Too early this morning at the farmer’s market, shiitakes and asparagus, balsamic and salsa and spelt scones. It’s not California (we just got back from LA) but there’s stuff growing up the road, stuff being made around here. My partner eyed an expensive, gigantic hanging planter at the flower stall. I said, it’ll kill somebody if it falls.
I envy the friend who told me he goes no-electronics, every weekend. Maybe I’ll try it sometime.
A one-paragraph short story by Lydia Davis, who just won the Man Booker International Prize this week. Susan Steinberg, another writer doing some really interesting things in her stories, interviewed recently on The Rumpus.
Ai Weiwei’s new heavy metal single is panned.
Tracy Emin talks about the price gap between art by women and men, and how it feels to set up her old art installation again, years after the making, in a new gallery.
I seem to prefer reading David Foster Wallace at 3,000 feet. This does not mean I want to fly more. Something about the time in transit, excerpted from ordinary time-space. I feel comfortable sinking into a ridiculously long book. I want to sink into a deeply engrossing book. There are no telephones. Email. Pressing work to be done.
Okay, there’s still pressing work to be done. I just don’t often do it in transit. Maybe this is like how some writers only work in a specific room, at a particular desk. I don’t often feel like working inside a moving fuselage but I’m not a work-in-one-place person. I once did paintings in the backseat of a Dodge Dart while someone else drove it from NYC to LA.
(It’s not that hard if you’re working in oil-stick crayon on pre-cut cardboard. Apparently the paintings were good. A painter friend hung one by putting a nail through the middle of it.)
I’m a gotta-work person. Maybe I don’t have an adequate sense of roots. My writing was critiqued in a workshop once by a writer known for her deeply place-rooted novels, who seemed unable to respond to the chapter I presented with any comment other than, You have to write more about the place this is happening. You have to write about the place. The place is important.
She was right. Also she didn’t have a clue what I was doing in that draft. Another teacher–thank you, Sheila, we miss you–said things like, I get this protagonist, she’s doing such-and-such and you’re headed to so-and-so in this story, right?
You need tough skin to be a writer. You need to be exquisitely tuned to the world–skinless–to be a writer. You can use anything that you can survive to help you write better. If something is wrong, write against it. If it’s right, write to it like you’re wide awake talking to your lover in bed at 4 a.m. with the hushed world just outside your little circle of light.
I have three new interns at the press. The one most interested in going into publishing is quite despondent over the state of the industry, the lack of opportunity. I want these kids to be realistic enough to survive. But also, some of the best stuff that gets done, especially in the arts, gets done because we scoff at the practical limitations, the implausibility of the idea. I want people who love books to go into the field of bringing new books into the world, even though nobody knows what that field will look like ten minutes from now.
Nobody knows what a lot of work will look like ten minutes from now.
A lot of people I know are finishing their teaching year. Some people I know are completing or will soon complete their undergraduate degrees. William Pannapacker’s video about the longing for a life in academia. Mike Lacher with a related story, The Only Thing That Can Stop This Asteroid Is Your Liberal Arts Degree.
My webmaster thinks I should write shorter blogs.