At a recent event I hosted, I asked the assembled writers this question. Besides the “practical ordering of my reality” type of answer, there were also some surprises: one woman had been a classical singer, but failed, and needed to embark on something else having to do with language. One man said, I write to talk about what I read—equally unassuming. I began to think that it would be much more stimulating to know why certain writers wrote than to engage with anything they had written, especially fiction or poetry—two ultimate forms needing years of practice. It’s debatable who said, “Everyone has a book in them…” but the second clause of that sentence, as uttered by Christopher Hitchens, is as concretely dismissive of the first: “…but in most cases, that’s where it should stay.” Who would have thought there were so many writers, that oodles would have the calling—many thanks to the internet? Now there is no barrier to that fusty adage, but it might be better to say, Everyone has some opinions in them. Continue reading
It’s Bradford Morrow’s birthday, today, and so I decided to spend the day reading The Uninnocent, his collection of gothic fictions, a book limning life’s many shadows, whether caused by illness, madness, pain, loss, or death.
Brian Allen Carr’s collection of stories, Short Bus (Texas Review Press), is dedicated to the memory of William Patrick Carr (1977-2000). I rarely start a review, or consideration of a book with the dedication, but it seems apt to do so with this enormously sorrowful, beautiful collection of stories. I’ve yet to meet a human being who hasn’t suffered, usually tremendously, a horrible loss at some point in their lives. But not everyone can or will turn that loss into art. Carr does just that and more. This does not mean his work is entirely autobiographical, but Carr knows from where he writes.
Most urgent, moving writing is born out of suffering and tragedy. But it can also be funny, even hilarious, even if underlying that humor is a felt darkness and raw pain. And in suffering, moments of grace are even more evident, unexpected, and not taken for granted. Continue reading
“You suffer The Lime Twig like a dream. It seems to be something that is happening to you, that you want to escape from but can’t.”
– Flannery O’Connor
The stakes get raised again. After reading John Hawkes’s The Lime Twig I’m of a mind with Louise Glück lines from “Mock Orange”:
How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?
And ‘odor’ is a very apt word. I’ve never read a book where there were so many scents, so much olfactory maneuvering. Here the narrator speaks of the femme fatales sent to distract the married Michael Banks:
The smell of women–girlish, matronly–and the smell of meat sauce were the same. As soon as it spread across his plate it went to his nostrils and they might not have bothered with their clothes, with procrastination. (150)