“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.””—Abraham Lincoln, 1859
“Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.”—John Green (via this-is-dedicated)
“It seems like many people think that if you drive yourself crazy, then you can write. I’m absolutely not interested in that. It made sense to me to be as whole and well as I could be, and as happy. I wanted to see what a fortunate life would produce. What writing would come out of a mind that didn’t try to torment itself? What did I have to know? What did I have to do rather than what can I torment and bend myself into doing? What was the fruit on that tree?”—Kay Ryan
“Everything has already been said and done. But, then, if this is so, why do we need more poems in the world? I once read a Jane Hirshfield interview where she said something quite wonderful. She essentially said we have to keep writing because it’s every generation’s job to put in the present vernacular poems that are called upon for rites of passage, such as poems read at weddings or funerals. I hadn’t thought of this before. Your ordinary citizen should be able to go to the library and find a poem written in the current vernacular, and the responsibility for every generation of writers is to make this possible. We must, then, rewrite everything that has ever been written in the current vernacular, which is really what the evolution of literature is all about. Nothing new gets said but the vernacular keeps changing.”—Mary Ruefle
“EH!? NO! NO! NO! It is not much to compose 12 or 13 cantatas in one year because if you think about it Bach, for example, used to compose one cantata a week. He had to compose the music in time for it to be performed in church on Sunday so if you just consider Bach, you will see that I’m practically unemployed!”—Ennio Morricone
He read “In Search of Lost Time” alongside two academic guidebooks, full of notations in French, and a dictionary. He said that no other novel gave him as much appreciation for his time in prison. “Of course, we are memory artists as well…,” he wrote of prisoners in his journal, in the entry on “Time Regained.” “Everyone inside tries to make their time go by as quickly as possible and live entirely in the past,” he said. “But to kill your days is essentially to shorten your own life.” In prison, time was both an enemy and a resource, and Genis said that Proust convinced him that the only way to exist outside of it, however briefly, was to become a writer himself… Later, when he came across a character in a Murakami novel who says that one really has to be in jail to read Proust, Genis said that he laughed louder than he had in ten years.
Murakami might be on to something. The people I know of who’ve read a stupendous amount of books in a certain period of time have lived in a kind of sparse, prison-like existence. When the depression hit, Joseph Campbell moved to a shack outside of Woodstock, New York, and read nine hours a day for five years. When I was 20, I spent 6 months in Cambridge, England living in a room the size of a broom closet, and that’s when I read Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Joyce, etc. (At one point, Genis’s father tells him to read Ulysses in prison, because “he wouldn’t have the willpower to get through it once he became a free man.”) My friend was in the Peace Corps for two years in Africa, and he said all there was to do at night was smoke weed and read. He read a couple hundred books.
Maybe that’s what college should be: two years where your rent is paid and you do nothing but read…
The great Chilly Gonzales (“the musical genius!”) has a new book of sheet music out called Re-Introduction Etudes, which is a book of 24 pieces designed to give people with limited piano training (who gave up for whatever reason) a “re-introduction” to music theory and playing.
Cave now lives in Brighton, England, with his wife and twin 14-year-old sons, in a residence that would have seemed, for a number of reasons, inconceivable to the scarecrow-haired punk he was back in Berlin. When I met him this winter, he was renting a modest office a short walk from his house, keeping regular office hours like a bona fide salaryman. (“I used to go six days a week, till I couldn’t stand it anymore,” Cave said with a grin. “Now I go Sundays as well.”)
Apart from a small upright piano off to one side, a microphone stand and a haphazard-looking collection of photos and pages torn from magazines pinned to the wall, the room itself could have passed for the office of a determinedly anachronistic clerk: a good-size desk, a manual typewriter and a well-used bottle of whiteout. His work ethic has long been legendary. While writing one of his best-known songs, “Red Right Hand,” from the 1994 album “Let Love In,” Cave filled an entire notebook with descriptions of the imaginary town the song was set in, including maps and sketches of prominent buildings, virtually none of which made it into the lyrics. “It’s good to have a place to go and just write,” Cave told me in Brighton. “I haven’t always had that luxury.”
“If you love something that somebody does—some art, some words, some sounds—you tell them that you love it. You tell everyone how much you love it, repeatedly and enthusiastically. Don’t save your appreciation for later, or worry about wearing people out with your passion. Because the happy truth is this: If a piece of art truly moves you, you will never, ever run out of new adjectives to express how much you love it. Getting to love someone’s art is one of the very finest parts of being alive.”—Paul Constant (via)
10 interesting things I discovered while reading the piece:
1. He started as a playwright, but watching movies helped him discover he could think in terms of images.
He was still writing short stories, and, as an exercise, tried adapting one into a screenplay. “I could see the whole movie in my head—all the shots and angles. I thought, Oh, I’ve got this visual thing.”
2. He went to college on a baseball scholarship
He recalls daydreaming in the outfield about how he wished he had more time to read. He then contracted an infection in his heart, and all the sudden, he was forbidden to play baseball. He spent the rest of his sophomore year staying up late in the college library, writing.
3. He quit college to work on an oil rig
If he wasn’t playing baseball, he’d have to make up the time in work-study employment, and he didn’t want to do that. A friend helped him get a summer job working on an oil rig. It paid well, and gave him many free hours to read and write, so Linklater asked if he could stay on that fall. He never returned to school.
4. In his early twenties, he watched 600 films a year
whenever he came back to the mainland, in Houston, he would watch movies: first two a day, then three, then four… “I felt I’d discovered something, like this whole world had opened up,“ he says. “I was greedy for it.”
5. He moved to Austin in 1983 with $18,000 in savings
He bought some film equipment and would “write, shoot, edit, and watch film eighteen hours a day.”
6. Slacker was filmed for $23,000
It got picked up for national distribution and eventually “made back more than fifty times its tiny budget.”
7. He re-writes his screenplays during rehearsal
He schedules a lot of rehearsal time—two solid weeks or so before production starts—and goes through each scene in an open-ended way, talking about character motivations and getting actors to riff. Most of the rehearsal time is spent rewriting the screenplay, line by line, drawing out and molding his work against performers’ strengths and styles.
8. He offers his stars percentage points instead of Hollywood fees
He calls this “betting on myself,” and if the bet is good, which it almost always is, it makes the director as free and self-sovereign as a novelist.
9. He lost most of his archives in the 2011 Bastrop wildfires
One of the few structures untouched by the fire was the library, a small two-story building clad with multicolored tile, where Linklater likes to write. The preservation of his work space was striking to him. By 2011, he had reached a phase of comfortable accomplishment… “I felt done,” he said… The blaze, in some peculiar way, demotivated him. “The fire came, and it was like, Oh, O.K. You don’t want me to be done.”
10. He’s working on a movie about the American Transcendentalists
Emerson, Thoreau, and the gang. He’s been working on it for 15 years, but “hasn’t found a way to make something that isn’t a ‘bonnet movie’ period piece.”
We went to see Bobby in 2012 at the Arena Theatre in Houston, Texas. My wife Meg was six months pregnant with our son Owen and we were some of the only white people in the place and it was just great. He’d already had his cancer scare, and I knew if I wanted to see him live, this was probably going to be one of my only chances. Unfortunately, I was right.
He was a sort of musical Zelig — Sam Cooke was his mentor, the Rolling Stones had their first UK hit with his song, “It’s All Over Now,” he wrote songs for Wilson Pickett and Janis Joplin, and he played guitar (left-handed, backwards and upside down like Hendrix) on everything from Sly’s THERE’S A RIOT GOIN’ ON, to Dusty Springfield’s DUSTY IN MEMPHIS, to Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds.”
More recently, in medias res has come to signify the idea that a writer is best to open a story—or novel or essay or memoir—with dramatic action rather then exposition. As a teacher of writing I see this constantly, and ninety percent of the time I’m hopelessly lost by the third paragraph…
…a strong opening doesn’t have to grab the reader by the throat and throw them into the middle of the action. In fact, all things considered, most readers would rather not be grabbed at all. Instead, we are often most drawn in by those authors who can calmly promise us a compelling story and invite us along for the ride.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
“If you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive your parents for the crime of bringing you into the world, if you are content to get nowhere, just take each day as it comes, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical, man you’ve got it half licked.”—Henry Miller on aging
An old saying that I can’t stand is, “You don’t get if you don’t ask.” [My career really started when] I did a little reading in Chicago at a club. It was just a silly show, but Ira Glass happened to be in the audience. He introduced himself and then he called me a couple of years later and asked if I had anything Christmas-y that would work for a local radio show in Chicago. I had a story about the time I worked as an elf at Macy’s Santa Land, so I recorded the story and he put it on his radio show Morning Edition, which has an audience of 10 million. It changed my career in every way, but the difference is, I didn’t invite Ira to come and hear me, he just happened to be there. Somebody gave me a manuscript not that long ago. The note on it said, “Please Mr. Sedaris, you can become my Ira Glass.” That’s not the same! I have helped plenty of people, but I’ve helped them because they didn’t ask me to. Usually when somebody asks you, that’s a sign that their talent is for self-promotion, not writing.