Do dialogue-let’s say-between a hobo and a high-class hooker, then between an am­bulance chaser and a guy who sells scorecards at the ballpark-let’s say-about the meaning of money. Between pints, get the arch of the dart down pat. Shoot foul shots day in and rim out. Pick a sentence at random from a randomly selected book, and another from another volume also chosen by chance; then write a paragraph which will be a reasonable bridge between them. And it does get easier to do what you have done, sing what you’ve so often sung; it gets so easy, sometimes, that what was once a challenge passes over into thoughtless routine. So the bar must be raised a few notches, one’s handicap increased, the stakes trebled, tie both hands behind your back. Refuse the blindfold, refuse the final cigarette, refuse the proffered pizza. Do dialogue in dialect: a Welshman and a Scot arguing about an onion. Hardest of all: start over.

WILLIAM H. GASS

richardsala:

~ Originally published by Drawn & Quarterly in 1990(!) in their self-titled anthology.  Later reprinted in my collection Black Cat Crossing.  

richardsala:

Need relief from all Christmassy stuff?  Need some extra chills (and thrills) this season?  Consider The Chuckling Whatsit ~ an ideal gift for yourself (or equally spooky loved one)!

Grammar is a piano I play by ear, since I seem to have been out of school the year the rules were mentioned. All I know of grammar is its infinite power. To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object being photographed. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences. The arrangement of words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in you mind. The picture dictates the arrangement. The picture dictates whether this will be a sentence with or without clauses, a sentence that ends hard or a dying-fall sentence, long or short, active or passive. The picture tells you how to arrange words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what’s going on in the picture. Nota bene.*

It tells you.

You don’t tell it.

JOAN DIDION

*“Note well.”

Other parts of Again to Carthage offer a bit of marathon training advice: focus on building endurance, stamina, and speed by targeted workouts, not arbitrary long runs. And perhaps most movingly, there’s the observation that what really counts is not the climax, the Big Event — it’s all the work to get there. From Chapter 36:

“What I mean is that someone sees a race, and they think that’s what you do. They sort of know you had to train, but they weren’t watching then, so they don’t understand how incredibly much of it there is. But to us, it’s almost the whole thing. Racing is just this little tiny ritual we go through after everything else has been done. It’s a hood ornament.”

And then the hero and his trainer-coach-friend agree that, whatever happens, “Everything else is icing now. It’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.” — echoing some of elite ultra runner Eric Clifton’s remarks. The treasure is there, every moment.

In an essay written last year for the SMiLE tour booklet, Van Dyke professes still not to know what “Over and over … ” means. That’s indeed a respectable position for a poet to take. John Ashbery, whom many readers would consider the greatest living American poet, has said that he has no idea what it is he’s doing when he writes. The work of making and the work of noticing and explaining are two different things. I tend to distrust poets who are willing to explicate their work, and I cringe a little when someone asks “What did you mean by that?” It’s for the reader to make something of what he or she reads, and that’s what I’ve been doing here.

“Your complete literary man writes all the time. It wakes him in the morning to write, it exercises him to write, it rests him to write. Writing is to him a visit from a friend, a cup of tea, a game of cards, a walk in the country, a warm bath, an after-dinner nap, a hot Scotch before bed, and the sleep that follows it. Your complete literary chap is a writing animal; and when he dies he leaves a cocoon as large as a haystack, in which every breath he has drawn is recorded in writing.”

— John Jay Chapman “Greek Genius,” in Greek Genius and Other Essays (New York: Moffat, Yard & Company, 1915), 280. view on Google Books

“For years, far too many years, I fell into the dangerous trap of being determined to finish a book despite having reached the conclusion half way through—or at the very least having become deeply suspicious—that in all probability this would not give me pleasure or profit. Yet essentially I am an optimist, and therefore, I suppose, when faced with undeniable evidence that a novel in which I am immersed is, for example, a bleak and depressing saga of frustrated sexual longing and entirely populated by characters of scarcely conceivable dullness, part of me hopes that twenty pages hence there awaits bright flashes of comic genius that may yet salvage the experience. Optimistic though I continue to be, from the vantage point of comfortable middle age I can now say that this is never true and that certainly the healthiest, most sensible, and efficient strategy is to abandon ship.”

—Angus Trumble, “Well-Read Lovers; Constant Rejection,” Ask the Paris Review, November 18, 2011.

A quote from Josh Kaufman’s new book “The Personal MBA”:

To keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed, track your projects and tasks separately. Here’s what I do: I always carry around a notebook that contains a 3 x 5 index card. The card contains a short list of my active projects. The notebook contains my to-do list: the next actions that will move my projects forward, which I process using a system called “Autofocus”, which was created by Mark Forster. The system helps me use my intuition to identify what I can do right now to make progress.

“The need for success and the fear of failure are two aspects of the same inner attitude. For it isn’t failure that causes the sinking sensation we all know, but the fear of failure. Failure isn’t the enemy—fear is. One learns, after all, by failing. This is elementary; we all know it, except when it applies to ourselves…”
— Carla Needleman
The Work of Craft (London: Arcana, 1986), 16.
view on Google Books

Kahneman never grapples philosophically with the nature of rationality. He does, however, supply a fascinating account of what might be taken to be its goal: happiness. What does it mean to be happy? When Kahneman first took up this question, in the mid 1990s, most happiness research relied on asking people how satisfied they were with their life on the whole. But such retrospective assessments depend on memory, which is notoriously unreliable. What if, instead, a person’s actual experience of pleasure or pain could be sampled from moment to moment, and then summed up over time? Kahneman calls this “experienced” well-being, as opposed to the “remembered” well-being that researchers had relied upon. And he found that these two measures of happiness diverge in surprising ways. What makes the “experiencing self” happy is not the same as what makes the “remembering self” happy. In particular, the remembering self does not care about duration — how long a pleasant or unpleasant experience lasts. Rather, it retrospectively rates an experience by the peak level of pain or pleasure in the course of the experience, and by the way the experience ends.

It is helpful to write always at the same time of day. Scheduled obligations often raise problems, but an hour or two can almost always be found in the early morning-when the telephone never rings and no one knocks at the door. And it is important that you write something, regardless of quantity, every day. As the Romans put it, Nulla dies sine linea-Noday without a line. (They were speaking of lines drawn by artists, but the rule applies as well to the writer.) As a result of all this, the setting almost automatically evokes verbal behavior. No warm-up is needed. A circadian rhythm develops that is extremely powerful. At a certain time every day, you will be highly disposed to engage in serious verbal behavior.

B.F. SKINNER

From James Webb Young, The Diary of an Ad Man: The War Years, June 1, 1942-December 31, 1943 (Chicago: Advertising Publications, 1944)—

“Talked with domestic science editor of one of the women’s magazines. She told me that she had tested literally thousands of recipes, covering almost every kind of food. Asked her what, after all this, she considered the best eating. She thought it was pretty hard to beat a good sirloin steak, washed down with straight whiskey. Western gal.” (via The Poetry of Sight: Sirloin Steak and Whiskey)

Coleridge demurred only partly because he was afraid of the enormous outlay of energy it takes to shepherd a young man to intellectual awareness (although that fear alone is usually what stops would-be preceptors in their tracks); the rest of it was the result of his up-close estimation of Charles: underneath the languid ‘Romantic’ pose of philosophical questing, there wasn’t a whole lot going on (“no birdsong in the hedgerow,” as one contemporary put it).

“How do you and your wife split songwriting chores?“

It’s an adventure. You’ve got a flashlight, I’ve got the map. You hold the nail, I’ll swing the hammer. You wash, I’ll dry. If two people know the same thing, one of you is unnecessary. My wife has dreams and is telepathic and clairvoyant and female. I write from the news or what I see in my field of vision. I’m boots and hats and pocketknives. She’s filled with musical and lyrical surprises. She’s a joy to work with.”

From Tom Wait’s Library

A great way to give thanks…

for the privileges we’ve got is to do important work.

Your job, your internet access, your education, your role in a civilized society… all of them are a platform, a chance to do art, a way for you to give back and to honor those that enabled you to get to this point.

For every person reading this there are a thousand people (literally a thousand) in underprivileged nations and situations that would love to have your slot. Don’t waste it.