At Vida, writer Dallas Athent confronts one of the thorniest issues plaguing the literary scene: the unspoken nepotism-fueled culture of connections and reciprocal favors that determines who gets published where.
There are times – yes, you know them, you have them, too – when the world clicks into a new position and nothing can ever be quite the same again. Or maybe it isn’t the world that goes ‘click’. Maybe it’s something that happens in the mind, as a response to or a consequence of one’s experiences. Okay, I need to be specific.
For more than three years I have been professing that I’m writing a novel. It’s not the first I’ve attempted – my personal history is littered with the wreckage of those failed projects. My previous major writing effort – ‘clinically obese’ might be an appropriate diagnosis – boasted double the planned word-count, and it was only halfway through when eventually abandoned.
In recent days I’ve been looking back over the text which purports to be the stuff of the ‘new’ novel (working title: You Wouldn’t Dare). The opening scene I wrote on ‘day one’ is delicious, delectable. I’m really keen to continue. But aside from a few promising scenes, very little of the rest of it will find itself in the final draft.
So what’s clicked? what’s shifted? It’s something I’m still fathoming. In the meantime Vincent van Gogh’s advice is pertinent:
“If you hear a voice within you saying, ‘You are not a painter,’ then by all means paint … and that voice will be silenced.”
“You are the work. The work is you: both an articulation of the self and a possibility for self-reflection. “
1. You are the work. The work is you: both an articulation of the self and a possibility for self-reflection. Be honest in creation: allow yourself to bleed into the work, but also allow it to work on you. Your work can show you things: illuminate and clarify your own thoughts, motivations, actions. If you do it right, you will find the work changing you, too.
2. Thinking is process. Laying on the floor. Sitting on park benches. Getting lost on purpose. These are all working. Learn the difference between mindless distraction and mindful wandering.
3. Go down the rabbit hole. Sometimes the work isn’t about what you think it is. Allow yourself to get lost down alleyways, to follow a train of thought around a corner. Don’t feel you need to reign yourself in. Too much focus squeezes all the possibility for revelation out of the work.
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The round moon rises,
rises above the high black
hill. Clouds await her.
(Monday 04 May 2015)
beetroot? avocado? No
comfort in autumn.
Chill winds and showers
call for a second cup of
hot black espresso.
(Thursday 19 March 2015)
A year ago – almost to the day – I opened a new document and gave it this name, but did no writing in it. My intention, if I recall correctly, had been to use Samuel Beckett’s words (from Worstward Ho) as the seed of something. Since then, the draft has seen the light of day more than once – but with no demonstrable result.
Along the way, I’ve written and photographed … and, from time to time, published. You might have noticed that this is my first post for the New Year … and that I’ve put nothing up since before Christmas. So Beckett’s text is apt. As ever.
Perhaps, I told myself, today, a new WordPress theme will inspire me. Well, yes … having tried a couple, I concluded that the old stuff looked awful in the new themes. So I’ve reverted to the old Tarski.
“Unchanged? Sudden back unchanged? Yes. Say yes. Each time unchanged. Somehow unchanged. Till no. Till say no. Sudden back changed. Somehow changed. Each time somehow changed.” (Samuel Beckett, in Worstward Ho)
During the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been considering that |cross-ties| is fundamentally – or, at least, primarily – a photo-blog. And the photos I seem to like best are like this one. So that’s it … for now.
“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (ibid)
“Samuel Beckett is sui generis … He has given a voice to the decrepit and maimed and inarticulate, men and women at the end of their tether, past pose or pretense, past claim of meaningful existence. He seems to say that only there and then, as metabolism lowers, amid God’s paucity, not his plenty, can the core of the human condition be approached … Yet his musical cadences, his wrought and precise sentences, cannot help but stave off the void … Like salamanders we survive in his fire.” (Richard Ellman)
Worstward Ho is a prose piece by Samuel Beckett. Its title is a parody of Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho!. Written in English in 1983, it is the penultimate novella by Beckett. Together with Company and Ill Seen Ill Said, it was collected in the volume Nohow On in 1989 (Wikipedia: Worstward Ho [stub]).
Colin Greenslaw has done an elaborated version of Worstward Ho (interpolated with what he calls ‘expansions’ of the original text), which can be found on the Samuel Beckett On-line Resources and Links Pages.
On the Empire of Lights web-site is a ‘picture series’ which photographer Tobias M Schiel has titled “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett). Very good.
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing
and right-doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
It seems to me there is so much clamour in the world today. So many urgent cries; so many fervent voices clamouring to be heard. So much talk about justice and injustice, rights and wrongs. Our ears overflow with claims and counter-claims; we can no longer be sure who to believe, who to trust.
When the world-weary soul lies down in the grass of Rūmī’s field, “the world is too full to talk about.” Ah! The bliss of silence.
creatures. We make do. We
wear the shirts we have.
(James Sallis, in Others of my kind)
Sallis, James. 2013. Others of my kind. New York: Bloomsbury
The reviews are interesting. Here are a couple to get you started:
An unexpected trip yesterday evening (on the doorstep of a friend I’d gone to visit) afforded me the opportunity to sprawl in his hallway and engage briefly with the spokes of his bicycle.
Several fingers bled a little, but there was no chance of my qualifying as a stigmatic.
There’s an old saying: “Pride goes before a fall,” and I briefly wondered whether I had been guilty of some especially prideful thought, word, or deed. But nothing came to mind.
The experience was not something I care to repeat.
It had been many years (if not decades) since I took a tumble – for which I am heartily thankful – but, following a life-threatening accident at eleven years of age, I had been prone to tripping and falling, time and again, as if my body were caught in some psychic repeat cycle.
For years, I harboured deep resentment that the angels of God had allowed me to trip and fall – I did, after all, lose a lot of blood. But eventually it occurred to me that I had not been alone, and I had not bled to death.
Life goes on. And I give thanks.
At BB’s Orient Express, the Chinese restaurant at which I enjoy a smorgasbord-style lunch once or twice each week, the ladle-wielding owner/manager cannot count.
No, that’s not strictly true. I ask for a three-choice meal, and she always adds something extra to my plate – a fried wonton, an extra dumpling, a morsel or two of crunchy-battered fish (so melt-in-the-mouth tender) …
There’s no charge for a cup of Chinese tea – or for the little bowl of chicken and sweetcorn soup that often gets added to my tray.
Occasionally, when she’s been busy and someone else serves me, she brings soup to my table as I’m preparing to leave.
A couple of times, she has brought a little white paper bag to the table, and she squeezes my shoulder as I peek inside.
Today, it was after two o’clock when I arrived. Most of the regulars had gone back to their offices and meeting-rooms. I placed my order, handed over my Eftpos card, then reached for a pair of chopsticks. When my plate arrived, there were six dumplings instead of the standard-issue four, and, perched atop the heaped plate, a succulent spring roll with a tender, crunchy wrapping. And soup, of course.
Chinese arithmetic can be very persuasive. In the long run, all my return visits add up.
Chinese arithmetic has a reputation for being difficult for western minds to comprehend – hence the phrase, “Hard as Chinese arithmetic.” The Urban Dictionary explains what the phrase has come to mean, but that is another (tangential) story.