Posts Tagged ‘birthdays’
December 5, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
You have said that writing is a hostile act; I have always wanted to ask you why.
It’s hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It’s hostile to try to wrench around someone else’s mind that way. Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.
—Joan Didion, the Art of Fiction No. 71
December 2, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
Can you remember one of the jokes you wrote hanging on a subway strap?
This was typical of the junk I turned out: Kid next to me in school was the son of a gambler—he’d never take his test marks back—he’d let ’em ride on the next test. Now you see why it wasn’t hard to do fifty a day during rush hour.
—Woody Allen, the Art of Humor No. 1
November 26, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
No, a mystical experience would be wasted on me. Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision.
How would one learn to see ordinary things this way?
It’s not an acquired skill. It’s a skill that we’re born with that we lose. We learn not to do it.
—Marilynne Robinson, the Art of Fiction No. 198
November 19, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“There’s no method. There’s no formula. If you really proceed a sentence at a time, if you pay attention to the sentence you just wrote and look to it for the clue for what to do to the next sentence, you can inch your way along to what may be a story. This wouldn’t have occurred to me starting out, for example, when I thought you wrote one sentence, then just looked out to the world trying to snag the next one. That’s not how it works. You look back at what you gave yourself to work with. Sharon Olds said something beautiful about sometimes thinking of her poems as instructions for how to put the world back together if it were destroyed.” —Amy Hempel, the Art of Fiction No. 176
November 8, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
My first summer after leaving school I worked for the Queen Mother at Balmoral Castle, where the royal family spend their summer holidays. In those days they used to recruit local students to be grouse beaters. The royal family would invite people to shoot on their estate. The Queen Mother and her guests would get into Land Rovers with shotguns and whiskey and drive over bits of the moor from shooting butt to shooting butt. That’s where they would aim and shoot. Fifteen of us would walk in formation across the moor, spaced about a hundred yards apart in the heather. The grouse live in the heather, and they hear us coming, and they hop. By the time we arrive at the butts, all of the grouse in the vicinity have accumulated and the Queen Mum and her friends are waiting with shotguns. Around the butts there’s no heather, so the grouse have got no choice but to fly up. Then the shooting starts. And then we walk to the next butt. It’s a bit like golf.
Did you meet the Queen Mother?
Yes, quite regularly. Once she came round to our quarters, frighteningly, when there was only me and this other girl there. We didn’t know what on earth to do. We had a little chat, and she drove off again. But it was very informal. You’d often see her on the moors, though she herself didn’t shoot. I think there was a lot of alcohol consumed and it was all very chummy.
—Kazuo Ishiguro, the Art of Fiction No. 196
October 24, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
I was naïve. I was eighteen. I’d only had one boyfriend and never got over being shy with him, so I didn’t think of myself as holding court. I just thought, Gosh, this is fun! No good dates in high school and now all of these conversations, with clever men asking my opinions about philosophy to show how sophisticated they were. At some point a mysterious stranger appeared in the doorway, wearing a black coat. He stood and listened for a minute, and when someone asked me a question—I wish I could remember what; I’ve thought of it many times—this man in the doorway said, “You don’t have to answer that.”
I thought the question was intrusive.
I actually wasn’t upset by the question, though I did understand what this man in the doorway meant. Then one of my couch suitors said something provocative, and the man gave a reply that infuriated them all. He said—instead of arguing, he said—
I gave them a reading recommendation.
And they hated it. He said, Why don’t you read such-and-such? Which is very annoying, of course. It’s a way of saying, “You’re not equipped to have this conversation with me.” I wish I could remember the book he recommended, though in a way it doesn’t matter, because Norman has done that so many times in his life.
She means that I’ve often been aggressively, unpleasantly authoritative.
Correct. Though at the time, I was smitten. I went back to my dormitory and told everyone that I’d met the man I want to be with forever. I was completely taken by his gestalt. And even later, after we’d married and departed Swarthmore, I remained this way, though when I disagreed with him, I certainly said so. When he wanted us to live in a commune, for instance.
—Norman Rush, the Art of Fiction No. 205
This Friday, Norman Rush reads from Subtle Bodies at Brooklyn’s BookCourt. A Q&A with Paris Review interviewer Joshua Pashman, and possibly birthday cake, will follow. Event details here.