“I don’t know where to begin because I have nothing to say” ~ Mary Ruefle, from Madness, Rack, and Honey

For lovers of essays on writing, this book by Ruefle is a must read. I have it on my wishlist. Click here to read the NY Times review.

Reblogged from mythologyofblue

By some miracle I cannot figure out, it was given to me to hear these voices, and all these examples of a human life were speaking, and when I listened carefully I could hear that they were speaking about speaking, and when I listen carefully to them speaking about speaking I could hear they were singing about listening. And that has been a long journey for me, of listening. 

I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.

~ Mary Ruefle, from Madness, Rack, and Honey

                     

[Image: Matthais Heiderich]

Music by The Tallest Man on Earth, “Kids on the Run”

“No manipulation is possible in a work of art, but every miracle is. Those artists who dabble in eternity, or who aim never to manipulate but only to lay out hard truths, grow accustomed to miracles. Their sureness is hard won” ~ Annie Dillard, from “Write Till You Drop”

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From Annie Dillard’s “Write Till You Drop”:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ”Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.”

“It’s easier to write about those you hate—just as it’s easier to criticize a bad play or a bad book.” ~ Dorothy Parker, from “The Art of Fiction No. 13”

No time for regular post, but found this wonderful interview from 1956 with Dorothy Parker (Oh, I would have loved to have a conversation with this woman) in The Paris Review (click on link for full interview). Enjoy:

INTERVIEWER (Marion Capron)

What was it about the twenties that inspired people like yourself and Broun?

PARKER

Gertrude Stein did us the most harm when she said, “You’re all a lost generation.” That got around to certain people and we all said, Whee! We’re lost. Perhaps it suddenly brought to us the sense of change. Or irresponsibility. But don’t forget that, though the people in the twenties seemed like flops, they weren’t. Fitzgerald, the rest of them, reckless as they were, drinkers as they were, they worked damn hard and all the time.

INTERVIEWER

Did the “lost generation” attitude you speak of have a detrimental effect on your own work?

PARKER

Silly of me to blame it on dates, but so it happened to be. Dammit, it was the twenties and we had to be smarty. I wanted to be cute. That’s the terrible thing. I should have had more sense.

INTERVIEWER

And during this time you were writing poems?

PARKER

My verses. I cannot say poems. Like everybody was then, I was following in the exquisite footsteps of Miss Millay, unhappily in my own horrible sneakers. My verses are no damn good. Let’s face it, honey, my verse is terribly dated—as anything once fashionable is dreadful now. I gave it up, knowing it wasn’t getting any better, but nobody seemed to notice my magnificent gesture.

INTERVIEWER

Do you think your verse writing has been of any benefit to your prose?

PARKER

Franklin P. Adams once gave me a book of French verse forms and told me to copy their design, that by copying them I would get precision in prose. The men you imitate in verse influence your prose, and what I got out of it was precision, all I realize I’ve ever had in prose writing.

INTERVIEWER

How did you get started in writing?

PARKER

I fell into writing, I suppose, being one of those awful children who wrote verses. I went to a convent in New York—the Blessed Sacrament. Convents do the same things progressive schools do, only they don’t know it. They don’t teach you how to read; you have to find out for yourself. At my convent we did have a textbook, one that devoted a page and a half to Adelaide Ann Proctor; but we couldn’t read Dickens; he was vulgar, you know. But I read him and Thackeray, and I’m the one woman you’ll ever know who’s read every word of Charles Reade, the author of The Cloister and the Hearth. But as for helping me in the outside world, the convent taught me only that if you spit on a pencil eraser it will erase ink. And I remember the smell of oilcloth, the smell of nuns’ garb. I was fired from there, finally, for a lot of things, among them my insistence that the Immaculate Conception was spontaneous combustion.

INTERVIEWER

Have you ever drawn from those years for story material?

PARKER

All those writers who write about their childhood! Gentle God, if I wrote about mine you wouldn’t sit in the same room with me.