13 May 2012

I’ll be spending the next month at an artists’ colony – four much-needed weeks in the woods, mostly off-the-grid, before teaching again in July.  So: I’ll see you all on the other side!


9 February 2012

So I am teaching myself to knit.

In this picture are three swatches — practice pieces for three different kinds of stitches.  Hoorah!  I can do three different kinds of stitches!

But that pile of yarn is the unraveled mess of a scarf I started.  I was going along pretty good there for a while, maybe 1/4 of the way… then suddenly it all went wrong.  I didn’t know what had happened or what had gone wrong, and the more I tried to figure it out, the worse it got.  I’d unravel a section, then try to restart from that point forward, but then it became clear that I wasn’t restarting correctly, so the mess reiterated itself, and then I’d unravel a little more, etc.  In other words, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to save what I’d done; I had to unravel the whole damn thing.

The writing analogy is a little frightening to consider.

That 1/4 scarf existed; I’m the only one who knows this, can verify it.  Was it a “waste” of time?  Well, at least I learned to slow down, and to pay attention.  My next lesson will be teaching myself how to fix mistakes.

Unraveling takes seconds.  The word is onomatopoetic, it slips off the tongue.  When we make something, build something, stitch by stitch, word by word, it is definitely not raveling.

29 July 2011

At The Millions, I ruminate on the trend toward health and wellness among artists and what it means for creativity. Interesting string of comments thus far.

12 March 2011

These links at Bookforum’s Omnivore, under the topic “Is There Anything Good About Men?“, are all smart and fascinating.  Discussions around biology v. sociology, instinct and culture, sex and relationships and economics, from male and female perspectives.

Are men and women in crisis? is the question at the heart of these discussions.  Perhaps leaning more toward the crisis belonging to men, but with the implication that if men don’t know who they are or how to be in modern society, then women suffer equally.

I’m thinking about modern male-hood for a few reasons: a recent profile I wrote on James Salter; my own fiction, which currently evolves around two male characters; and my current addiction to “Friday Night Lights” (thanks, Maud Newton).   More, btw, on FNL, in a later post.

5 January 2010

“All being finished means is that you haven’t started yet.”   —Aaron Sorkin

I have 335 pages of something. It has characters, setting, plot, thematic ideas, a beginning, middle, and end.  Which is to say I am finished; which is to say I haven’t started yet.  Novel is labor: it’s not all play, but neither is it all toil.

I haven’t told the story I want to tell, nor in the way it needs to be told.  Now the real labor begins.  Exhibit A: rough storyboarding, and a character map.  I use stickies, because that’s how fluid it needs to be. (Pax is there for good cheer and good luck.)

Notice Don Delillo‘s Underworld in the foreground.  Structurally, and in other ways, it’s an influence, and I’m re-studying it.  If you’ve read it, or any of Delillo, you know we’re talking about a complex, heady work.   I wrote in my journal today: If it’s not complex, and a little impossible, then why write it? Over the years, I’ve sometimes gotten the feedback that I’m “taking on too much.”  So I might have written: If it’s not too much, then why write it?

If there was room in the frame, you’d also see that I’m back to hand writing on legal pads.

All being finished means is that you haven’t started yet.

3 December 2010

A very nice young woman came to see me the other day – a Korean student from Seoul, studying at another US college but visiting here for the semester.  She’d read Long for This World and came to the faculty reading (where I read along side my colleagues) a couple of weeks ago.

She was generous and effusive with her praise.  She is completely bilingual and writes fiction herself, in English at the moment.  She had some good thoughts for me about awkward honorifics in Long for This World.  Then she said: “This book should be published in Korea.  Everyone in Korea should read this.”

I laughed, of course.  Tell me about it, I wanted to say.  We tried.  Scribner tried.  Korean publishers did not bite (yet?!).

But the interaction had me thinking about those of us who write stories of cultures with which we have an inside/outside relationship.  A young Indian American woman who loves Jhumpa Lahiri‘s work told me that her parents and their friends don’t care for it.  Last night a friend described Daniyal Mueenuddin‘s stories as firmly set in Pakistan, about Pakistani lives, but very much written “from the outside” (for outsiders).

Currently, I am working on a book that renders characters and worlds of which I am personally completely outside.  Will readers who are inside the culture of the subjects resist/be indifferent to the work as Koreans are to Long for This World?  Of course the reasons for non-publication in Korea must be multiple, and economically-driven in a way I don’t myself grasp.  But all of this makes me think about why we write, why we write about what we write about, who we are in relation to what we write, for whom we write (if anyone)…  You know.  The Big Questions.

24 November 2010

I’m participating in a reading event next Thursday, Dec 2. The series is called SWEET: ACTORS READING WRITERS, curated by Shelly Oria and Annie Levy. Actors read our fiction, nonfiction, and poetry excerpts. Featured at the Dec 2 event:

Simon Feil reading BEATEN, SEARED, AND SAUCED by Jonathan Dixon

Scott Nogi reading LOVE CREEPS by Amanda Filipacchi

Joya Mia Italiano reading PERSONAL DAYS by Ed Park

Soneela Nankani reading BREAKING FORM and other poems by Maya Pindyck

And, Tonya Edmonds reading an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, SEBASTIAN & FREDERICK.

This will be the first public outing for S&F.

Join us! 7:30 at Three of Cups, First Avenue at 5th Street in the East Village.