as reading the paper, knitting, and folding laundry, unfazed by the surprised passers-by staring up at them. Most recently, X Times People Chair was performed in Montreal as part of the Festival Transmeriques, where two fire trucks showed up at one of the fixed chair locations not aware of the performance and thinking the actor a little nuts. How fun! from here 

 

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An editor announces his limitations as observer

The reknowned editor Gordon Lish  is interviewed by Christian Lorentzen in The Paris Review , No. 215, Winter 2015

CL If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, how come there are books out there with your name on them?

GL Because I could get away with it and because it was persuasive to women. I think I’m an editor, a reviser. I think I’m a teacher. Not a writer. My son Atticus is a writer. I have the view that, in a word, in a breath, in a turn, the sublime can be created. I can do that in revising. As an editor, I stand by my taste and not by anybody else’s. Am prepared to run riot exercising my druthers. Am also, as a writer, just as convinced of my elections. But regarding talent, nah, I have nothing of consequence, although I’m a sucker for my own work.

CL Was it ever your ambition to approach the sublime?

GL Oh sure. But never came close. You have to have an interest in the world to capture the sublime. I’m not interested in the world. You have to have an interest in people. Apart from my relations as a father, a husband, a lover, I’m not interested in people. I’m not really terribly interested in anybody else’s heart or mind, or even in my own. The great affection of my latter years, I attend to her bearing but not as I imagine others would and do. I’m not exactly autistic, but if you called me that, I wouldn’t object. Hey, I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever had. I can manage, if I choose to manage, but I don’t choose to. Really, the society of others – certain friends, family and lovers aside – is not a prominent need in me.To bring about the kind of work that has been brought about by a person we would cite as possessed of the power to sweep us away, one would have to be interested in others, in nature, in the machinery of the given. One would have to be interested in what’s without. I so often don’t even notice it. If I were to walk to the grocery, I will glance at a woman on the way but walk right past a war breaking out, not thinking anything of it. I would note a datum in the margin. Not so with DeLillo, for example, his apprehension of the details of the world. Not so with Cormac McCarthy. I’m a poseur, a potzer – not a writer in the sense that matters. Shit, are you kidding? The sublime.

CL You brought it up, the sublime. (from here)

Gordon Lish interviewed by Christian Lorentzen Sunday 6 December 2015 , The Guardian

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Standing on the threshold, observing

[one writer interviews another about the writing process]

Leslie Jamison: I’m struck by how many moments in these essays are marked by a figure standing outside some kind of threshold: “I feel more in my element,” you write, “as the man who is out there standing in the rain.” Even the title, “Loitering,” suggests the presence of someone who doesn’t quite belong. How does a sense of outsiderhood inflect these essays?

Charles D’Ambrosio : Now that you’ve called it to my attention, that figure on the threshold seems to be standing around in quite a few of these essays. It’s a little spooky to realize how porous the personality is in writing, porous or just plain incontinent, leaking out everywhere, so that things get revealed even when—or especially when—you haven’t given them much conscious thought. It’s a good reminder that you don’t have to indulge in a goopy confessional mode to write a personal essay—you’re more mysterious than you know, more naked than you imagine, and whether you intend it or not you’re going to be exposed.

I don’t deliberately seek out that threshold or the ambivalence it offers, but the fact that I return to it over and over suggests that it isn’t entirely innocent, either. I mean, I must go there for a reason, but why? I was a vigilant kid, and vigilance as a perspective on life depends on distance, a certain remove. You’re always kind of there and not there, sitting in the room but also watching the room, alert to some other, less innocent possibility. That distance feels safe, but it also stirs up the most intense feelings of loss and longing, the dream of making the distance go away, of ditching the divided self and all its tensions and simply being there—you know, just crossing that threshold and coming inside, coming home. But it’s hard to do, hard for me to do, anyway.

Leslie Jamison, Instead of Sobbing, You Write Sentences: An Interview with Charles D’Ambrosio 26/11/2014 The New Yorker (from here) 

 

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“Mr Hanky Panky and Theodora: Empress, Actress & Whore

Pamela

Pamela Irving, “Mr Hanky Panky and Theodora: Empress, Actress & Whore”

recently acquired by City of Whitehorse Art Collection

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On not wanting to be like one’s father

Good little clerk, my father hated workers, blacks, and Jews, the way he expected women to hate worms. There wasn’t a faith to embrace or an ideology to spurn, unless perhaps it was the general suggestion of something poisonously Republican, or a periodical’s respect for certain Trade Marks. And I remember resolving, while on long walks or during summer reveries or while deep in the night’s bed, not to be like that, when that was whatever was around me: Warren, Ohio—factory smoke, depression, household gloom, resentments, illness, ugliness, despair, etcetera, and littleness, above all, smallness, the encroachment of the lean and meager. I won’t be like that, I said, and naturally I grew in special hidden ways to be more like that than anyone could possibly imagine, or myself admit. Even as a grown man I was still desperately boasting that I’d choose another cunt to come from.

Preface to In The Heart of the Heart of The Country, William Gass (from here) 

 

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Anger as the motivation to write

The best emotions to write out of are anger and fear and dread. The least energizing emotion to write out of is admiration. It is very difficult to write out of because the basic feeling that goes with admiration is a passive contemplative mood. Susan Sontag

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Reinventing Oneself, Making Oneself Anew

[The writer, William Gass explains why he decided to change his handwriting]

‘So all along one principal motivation behind my writing has been to be other than the person I am.’

When you decide to change your handwriting, and when you sit down and spend a day or more making new characters, you’ve got to be in an outraged and outrageous state of mind. I simply rejected my background entirely. I decided, as one of my characters says, to pick another cunt to come from. Did I come out of that hole in the wallpaper? Rilke has his hero Malte wonder. I just had to make myself anew—or rather, seem to. So I simply started to do it. And I think it very obvious now, though it wasn’t obvious to me then, that I should pick the way I formed words to be the point where I should try to transform everything. The alphabet, for Christ’s sake—I would have changed that, if I’d been able. So all along one principal motivation behind my writing has been to be other than the person I am. To cancel the consequences of the past. I am not the person who grew up in some particular place, though people try to label me as a local Midwestern writer. But I never had roots: all my sources (as a writer) were chosen. I chose to be influenced by this or that book or chose to be defined as the author of this or that. I think that for a long time I was simply emotionally unable to handle my parents’ illnesses. My mother was an alcoholic and my father was crippled by arthritis and his own character. I just fled. It was a cowardly thing to do, but I simply would not have survived. I still hate scenes unless I make them. My situation certainly wasn’t more severe than most people endure at some time in their lives, but I was not equipped to handle it. . . . What is psychologically best for a writer is what produces his best work. I suspect that in order for me to produce my best work I have to be angry. At least I find that easy. I am angry all the time.

(from here) 

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The Nature of the writer’s voice

. . . the essential nature of your voice never changes. It’s as organically a part of you as your fingerprints or the character of your reflexes. I believe that you’re born with your voice. If you’re young and/or inexperienced it may become distorted for a time as you try to imitate some established writer or conform to fashion (I went through a phase in early adolescence, for example, of imitating Dickens) but even then your own distinctive ‘take’ on the mode will emerge. Last year while cleaning out the attic I found some stuff I’d written when I was fifteen and essentially I have the same writing style now as I had then. Astonishing isn’t it? You can refine your technique, change your subject matter, disguise your own voice with pastiche or parody, but that’s about it. Writing schools teach you to recognise your natural strengths and weaknesses – what you can and can’t do with that voice – and then you go on to learn how to minimise the weaknesses and make the most of the strengths.

Interview Amanda Lohrey (Interview appeared in Famous Reporter 10, November 1994). (from here) 

 

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Something missing

This is the beginning of the novel by Amanda Lohrey.

‘Until I met her, I confess that for most of my life I was bored. It’s an unattractive word, boredom, and I flinch from it now, but for a long time it was the only word I could summon to describe my condition. Today I would say that for much of my life I suffered from an apprehension of lack, but one that I found difficult to put into words. In essence it consisted of a feeling that nothing was ever quite right; something was always missing.

How many of us have been dismayed by that feeling? And ashamed of it at those very moments when we ought to feel happy? We ask ourselves: what is the flaw in our being that gives rise to this discontent?

Amanda Lohrey, A Short History of Richard Kline

 

From a review of the novel.

[Amanda Lohrey] has an unusual capacity for intellectual and emotional empathy, and a language supple enough to express both. In temper, she reminds me of Marilynne Robinson, the American Pulitzer prize-winning novelist (for Gilead), and essayist who, like Lohrey, has a repertoire of integrated modes – philosophical/theological, dramatic/analytical, sympathetic and satirical.

Morag Fraser, Amanda Lohrey review: Her new novel is profound, empathetic and beautifully written

March 21, 2015, Sydney Morning Herald (From here) 

 

 

 

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