Sunday, September 26, 2021

Literary Bits for September 27


Thoughts on writing from authors born September 27:


from literary critic and poet William Empson (Seven Types of Ambiguity) (1906-1984):

The central function of imaginative literature is to make you realize that other people act on moral convictions different from your own.

Thus a poetical word is a thing conceived in itself and includes all its meanings; a prosaic word is flat and useful and might have been used differently.

...the machinations of ambiguity are among the very roots of poetry.

Poetry contains nothing haphazard.

To produce pure proletarian art the artist must be at one with the worker; this is impossible, not for political reasons, but because the artist never is at one with any public.


from historian and novelist Louis Auchincloss (The House of Five Talents, Portrait in Brownstone, East Side Story) (1917-2010):

To most readers the word 'fiction' is an utter fraud. They are entirely convinced that each character has an exact counterpart in real life and that any small discrepancy with that counterpart is a simple error on the author's part. Consequently, they are totally at a loss if anything essential is altered. Make Abraham Lincoln a dentist, put the Gettysburg Address on his tongue, and nobody will recognize it.

Novels must have verisimilitude, and truth has little enough of that.

A neurotic can perfectly well be a literary genius, but his greatest danger is always that he will not recognize when he is dull.

Once somebody's aware of a plot, it's like a bone sticking out. If it breaks through the skin, it's very ugly.

It's very rare that a character comes to mind complete in himself. He needs additional traits that I often pick from actual people. One way you can cover your tracks is to change the sex.

Society matters not so much. Words are everything.

I think Shakespeare got drunk after he finished King Lear. That he had a ball writing it.


from cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death) (1924-1974):

The road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there.

The key to the creative type is that he is separated out of the common pool of shared meanings. There is something in his life experience that makes him take in the world as a problem; as a result he has to make personal sense out of it.


from novelist Josef Škvorecký (The Cowards, The Miracle Game, The Engineer of Human Souls) (1924-2012):

Whatever happens, we’ll all meet in that great card-index in the sky.

The alchemy of time transforms everything into comedy. Everything. Even crucifixion.

Artists hold out the mirror to the bruises on the face of the world.


from sportswriter and best-selling author Dick Schaap (Instant Replay) (1934-2001):

I came up with new leads for game stories by being observant and clever, by using the many gifts of the English language to intrigue and hook a reader.

I think my mistakes were kind of common—leaning on cliches and adjectives in the place of clear, vivid writing. But at least I knew how to spell, which seems to be a rarity these days.

Also, I am driven by a wonderful muse called alimony.


from poet and author Carol Lynn Pearson (Goodbye, I Love You) (1939-   ):

There's an old Jewish saying: An enemy is someone whose story you do not know.


from romance writer Katie Fforde (Living Dangerously, Love Letters) (1952-   ):

My best advice for aspiring writers is to read a lot and write. Don't worry if you don't get your first, fifth or tenth novel published, if you keep going you'll make it. Also read "how to write" books as they may make the process a bit quicker.

What I like most about the stories I write is exploring other lives and professions. It's a way of having all the jobs I can't have now. I can also give myself skills I don't have.


from novelist, playwright, and short story writer Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting, Marabou Stork Nightmares) (1958-   ):

I grew up in a place where everybody was a storyteller, but nobody wrote. It was that kind of Celtic, storytelling tradition: everybody would have a story at the pub or at parties, even at the clubs and raves.

The first job of a writer is to be honest.

Sometimes I work purely 8-12 shifts, banging stuff into the computer. Other times, my office is like a scene from a detective movie, with Post-it Notes, plans, photographs all stuck on the walls and arrows going everywhere, and it's 4 A.M.

There is a kind of mysticism to writing.

I enjoy the freedom of the blank page.


from humorist Tucker Max (I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell) (1975- ):

Most of my success, I feel, comes from being a good editor as opposed to a great writer.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Literary Bits for September 17

Thoughts on writing from authors born September 17:

from novelist and short-story writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky (Fata morgana) (1864-1913):

Poetry cannot live in a trash can, and without it life is a crime.

from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet William Carlos Williams (Pictures from Brueghel, and Other Poems) (1883-1963):

It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it; there lies the secret of the ages.

It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.

The job of the poet is to use language effectively, his own language, the only language which is to him authentic.

The only realism in art is of the imagination.

A poem is a small machine made out of words.

from fiction and non-fiction writer Frank O'Connor (Guests of the Nation, The Big Fellow) (1903-1966):

Always in the short story there is this sense of outlawed figures wandering about the fringes of society... As a result there is in the short story at its most characteristic something we do not often find in the novel—an intense awareness of human loneliness.

There are three necessary elements in a story—exposition, development, and drama. Exposition we may illustrate as "John Fortescue was a solicitor in the little town of X"; development as "One day Mrs. Fortescue told him she was about to leave him for another man"; and drama as "You will do nothing of the kind," he said.

from artist and film director M. F. Husain (Through the Eyes of a Painter) (1915-2011):

They can put me in a jungle. Still, I can create.

from Oscar-winning screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (Heureux Anniversaire and Honorary) (1931-2021):

The dream of a writer is to be surprised by his characters. All of a sudden, they are living their own lives; they are not prisoners anymore… Tati taught me how to observe, how to sit in a cafe in Paris and to look at the passersby and to guess what their story is, even a little moment of their story.

from rocker Keith Flint (The Prodigy) (1969-2019):

I think anyone who's willing to be brutally honest with who they are and express themselves is always going to get the oddball label, the pyscho label, the twisted label. That's what happens.

The point is to be true to yourself—otherwise you may as well give up.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Literary Bits for September 15

Thoughts on writing from authors born September 15:

from epigrammatist Francois de La Rochefoucauld (Mémoires, Maximes) (1613-1680):

True eloquence consists in saying all that should be said, and that only.

The simplest man with passion will be more persuasive than the most eloquent without.


from novelist James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans) (1789-1851):

The common faults of American language are an ambition of effect, a want of simplicity, and a turgid abuse of terms.


from humorist Robert Benchley (The New Yorker, How to Sleep) (1889-1945):

The free-lance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.

Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted.


from writer and poet Claude McKay (Songs of Jamaica, Home to Harlem) (1889-1948):

I know the dark delight of being strange, The penalty of difference in the crowd, The loneliness of wisdom among fools.


from mystery writer Agatha Christie (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Mousetrap) (1890-1976):

There is no doubt that the effort involved in typing or writing does help me in keeping to the point. Economy of wording, I think, is particularly necessary in detective stories. You don't want to hear the same thing rehashed three or four times over.

Writing is a great comfort to people like me, who are unsure of themselves and have trouble expressing themselves properly.

Words are such uncertain things, they so often sound well but mean the opposite of what one thinks they do.

The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes.


from writer-director Jean Renoir (La Grande Illusion, La Règle du jeu) (1894-1979):

A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.


from columnist Sheilah Graham (“Hollywood Today,” Beloved Infidel) 1904-1988):

I sometimes mistake my typewriter for my teeth, because the more I bite the more my column will be read.

You can have anything you want if you want it desperately enough. You must want it with an inner exuberance that erupts through the skin and joins the energy that created the world.


from fiction and non-fiction author Adolfo Bioy Casares (La invención de Morel, Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi) (1914-1999):

Sometimes I think Johnson's Lives of the English Poets is all I need to be happy.


from biographer Fawn M. Brodie (Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, No Man Knows My History) (1915-1981):

Show me a character whose life arouses my curiosity, and my flesh begins crawling with suspense.


from historian John Julius Norwich (A History of Venice, A Short History of Byzantium) (1929-2018):

All forms of literature are dangerous; but in none is the danger more acute than in historical fiction...


from writer and illustrator Tomie dePaola (Strega Nona, 26 Fairmount Avenue) (1934-2020):

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.


from pastoralist Sara Henderson (From Strength to Strength) (1936-2005):

Don't wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.


from science fiction writer Howard Waldrop (Them Bones, Howard Who?) (b. 1946):

H.P. Lovecraft is for the summer between junior and senior years in high school. Cosmic fear hits you about then anyway—you realize you'll soon have to Get a Real Job or Go To College or Both and in those days, Be Drafted. A dose of Cthulhu helps put these feelings in perspective.


from rapper and essayist George Watsky (Cardboard Castles, How to Ruin Everything) (b. 1986):

My heart is a colored pencil but my brain is an eraser.

You might think that you're ruined. You might think you're defeated. If you love what you're doing you've already succeeded.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Literary Bits for September 13

 Quotes about writing from authors born on September 13:


from novelist and short story writer Sherwood Anderson (Winesburg, Ohio, Many Marriages, Dark Laughter) (1876-1941):

The object of art is not to make salable pictures. It is to save yourself.

I think the whole glory of writing lies in the fact that it forces us out of ourselves and into the lives of others.

Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything.

Most people are afraid to trust their imaginations and the artist is not.

You must not become a mere peddler of words. The thing to learn is to know what people are thinking about, not what they say.

If you are to become a writer you'll have to stop fooling with words.

If I can write everything out plainly, perhaps I will myself understand better what has happened.

I am pregnant with song. My body aches but do not betray me. I will sing songs and hide them away. I will tear them into bits and throw them in the street. The streets of my city are full of dark holes. I will hide my songs in the holes of the streets.


from novelist, playwright, and essayist J. B. Priestley (The Good Companions, Britain Speaks, Bright Day, An Inspector Calls) (1894-1984):

Write as often as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument.

If you are a genius, you'll make your own rules, but if not - and the odds are against it - go to your desk no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper - write.

The point is to be good--to be sensitive and sincere.

There are plenty of clever young writers. But there is too much genius, not enough talent.

Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with successive difficult deliveries.

Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write.


from fiction writer Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Tales of the Unexpected) (1916-1990):

A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.

Don't gobblefunk around with words.

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

Then fill the shelves with lots of books.