American Author, Poet, Essayist, Winner of Pulitzer
American Author, Poet, Essayist, Winner of Pulitzer
Last year I had a very unusual experience. I was awake, with my eyes closed, when I had a dream. It was a small dream about time. I was dead, I guess, in deep black space high up among many white stars. My own consciousness had been disclosed to me, and I was happy. Then I saw far below me a long, curved band of color. As I came closer, I saw that it stretched endlessly in either direction, and I understood that I was seeing all the time of the planet where I had lived. It looked like a woman?s tweed scarf; the longer I studied any one spot, the more dots of color I saw. There was no end to the deepness and variety of the dots. At length, I started to look for my time, but, although more and more specks of color and deeper and more intricate textures appeared in the fabric, I couldn?t find my time, or any time at all that I recognized as being near my time. I couldn?t make out so much as a pyramid. Yet as I looked at the band of time, all the individual people, I understood with special clarity, were living at the very moment with great emotion, in intricate detail, in their individual times and places, and they were dying and being replaced by ever more people, one by one, like stitches in which whole worlds of feeling and energy were wrapped, in a never-ending cloth. I remembered suddenly the color and texture of our life as we knew it- these things had been utterly forgotten- and I thought as I searched for it on the limitless band, that was a good time then, a good time to be living.
It is ironic that the one thing that all religions recognize as separating us from our creator -- our very self-consciousness -- is also the one thing that divides us from our fellow creatures. It was a bitter birthday present from evolution.
Later, while Lou bathed, Maytree copied from a volume of Keats's ever-young letters a possibly unrelated but similarly unanswerable question: Who enjoyed lovemaking more--the man or the woman? He popped it into that spotted notebook in dimeter and trimeter: Who shall say between Man and Woman which is the most [more] delighted? The woman, everyone knew Tiresias said, but Tiresias was made up. On what grounds had the Greek man let full-fictional and full-switched Tiresias answer, The woman? Did lovemaking then and now run to male or to female, noisemaking? Speaking of wild surmise? For lovemaking nearly killed Lou. Was she all right? Abashed, he held her steady until she opened her eyes. Was he a brute? What ailed her? --Whoo, she answered once, and another time, Yike. He stopped worrying. Hours afterward he used to see her, firm and young as she was, gripping the rail to check her descent downstairs. He proposed Keats's question to Lou one morning as they shared the last of the tooth powder. --Say, Lou--here's a question. Keats put it, 'Who shall say between Man and Woman which is the more delighted.' What do you think? --The woman. Rather prompt of silent Lou. Much later that night in their shack bed she added just as he was rolling asleep, If the man is John Keats.
It is no less difficult to write a sentence in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.
Let the grass die. I let almost all of my indoor plants die from neglect while I was writing the book. There are all kinds of ways to live. You can take your choice. You can keep a tidy house, and when St. Peter asks you what you did with your life, you can say, 'I kept a tidy house, I made my own cheese balls.
It is the beginning of a work that the writer throws away.
Life by its mere appalling length is a feat of endurance for which you haven't the strength.
It makes more sense to write one big book - a novel or nonfiction narrative - than to write many stories or essays. Into a long, ambitious project you can fit or pour all you possess and learn.
Like any child, I slid into myself perfectly fitted, as a diver meets her reflection in a pool. Her fingertips enter the fingertips on the water, her wrists slide up her arms. The diver wraps herself in her reflection wholly, sealing it at the toes, and wears it as she climbs rising from the pool, and ever after.
It should surprise no one that the life of the writer--such as it is--is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author's childhood. A writer's childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience. Writers read literary biography, and surround themselves with other writers, deliberately to enforce in themselves the ludicrous notion that a reasonable option for occupying yourself on the planet until your life span plays itself out is sitting in a small room for the duration, in the company of pieces of paper.
Like boys on dolphins, the continents ride their crustal plates. New lands shoulder up from the waves, and old lands buckle under. The very landscapes heave; change burgeons into change. Gray granite bobs up, red clay compresses; yellow sandstone tilts, surging in forests, incised by streams. The mountains tremble, the ice rasps back and forth, and the protoplasm furls in shock waves, up the rock valleys and down, ramifying possibilities, riddling the mountains. Life and the rocks, like spirit and matter, are a fringed matrix, lapped and lapping, clasping and held.... The planet spins, rapt inside its intricate mists. The galaxy is a flung thing, loose in the night, and our solar system is one of the many dotted campfires ringed with tossed rocks.
It was a clear, picturesque day, a February day without could, without emotion or spirit, like a beautiful women with an empty face.
Look upstream. Just simply turn around; have you no will?
It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.
Love so sprang at her, she honestly thought no one had ever looked into it. Where was it in literature? Someone would have written something. She must not have recognized it. Time to read everything again.
It would seem that emotions are the curse, not death-emotions that appear to have developed upon a few freaks as a special curse from Malevolence. All right then. It is our emotions that are amiss. We are freaks, the world is fine, and let us all go have lobotomies to restore us to a natural state. We can leave the library then, go back to the creek lobotomized, and live on its banks as untroubled as any muskrat or reed. You first.
Make connections; let rip; and dance where you can.
It's a little silly to finally learn how to write at this age. But I long ago realized I was secretly sincere.
Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world.
It's about waking up. A child wakes up over and over again, and notices that she's living. She dreams along, loving the exuberant life of the senses, in love with beauty and power, oblivious to herself -- and then suddenly, bingo, she wakes up and feels herself alive. She notices her own awareness. And she notices that she is set down here, mysteriously, in a going world.
Jack London claimed to write twenty hours a day. Before he undertook to write, he obtained the University of California course list and all the syllabi; he spent a year reading the textbooks in philosophy and literature. In subsequent years, once he had a book of his own under way, he set his alarm to wake him after four hours? sleep. Often he slept through the alarm, so, by his own account, he rigged it to drop a weight on his head. I cannot say I believe this, though a novel like The Sea-Wolf is strong evidence that some sort of weight fell on his head with some sort of frequency ? but you wouldn?t think a man would claim credit for it. London maintained that every writer needed a technique, experience, and a philosophical position.
Just once I wanted a task that required all the joy I had. Day after day I had noticed that if I waited long enough, my strong unexpressed joy would dwindle and dissipate inside me, like a fire subsiding . . . . Just this once I wanted to let it rip.
Just think: in all the clean, beautiful reaches of the solar system, our planet alone is a blot; our planet alone has death.
Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation's short time falling away as fast as rivers drop through air, and feeling it hit.
It could be that our faithlessness is a cowering cowardice born of our very smallness, a massive failure of imagination. If we were to judge nature by common sense or likelihood, we wouldn't believe the world existed.