Once shed of her fur, she looked skinned as a rabbit. “I don’t know how I got across the country.”
“Maybe you swam?”
“Possible,” she said.
“What would warm you up?”
Shivering was her response.
- “The Ancestor of Hearts” by Christine Schutt and Diane Williams at The Brooklyn Rail
I have a short craft interview up at Great Writers Steal (an excellent literary blog).
I want to be challenged as a human being in terms of how many kinds of people I can be, how many ways I can be open, how many adjustments I can make. You have to, just to exist in the day. Everyday is this crazy little jungle gym of adjustments just to keep your sanity and keep functioning, and keep receiving messages and sending messages. I love the idea that a poem can do that. So it’s a little map of consciousness that says: this is what it is like to be alive.
- Eileen Myles
Selection from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (A Condensed Fiction)
The disconnected vignettes seem like they could go on forever. Each episode, two hundred in all, covers a few paragraphs or, at most, a couple of pages. Some of them reminded me of Jack Handey’s “Deep Thoughts.” I wondered if this was just another collection of bro-mantic observations reminiscent of all those movies where not-quite-as-young-as-they-think men alternate between bravado and cowering, and often just go back home.
But something else tugs at the periphery of the form, and I think it turns Understudies into a little slice of genius. For, as it happens, these deadpan observations accumulate not temporally but morally. They define a world, and that is the world of suburbia. Urban and rural landscapes grip most of the contemporary fictional imagination, and at least since Cheever and Updike, suburban locales have been deeply site-specific. But Mangla’s town could be anywhere that contains a yard, a high school, a dry-cleaner and a hardware store. His locales are iconic, composed of places to run errands, take unsatisfying jobs, get buzzed and form relationships based on proximity and assumed values. The drifting form of this book is complicit and brilliant.
by Joe Brainard
Looking through a book of drawings by Holbein I realize several moments of truth. A nose (a line) so nose-like. So line-like. And then I think to myself “so what?” It’s not going to solve any of my problems. And then I realize that at the very moment of appreciation I had no problems. Then I decide that this is a pretty profound thought. And that I ought to write it down. This is what I have just done. But it doesn’t sound so profound anymore. That’s art for you.
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 about 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 photographed. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences. The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your 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 the 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
"Kew Gardens" by Virginia Woolf (1919)
A mile out from Point Blast, Moldenke saw klieg lights moving along the black hull of a freighter, the Pipistrelle. Passengers were boarding. He turned back toward Salmonella’s nook. “Wake up, girl. We’re almost there.”
There were dozens of motors arriving at the same time, jockeying for places to be abandoned.
Salmonella hurriedly shucked her nightgown and got into traveling clothes.
Moldenke escaped having to do much jockeying when the motor ran out of heavy water and rolled to a stop in a cloud of steam.
"It looks like the end of the line," Moldenke said. "Goodbye Altobello."
Salmonella felt a small touch of sadness at leaving her birthplace.
- Read full excerpt at The Collagist
What a story is, is devious. It pretends transparency, forthrightness. It engages with ordinary people, ordinary matters, recognizable stuff. But this is all a masquerade. What good stories deal with is the horror and incomprehensibility of time, the dark encroachment of old catastrophes—which is Wallace Stevens, I think. As a form, the short story is hardly divine, though all excellent art has its mystery, its spiritual rhythm.
- Joy Williams (from The Paris Review)