shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


the rerun return of oa

I'm picking my way through the first issue of the latest revival of the Oxford American. (May this rebirth take.) It looks to be jam-packed with good stuff. The inimitable Ms. Maud Newton has already pointed out the piece by Charles Portis and even put up a brief excerpt. The only piece I've read in its entirety so far is the other Writing on Writing piece by phenomenal writer Kevin Brockmeier. A flip way to describe Brockmeier would be as the person who wrote the one missing kid book you actually should read if you didn't. (The Truth About Celia.) Besides Celia, he's published two novels for children and an excellent short story collection for adults. He's definitely a writer whose work is full of WBFW (What Beautiful Fucking Writing) moments.

The essay he has here is pretty lengthy without feeling it, and full of good stuff -- the text of a speech he gave a group of Nashville schoolchildren about writing, a series of responses to the question "what do you write about?" (7. I write short, rhymed poems about gruesome crimes. Detective sonnets, I guess you could say. I'm big in the Netherlands.), much about the holiness of reading. He also namechecks a bunch of great writers, including Daniel Pinkwater. Good stuff.

A bit of it to convince you, this from the last section on publishing and the terrors of its "strange silence":

All of us who are struggling to find our footing in the publishing world must grapple with this question. The answer I have come to is only provisional, but I offer it anyway because it's the best that I've got.

The real struggle for a writer always takes place on the page. It's not that publishing isn't important: it is, and we know that it is. Moreover, we all know why it is. We write to be read. We write so that we can publish, so that we can make some money, so that we can have the time to write. The process of sending our fiction out into the world and waiting to hear something back can seem like a worthwhile use of our time--can seem, in fact, as if it's a legitimate a part of our work as the writing itself. The thing is, it isn't. What truly matters is what we do when we're sitting at our desks, pen in hand, piecing together our assemblies of words--the stories we tell, the ideas we bring to life, the characters we endow with our humanity. I have learned that when I apply myself to my writing, I quickly become absorbed in the problems of language and storytelling. These are problems I can do something about, and as I struggle with them, that other problem, the problem of publication, recedes from my mind. The silence is still there, but it takes on a different tone, a deeper and more living one.

It may be difficult for the established writer to understand, or rather to remember, the vehemence of the beginning writer's desire to be read: in time, I suspect, all things come to seem inevitable. But there's another desire, an equal and more persistant one, that we all share in common--the desire to become a better, more generous, more searching writer. This is the aspiration of every writer of worth, and in times of drought, it's the one that should sustain us.

Anyway, I just thought I'd point to this. Go buy the OA. Read the Portis and the Brockmeier pieces and then rest.

Related links:

"Some Things about Kevin Brockmeier" by Thisbe Nissen at Post Road Magazine
"Have Pen, Will Travel: The Fiction of Kevin Brockmeier and Kelly Link" by Terri Windling


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