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Posts tagged "imitation"

Sep 02, 2013
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I had studied Hemingway so closely and learned a lot, but I didn’t agree with his attitude about life, about himself. He took everything so seriously. Your style comes out of your attitude — what kind of a person you are, your personality, how you see things. Are you optimistic? Are you funny? Are you grim? What? This is all out of your attitude. And once I learned that then I had to find other writers to study and imitate.
Elmore Leonard on getting out from under the influence of Hemingway

Jan 18, 2012
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“Absent Things As If They Are Present. A History Of Literature Created By Erasure, Collage, Omission, And Wite-Out”

Nice long piece by Jeannie Vanasco this month in The Believer (now on Tumblr!) about writing by erasure. A lot of the artists mentioned (Tom Phillips, Mary Ruefle, Thomas Jefferson…) will be familiar to anybody who’s read the history chapter of Newspaper Blackout. (Unfortunately, Blackout was not one of the texts mentioned.)1

What I like about the piece is that unlike some writers who take an apologetic or condescending tone towards erasures, Vanasco actually champions the form:


  Why erase the works of other writers? The philosophical answer is that poets, as Wordsworth defines them, are “affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present.” The More practical answer: compared to writing, erasing feels easy.
  
  But I am here to convince you: to erase is to write, style is the consequence of the writer’s omissions, and the writer is always plural.
  
  To erase is to leave something else behind.


Like Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanasco even uses the form in her creative writing class at NYU (here’s the PDF of the syllabus)


  the motto of Modernism, Ezra Pound’s “Make it new,” is a translation of Confucius who borrowed it from Emperor T’ang who inscribed on his bathtub “Every day make it new.” I want you to take existing poems and stories by other writers and make these works new. How? By making them your own. How? By imitating their styles.


She points to Allen Ginsberg, who was very open about his influences:


  Ginsberg shows us that by imitating the style of other writers, as well as by resisting them, a writer develops his or her own style. Erasure is simply an exaggerated form of writing. “We say that an author is original when we cannot trace the hidden transformation that others underwent in his mind,” Valery wrote. “What a man does either repeats or refutes what someone else has done—repeats it in other tones, refines or amplifies or simplifies it.” But instead of concealing or denying their influences, erasurists acknowledge that they have come from somewhere, not nowhere, and make clear the chaotic process of creating art.


It’s a great piece — anybody who’s interested in Newspaper Blackout or Steal Like An Artist will enjoy it.



I heard later from Jeannie that Newspaper Blackout was part of a section that had to be cut due to length. :) ↩

“Absent Things As If They Are Present. A History Of Literature Created By Erasure, Collage, Omission, And Wite-Out”

Nice long piece by Jeannie Vanasco this month in The Believer (now on Tumblr!) about writing by erasure. A lot of the artists mentioned (Tom Phillips, Mary Ruefle, Thomas Jefferson…) will be familiar to anybody who’s read the history chapter of Newspaper Blackout. (Unfortunately, Blackout was not one of the texts mentioned.)1

What I like about the piece is that unlike some writers who take an apologetic or condescending tone towards erasures, Vanasco actually champions the form:

Why erase the works of other writers? The philosophical answer is that poets, as Wordsworth defines them, are “affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present.” The More practical answer: compared to writing, erasing feels easy.

But I am here to convince you: to erase is to write, style is the consequence of the writer’s omissions, and the writer is always plural.

To erase is to leave something else behind.

Like Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanasco even uses the form in her creative writing class at NYU (here’s the PDF of the syllabus)

the motto of Modernism, Ezra Pound’s “Make it new,” is a translation of Confucius who borrowed it from Emperor T’ang who inscribed on his bathtub “Every day make it new.” I want you to take existing poems and stories by other writers and make these works new. How? By making them your own. How? By imitating their styles.

She points to Allen Ginsberg, who was very open about his influences:

Ginsberg shows us that by imitating the style of other writers, as well as by resisting them, a writer develops his or her own style. Erasure is simply an exaggerated form of writing. “We say that an author is original when we cannot trace the hidden transformation that others underwent in his mind,” Valery wrote. “What a man does either repeats or refutes what someone else has done—repeats it in other tones, refines or amplifies or simplifies it.” But instead of concealing or denying their influences, erasurists acknowledge that they have come from somewhere, not nowhere, and make clear the chaotic process of creating art.

It’s a great piece — anybody who’s interested in Newspaper Blackout or Steal Like An Artist will enjoy it.


  1. I heard later from Jeannie that Newspaper Blackout was part of a section that had to be cut due to length. :) 

Jan 02, 2012
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Stanley Fish, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One

Louis Menand, writing about Donald Barthelme: “The visual artist can deal with almost every kind of material, even sound, but the writer deals with only one kind of material: sentences.”

Fish’s approach is the same: sentences are the writer’s material, and if we pay close attention to the sentences of other writers, if we analyze them and imitate them, we will see that sentences are just different forms that we can plug our own content into:


  Form, form, form, and only form is the road to what the classical theorists called “invention,” the art of coming up with something to say….[You can use forms] not simply to arrange thoughts but also to create thoughts. Creativity is often contrasted with forms to the latter’s detriment, but the thrush is that forms are the engines of creativity….This then, is my theology: You shall tie yourself to forms and the forms shall set you free.


What I like most about this book is its emphasis on reading, copying, and constraint as the ways towards creativity. It would be nicely bundled with Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer and Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences, maybe even Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences.

I really liked the beginning of this book and took copious notes, then I mostly skimmed through the rest. (I’ve noticed that the Kindle makes it very easy to do that.)

PS: Looking back through my archives, I noticed that a lot of the material in this book probably sprang from this blog post by Fish on teaching writing: “The Game of Writing Sentences.”

Filed under: sentences + my reading year 2012

Stanley Fish, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One

Louis Menand, writing about Donald Barthelme: “The visual artist can deal with almost every kind of material, even sound, but the writer deals with only one kind of material: sentences.”

Fish’s approach is the same: sentences are the writer’s material, and if we pay close attention to the sentences of other writers, if we analyze them and imitate them, we will see that sentences are just different forms that we can plug our own content into:

Form, form, form, and only form is the road to what the classical theorists called “invention,” the art of coming up with something to say….[You can use forms] not simply to arrange thoughts but also to create thoughts. Creativity is often contrasted with forms to the latter’s detriment, but the thrush is that forms are the engines of creativity….This then, is my theology: You shall tie yourself to forms and the forms shall set you free.

What I like most about this book is its emphasis on reading, copying, and constraint as the ways towards creativity. It would be nicely bundled with Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer and Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences, maybe even Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences.

I really liked the beginning of this book and took copious notes, then I mostly skimmed through the rest. (I’ve noticed that the Kindle makes it very easy to do that.)

PS: Looking back through my archives, I noticed that a lot of the material in this book probably sprang from this blog post by Fish on teaching writing: “The Game of Writing Sentences.

Filed under: sentences + my reading year 2012

Dec 11, 2011
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Analyze and imitate; no other school is necessary.

Dec 04, 2011
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Nov 23, 2011
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You set out to imitate something you thought was beautiful but in the end you can’t. You’re going to end up with what you have to say.

Nov 15, 2011
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Nov 10, 2011
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What we call originality relies on a good deal of imitation and even a bit of theft.
— James Polchin on Picasso

(He continues: “Imitation breeds creativity, which in turn breeds imitation: this is the cycle that Picasso’s drawings suggest, a kind of visual theft that lies at the heart of so much creativity.”)

Oct 19, 2011
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Nina Garcia on imitation in The Little Black Book of Style

So, this was funny: I went a-Googlin’ Salvador Dali’s quote, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing,” and the *last* Google Books result was Nina, with the quote formatted in pink on black…

Sep 26, 2011
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