Archive for the 'Fiction' Category

THIS MAY BE THE BEST DEFINITION OF ART I KNOW…

January 1st, 2017

The Socrates Café I moderated for a number of years once spent an evening discussing the differences among craft, art and Art. We did not arrive at an answer—we almost never did—but the discussion was enjoyable. I think that Georges Simenon arrived at a definition that could have added much to our discussion. The Paris […]

SEE ALL, HEAR ALL, WRITE ALL…

December 24th, 2016

Only the rarest of writers can write without being in the world. Yes, we write from inside our heads, but we must be constantly refilling the cranial reservoirs with bits and pieces of the world we live in—we must always be in the moment. Michael Bond, writing this week’s My Writing Day for The Guardian, […]

AGAIN WITH THE RUSSIANS… YOU CAN’T ESCAPE…

December 7th, 2016

Novelists, at least in the first 11 installments of the The Paris Review’s Art Of Fiction interviews, love the Russians. I feel like I need to buy a bottle of vodka and a loaf of black bread (how we used to celebrate surviving one of Dr. David Williams test on, what was then, The Soviet […]

IMMERSION VS. DETACHMENT…

December 6th, 2016

In an earlier note from Nelson Algren’s Paris Review interview, I remarked that the discussion of the need to be close to, if not still involved with, wartime experiences in order to write a war novel, seemed off to me given the large number of well considered war novels written years, if not decades after […]

SO, HOW DID STEPHEN CRANE WORK…?

November 29th, 2016

I understand what Nelson Algren is speaking about here, writing is more visceral in the moment, but time and distance can make the writing better. I think here about the difference between Ernest Hemingway’s A Movable Feast, written decades after his life in Paris vs. Norman Mailer’s The Naked And The Dead, written right after […]

SURVIVING ON $26,000 A YEAR IN NEW YORK…

November 24th, 2016

The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 11” with Nelson Algren: INTERVIEWER: Did you have any trouble getting The Man with the Golden Arm published? NELSON ALGREN: No, no. Nothing was easier, because I got paid before I wrote it. It got a very lucky deal because they had an awful lot of money, […]

WE STRUGGLE TO DISCOVER THE EFFORTLESS…

November 17th, 2016

The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 10” with James Thurber: INTERVIEWER: Is the act of writing easy for you? THURBER: For me it’s mostly a question of rewriting. It’s part of a constant attempt on my part to make the finished version smooth, to make it seem effortless. A story I’ve been working […]

GIVING CHARACTERS THE WEIGHT OF SCULPTURE…

November 16th, 2016

I’ve read the Russians—Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Pushkin, Solzhenitsyn, &c.—but not for a very, very long time and not with a writer’s eye. The importance of the Russians in literature, however, is repeated again and again as I work my way through the Paris Review interviews. Simenon is no exception. The Paris Review: “The Art […]

WRITERS WRITE WITH HANDS, NOT THEIR MOUTHS…

November 15th, 2016

The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 9” with Georges Simenon: INTERVIEWER: Have you ever dictated fiction, commercial or any other? SIMENON: No. I am an artisan; I need to work with my hands. I would like to carve my novel in a piece of wood. My characters—I would like to have them heavier, […]

WRITING WITH THE WEIGHT OF CÉZANNE…

November 14th, 2016

Bad writing is often referred to as flat, cardboard. The characters have no third dimension. Simenon uses painting as a way to understand how the good writing lifts the story out of the flatland of the page and into the real space of the reader’s imagination. The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 9” […]

BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING, SORT OF…

November 13th, 2016

The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 9” with Georges Simenon My first face-to-face contact with a working writer came in the spring of 1981 when I took Daniel Keyes’ short story writing course at Ohio University. I learned a lot from Keyes, but the first lesson he taught me was that most writers […]

ALL NOVELS ARE PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS…

November 10th, 2016

When Miguel de Cervantes first sat to write The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, commonly considered to be the first novel, we do not know what was in his mind. After we read the book, however, we gain insight to Cervantes psychology. When a writers creates a world, no matter how narrowly focused, […]

THIS TRULY IS THE WRITER’S ALPHA AND OMEGA…

October 29th, 2016

My father, a very wise man, told me that becoming an overnight success requires years and years of work. Paul Beatty, winner of this year’s Man Booker prize for The Sellout, was rejected 18 times—which pale before James Lee Burke’s 27—before a publisher took a chance. How did Beatty become an overnight success, by doing […]

WRITING IS A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS

October 28th, 2016

Often when I tell someone that I’m a writer they gets this dreamy look in their eyes and tell that they wish they could be a writer. I don’t attempt to disillusion them, but in my mind I want to say: “No you don’t. You want to have written in the same way your present […]

THE REAL ART IS IN REVISION AND MORE REVISION…

October 23rd, 2016

Non-artists think that creating perfection is what artists do. They don’t understand the mistakes, the blind alleys, the concepts gone wrong that we face. If were fortunate to work in a forgiving medium like writing, we’re OK with the mistakes. We can revise, change, alter the work in ways that bring our conception into view. […]

AN EDITOR DRAWS THE WRITER INTO THE LIGHT…

September 28th, 2016

(This is the scene that sets up the insight above. Truly. Perfectly. Genius.) Any writer who believes they don’t need an editor is a fool. I’ve seen the difference. I’ve shaken my head reading well established authors, too good and too arrogant to suffer the critique of an editor, write trash. Colin Firth’s Max Perkins […]

RESEARCH IS EASY, SITTING TO WRITE IS HARD…

September 18th, 2016

I’ve been reading The Guardian’s My Writing Day series for a few week now and, while I think the personal essays are interesting, none has yet spoken to me as has that by Tracy Chevalier. She struck a nerve with her frankness and insight. Chevalier, in Writing is a magic trick that still surprises me […]

YOU CAN’T PAY ATTENTION WHILE TEXTING…

September 11th, 2016

This is, of course, a lesson we continuously attempt to impart–-Stay Alive! Don’t text and drive!—to those navigating a ton of metal and plastic at speed down our streets and highways, but the same can be said about how we now walk through life. I wonder how many budding writers are begin crippled by always […]

MANIPULATORS & DEPICTERS OF MORAL PROBLEMS…

September 1st, 2016

The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 8” with Ralph Ellison. ELLISON: You know, I’m still thinking of your question about the use of Negro experience [How representative of the American nation would you say Negro folklore is?] as material for fiction. One function of serious literature is to deal with the moral core […]

RALPH ELLISON NAILS THE AMERICAN THEME…

August 25th, 2016

The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. 8” with Ralph Ellison. INTERVIEWER: Would you say that the search for identity is primarily an American theme? ELLISON: It is the American theme. The nature of our society is such that we are prevented from knowing who we are. It is still a young society, and […]

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