Archive for the 'Fiction' Category

WHEN THE WHOLE PRAYER IS JUST TOO LONG…

February 11th, 2018

In his most recent novel—Robicheaux—James Lee Burke’S police officer protagonist, Dave Robicheaux ponders anger, serenity and the real world: How do you handle it when your anger brims over the edge of the pot? You use the shortened version of the Serenity Prayer, which is Fuck it. Like Voltaire’s Candide tending his own garden or […]

A PROMETHEAN FIGURE NO ONE RECOGNIZED…

January 11th, 2018

From Robicheaux by James Lee Burke: He was the trickster from folk mythology who flung scat at respectability. But he was a far more complicated man, in essence a Greek tragedy, a Promethean figure no one recognized as such, a member of the just men in Jewish legend who suffered for the rest of us. […]

A BEAUTIFUL SENTENCE IS A JOY AND A BLESSING…

January 7th, 2018

Years ago, when I was first introduced to James Lee Burke’s prose, I balked. His style was not to my liking. Usually when this happens I don’t go back, but for some odd reason I did and I started reading with The Neon Rain and didn’t stop until I hit the end, of the, at […]

SUE GRAFTON (& KINSEY MILLHONE): 1940-2017—
A IS FOR ALIBI
TO Y IS FOR YESTERDAY…

December 29th, 2017

I have commented that I thought Sue Grafton was living a writer’s dream and nightmare. A dream because she had 26 books locked in and all she had to do was write them and cash the checks. A nightmare because she had to write all 26 books about Kinsey Millhone. Most writers couldn’t bear the […]

RAISING BARRIERS AGAINST THE XANADU MOMENT…

December 2nd, 2017

I like reading about other writers’ rooms on Saturday mornings. I very seldom find a mention that I want to save, but when I do, I savor the words. This morning, reading about Barbara Trapido’s room (I had no idea who she was until this moment) her concluding paragraph gave me pause. She writes: The […]

THE LEGACY OF SF&F GREAT OCTAVIA BUTLER…

November 14th, 2017

I remember discovering Octavia Butler back in 1976 at The Amber Unicorn, a fantasy and science fiction bookstore then doing business in San Diego, California (the store has since moved to Las Vegas). My habit was to spend no more than $20 per payday on new paperback books. In 1976 that would buy six to […]

MEDITATION ON KURT VONNEGUT: X…

April 8th, 2017

I may have been blessed by my father’s decision to not give any great deal of good advice. In my life I can only recall three times when we discussed what I might do. The first was between 8th and 9th grades when he told me that he would do all that he could to […]

ENTER A DREAM THROUGH THEME, ATMOSPHERE…

April 2nd, 2017

Robert Owen Butler talks about entering the dream when he considering his writing routine. Simenon seems to be talking much about the same when he speaks of his own process in preparing to write a novel. I’ve also found this idea in the writings of Walter Mosley. The Paris Review: “The Art Of Fiction No. […]

FIRST YOU QUARRY THE BLOCK OF MARBLE, THEN…

April 1st, 2017

The 60 hours John Boyne references in his quote below produced the first draft of Boy In the Striped Pajamas. The comment I left on the piece said that as a writer, I would really like to see the manuscript produced by those 60 hours. Boyne, writing in I began on Wednesday morning and wrote […]

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 […]

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