Monday, March 22, 2010

Something to think about

Perhaps it's the switch to daylight savings time but I've been feeling a joy-of-spring feeling lately, a feeling of energy and internal happiness. I'm back in love with writing and the fact that I have a crazy amount of real-world work just makes me laugh. Also, for the past week I've been re-reading Virginia Woolf's diaries, something I do every couple of years or when I lack inspiration. It's fascinating to follow the up and down progress as she finds her form and then is halted by everyday interruptions (including having T.S. Eliot as a houseguest -- which would intimidate anyone!)

So I found this one little nugget which I mean to remember when I can't write:

"The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature. It is a mistake to think that literature can be produced from the raw. One must get out of must become externalized, very, very concentrated..."

OK, long walks. I can do that. (Even though I don't have a country house.)
"The reading of..." well, something to get the mind moving. (I have a feeling my reading is far trashier than Virginia Woolf's "good literature.")
Finally, get out of life. Not out into life...out of life, away from interruptions and demands. Give yourself space to think.
Fortunately right now I don't need this advice. I'm off to make hay while the sun shines.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hark, hark

I believe that there was an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show which had writer Murray Slaughter beginning his long-planned novel with the words, "Somewhere, a dog was barking." I guess every writer has what are for them evocative sounds -- voices in another room, a train whistle, the lapping of water. With me, for reasons that remain obscure, one of those sounds is dogs barking. I've been sitting here in the spring evening -- there's daylight after dinner now -- when my thoughts were interrupted by barking in the distance. A block away, a mile away, who knows? It struck me as the sound of life, somewhere out there -- the opposite of isolation -- a sound of striving, of longing, of a need to talk to someone. It reminded me of the book 101 Dalmatians, where the dogs of England exchange news at the "Twilight Barking" every evening. I always loved that idea -- of a vast communication over distance and space, dogs with their own world of gossip to share. Well, who knows why dogs bark? As the light goes I think I could lie here and listen to them, and all the other noises of the world, a long, long time.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The last word

From the New York Times obituary section for March 8, 2010:
1. Ruth Kligman. Sole survivor of the car accident which killed Jackson Pollock and muse to numerous artists of the 50s and 60s. Lived in Ibiza late in life. Married a couple of times, no children. "Art is my life, that's my motto."
2. Henri Salmide. Nazi officer who was ordered to blow up the port of Bordeaux, France in 1944. Didn't do it, saving the lives of at least 3,500 people. Considered a traitor in Germany after the war, married a Frenchwoman and lived in complete obscurity, partly because the Resistance tried to take credit for his actions.
3. Patricia Travers. Child prodigy violinist of the 1930s. Hailed as having a great future, instead gave up violin entirely. Never married. Managed a condo in NJ. In later years occasionally played violin for her mother.
4. Mark Linkous. Alternative/country musician who led (0r was known as) Sparklehorse. In spite of recent career progress, went into an alley in Knoxville over the weekend and shot himself in the heart.
Four great stories (almost novels in themselves) and four great characters. I am always amazed by how beautiful, mysterious and ironic individual lives are.