Saturday, March 31, 2018

Disappearing acts


In the writing I like best, the writer disappears and the work seems to have written itself. This kind of disappearing act, ironically, requires the closest attention to language and form.

From Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso:
I often prefer writers' diaries to their work written intentionally for publication. It's as if I want the information without the obstacles of style or form. But of course all writing possesses style and form, and in good writing they aren't obstacles.
Another friend said, I want to write sentences that seem as if no one wrote them. The goal being the creation of a pure delivery system, without the distraction of a style.  The goal being a form no one notices, the creation of what seems like pure feeling, not of what seems like a vehicle for feeling. Language as pure experience, pure memory. I too wanted to achieve that impossible effect.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Read under good light.

From 1986 but still timely, this New York Times article by Elaine Louie: "Expert Advice on Selecting a Good Reading Lamp."
  • The older you get, the more light you need. When you're young you can read by low light or no light. At 60, you need around 100 watts.
  • Too much light is as bad as too little. Glare hurts your eyes.
  • Avoid high contrast. "What you want is a well-lit room where the reading area is illuminated by a generous, focused pool of light, and the surrounding area by comfortable ambient lighting."
  • Translucent shades are best for reading.
  • Three-way bulbs (50-100-150) are most comfortable and useful.
  • A reading lamp should be placed to the side and slightly behind the reader. It can go on either side. "But to avoid the shadow of your arm while writing and reading simultaneously, a right-handed person should place the lamp on the left."

Monday, January 29, 2018

Writing lessons from lawyers

Janet Reno, 1938 - 2016
"Use small, old words." -- Janet Reno

"Make time to think." -- Swain Wood

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hopper

"If he were a better painter, he would, most likely, not be so superior an artist." -- Clement Greenberg

Automat, 1927

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Courage!

What you have to say is more important than your inadequacy at saying it.
-- Peter Davison

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Magic

You know that feeling we each have as a little kid that we have magic in us? For me it was a shy and hopeful feeling that was often supported by loved ones, and other times (sometimes for very long periods) was buffeted around by what could be a harsh world. But tonight for some reason, as I get messages from friends and strangers who are reading my stories, I have this funny feeling that I'm stepping into shoes that fit me, that my small stories have a place in the world, and that my little bit of magic, the little bit that we each have in us, is my writing, that it has always been my writing but I have finally taken the time and effort to do it with commitment. This is so corny, I know, but it’s a lovely feeling to come down where I ought to be (as the Quaker hymn puts it) and I can’t help wondering what everyone’s proper bit of magic is, and I want to urge everyone to find that thing you were meant to do and go ahead and do it. And if you’re wondering what it feels like: at the moment it feels like roots growing out of my feet, going way down deep into the earth.

-- N. West Moss, author of The Subway Stops at Bryant Parkat my little bit of magic, the little bit that we each have in us, is my writing, that it has always been my writing but I have finally taken the time and effort to do it with commitment. This is so corny, I know, but it's a lovely feeling to come down where I ought to be (as the quaker hymn puts it) and i can't help wondering what everyone's proper bit of magic is, and I want to urge everyone to find that one thing we were each meant to do, and then go ahead and do it. And if you're wondering what it feels like, at the moment it feels like roots growing out of my feet which are going way down deep in the earth.nd that my little bit of magic, the little bit that we each have in us, is my writing, that it has always been my writing but I have finally taken the time and effort to do it with commitment. This is so corny, I know, but it's a lovely feeling to come down where I ought to be (as the quaker hymn puts it) and i can't help wondering what everyone's proper bit of magic is, and I want to urge everyone to find that one thing we were each meant to do, and then go ahead and do it. And if you're wondering what it feels like, at the moment it feels like roots growing out of my feet which are going way down deep in the earth. pping into shoes that fit me, that my small stories have a place in the world, and that my little bit of magic, the little bit that we each have in us, is my writing, that it has always been my writing but I have finally taken the time and effort to do it with commitment. This is so corny, I know, but it's a lovely feeling to come down where I ought to be (as the quaker hymn puts it) and i can't help wondering what everyone's proper bit of magic is, and I want to urge everyone to find that one thing we were each meant to do, and then go ahead and do it. And if you're wondering what it feels like, at the moment it feels like roots growing out of my feet which are going way down deep in the earth.pping into shoes that fit me, that my small stories have a place in the world, and that my little bit of magic, the little bit that we each have in us, is my writing, that it has always been my writing but I have finally taken the time and effort to do it with commitment. This is so corny, I know, but it's a lovely feeling to come down where I ought to be (as the quaker hymn puts it) and i can't help wondering what everyone's proper bit of magic is, and I want to urge everyone to find that one thing we were each meant to do, and then go ahead and do it. And if you're wondering what it feels like, at the moment it feels like roots growing out of my feet which are going way down deep in the earth.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Donkey at the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven

a short story by David Rutschman

Once, a donkey ascended to the shining gates of the kingdom of heaven. The gates were open. The donkey heard music more beautiful than anything he had ever imagined. Each note was a star going supernova, a pack of wolves running down an elk over snow. The song poured itself into the world. The donkey stood transfixed. Without thinking, he opened his mouth and brayed.

Instantly the music stopped. There was total silence.

His bray had been off-key, awful. A donkey's sound.

Slowly the gates of the kingdom of heaven began to swing shut. The donkey didn't know what to do, whether he should advance or retreat. The light was blinding. He took one trembling step forward, then another. He couldn't see a thing.

The donkey brayed again, knowing it would not be beautiful. He was right; it wasn't beautiful. It was his same old donkey bray. He did it again and again. He couldn't tell if the gates were open now or closed, or even where they were exactly. He shut his eyes and thought about the entirety of his life. He remembered eating hay, carrying firewood.

He brayed again. He did. He let it rip. He kept his eyes closed and staggered forward, belting it out. Carrier of firewood, eater of hay. He took his whole life's only song and he employed it -- step after step into brightness, into terrible dazzling light.

---

David Rutschman is a Soto Zen priest and hospice grief counselor in California. This short story, from his forthcoming first collection, appears in the April 2017 issue of The Sun Magazine.