Friday, October 17, 2008

Literary Space: Experiences
& Quotations

There have not been many times in recent years when I have found a literary space compelling and longed to escape there. Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series and the HBO rendition Trueblood are having that effect on me. I feel a little silly, because I have decided that a woman of a certain age should not be seduced by fiction.

The times when I have fallen so completely under the spell of another world created by a writer are memorable. One summer when I was working part-time, I read the entire, more than 1,000-page version of The Count of Monte Cristo, by Dumas Pere. Accompanied with Chardonnay and perhaps a bit of hashish, it was amazing.

In graduate school, I entered the cyberpunk world of William Gibson in the Neuromancer trilogy. It was a bright new way to look at the computers we in newspapers had been using for typesetting and layout for decades. Gibson coined the word cyberspace. He later said in an interview that his cyberspace world was richer because he didn’t really know much about computers at the time.

Here are some quotations related to creating and entering literary space.

  • I read a great deal. It’s the only way we have to live more than lives than one.

-- Bonita Hersch, in John D. MacDonald’s Nightmare in Pink

  • Why cannot one make one’s books live except in the night, after hours of straining? and you know they have to be your own books too, and you have to read them more than once. I think they take in something of your personality, and your environment also . . .It is that specially which makes one need good books: books that will be worthy of what you are going to put into them. . . . if you can get the right book at the right time you taste joys – not only bodily, physical, but spiritual also, which pass one out above and beyond one’s miserable self, as it were through a huge air, following the light of another man’s thoughts. And you can never be quite the old self again. You have forgotten a little bit: or rather pushed it out with a little of the inspiration of what is immortal in someone who has gone before you.

-- T. E. Lawrence, John E. Mack's biography, A Prince of Our Disorder

  • That’s a great gift, my boy, to tell a story the way you did, a story that is not quite true but that sounds true. That the point in story-telling. Making people believe the story is true.

-- B. Traven – a man whose whole life is a story of false identities, stories told so that they sound true, a man whose life was as much an adventure as his stories – in The Death Ship

  • Never trust a writer. They think they can do atrocious things and then just tear them out of the typewriter, throw them away and start afresh.

-- William Kotzwinkle in The Queen of Swords

  • The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book published. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate.

-- William Faulkner, in the Paris Review Interviews, Writers at Work, 1958, edited by Malcolm Crowley


Sylvia K said...

Those are interesting quotes. I know books have always been a big part of my life -- different kinds at different times, but always there. They fill a void sometimes that only they can fill. These days I need a lot of books -- but not about politics, please.

robin andrea said...

When I was in college, I was a lit major. I read and read and read. After I graduated, I found that I couldn't simply enjoy a novel, that I had to read it with an eye searching for the literary device and critique. It took many years for me to simply enjoy a good read again. Retirement helped quite a bit.

June Saville said...

Ah reading ...
Enid I liked your variety of quotes. I'd go very much with the Hersch (...the only way to live more lives than one). Love it.
On the other hand ...
Kotzwinkle is a bit of a conundrum for me. 'The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He (?) will be completely ruthless if he is a good one.'
There's a problem. I believe a writer must LIVE before he/she can produce anything of relevance.
When it comes to getting published, it is necessary to be ruthless and step outside of the ritual of writing and into the realm of PR.
These days, especially in Oz with its smaller population, one must be ruthless to get published. And a lot of good writers don't want to be that. And so remain largely unknown.
June in Oz

June Saville said...

By the way I can understand Robin's point of view. Academia does change your approach to a book. But to my mind it's an enrichment. I feel I can appreciate the writerly skill even more, and yet still rollock along with the yarn.

June Saville said...

Sorry - I meant to mention that you could try Google Reader for a subscription to comments ...
If you have a Google account you can reach Reader through the Bookmark icon on my sites.
Don't know about the habits of Flock.
June (again)