Archive for May, 2012

Strumming my Guitar

Friday, May 25th, 2012

I am unconvinced that there is an equivalent to “strumming your guitar” for a writer.  A musician/composer can pick away at their guitar (or pluck away at the piano) with no intention of composing a piece of music.  They can strum a few chords or even play someone else’s music.  A visual artist can pick up pencil and paper and sketch something right there manifestly in front of them (and, depending on the artist, that by itself might be considered a masterpiece).  But a writer who writes someone else’s work or copies what’s in front of them is at best considered to be typing and at worst considered to be plagiarising.  And sure, I have heard the arguments that the writing need not be WRITING.  It can be writing exercises, a stream of consciousness, a journal entry or even a blog – all somehow working to improve skill and blah, blah, blah.  But it’s still a blank page that’s filled with stuff that came from nowhere else but your head.  (Unless, of course, you decide to fill your blog with quotes.)


Friday, May 18th, 2012

I’ve blogged before about quotations and how they can be touchstones of wisdom or at least impetus for thought.  In part, I think because they are not encumbered by a lot of verbiage.  Standing on their own, they challenge you to think.  There is one I recently came across that I particularly like in that way.  Logan Pearsall Smith wrote, “We need new friends.  Some of us are cannibals who have eaten their old friends up; others must have ever-renewed audiences before whom to re-enact an ideal version of their lives.”  I had never heard of Logan Pearsall Smith before this.  Turns out he was an American essayist (1865-1946), an authority on 17th century divines and the correct use of English.  I wonder if he felt as if his friends had eaten him up or he had eaten them up.  I suspect the former.

More Please

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Alice Munro - Great Canadian Novelist

Shortly after having blogged so disparagingly about Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, I read a review of his recent non-fiction book, Farther Away: Essays, in The Economist.  It made me want to rush out and read more Franzen.  It wasn’t so much that the review was favourable, the essay topics seemingly ranging and far-reaching, with one noting that “each of us is stranded on his or her own existential island” (note the gender inclusive language), or finding out he was friends and rivals with David Foster Wallace (whom I am glad I have read but not sure I can bring myself to re-read).  It was that the review noted that he wasn’t a very good book reviewer: “On a Alice Munro book [Franzen writes]: “Basically, ‘Runaway’ is so good that I don’t want to talk about it here.  Quotation can’t do the book justice, and neither can synopsis.  The way to do it justice is to read it.”” Anyone who likes Alice Munro’s work that much can’t be bad.  If I don’t end up reading Farther Away, I will certainly be re-reading Runaway.