A woman’s place is in the revolution.
On Keeping a Notebook by Joan Didion - A great essay about making notes that gets to the very core of the writing process
Write Like a Motherfucker by Cheryl Strayed - Raw, emotional advice on the role of humility and surrender in the often tortured world of the writer
Thoughts on Writing by Elizabeth Gilbert - On disicpline, hard work, rejection and why it’s never too late to start
Write Till You Drop by Annie Dillard - “Do you think I could be a writer?” “I don’t know… . Do you like sentences?”
Why I Write by George Orwell - On egoism, a love of beauty, the quest for truth and the desire to change the world — Orwell’s ‘four great motive for writing’.
Despite Tough Guys, Life Is Not the Only School for Real Novelists by Kurt Vonnegut - A beautifully argued defence of the role of teaching in developing writers.
That Crafty Feeling by Zadie Smith - A lecture by a great essayist and novelist on the craft of writing.
A Place You All Know Well by Michael Chabon - On the central role of exporation in writing.
The Nature of Fun by David Foster Wallace (excerpt) - DFW on what drives writers to write
Uncanny the Singing That Comes from Certain Husks by Joy Williams - “Who cares if the writer is not whole? Of course the writer is not whole, or even particularly well…”
"I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn’t be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative, often self-centered nature that still doubts itself—that, when troubles occur, tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny, about the situation. I’ve carried this character around like an old suitcase, down a long, dusty path. I’m not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I’ve carried it with me because there was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect."
“Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing—instead of around, or down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls.”
"People often misunderstand. All you find is cave. There is nothing else down there."
|Debi:||You're a psychopath.|
|Martin:||No, no. Psychopaths kill for no reason. I kill for MONEY. It's a JOB.|
|Martin:||That didn't come out right.|
Ursula K. LeGuin addressing the 1983 graduating class of Mills College in Oakland, California (via wandering-street-radio)
[Read the whole thing here, if you’re so inclined.]
this is why she is worthy of being called far more than brilliant; why i read all her books; why i never deny my dark; the world is unendurable yet everyday endured (paraphrasing Lorrie Moore) and LeGuin makes me believe there’s reason to be curious about more
Book 29 of 2014: The Beekeeper’s Lament by Hannah Nordhaus
This book will make you want to keep them, save them, help them anyway you can. It will make you want to quit your job and move out west and become an itinerant beekeeper, traveling with the seasons, tending your hives and bringing them to the finest blossoms America has to offer.
It’s a beautiful book that really captures the obsessive love beekeepers have for their bees, and the complicated knowledge that a) humans are standing between honeybees and extinction—except b) OF COURSE bees wouldn’t be in trouble if it weren’t for industrialization and whatnot—and c) we will be in terrible trouble ourselves if we don’t succeed in keeping bees safe.
One chapter in this book is titled “Charismatic Micro-Fauna,” and it’s a pretty perfect phrase: like elephants, bees are lovable in a way that’s not completely logical. And they’re symbols of something bigger—the wisdom of the natural world, or the simple all-American goodness of the small farmer.
And they’re beeeeeeeeeeees!
"I’m afraid of everything. I’ve been reading psychology books to try to figure out why. Logically, I know everything is fine. I know that I’m only twenty, and I have so many blessings and advantages. Yet I’m afraid I haven’t accomplished enough yet. I’m afraid of the future. Afraid of getting older. Afraid of being alone. Afraid of having a child. And afraid of the dark. I’m really, really afraid of the dark."
Book 28 of 2014: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Oh, but this book was magical. Magical in a kind of way that makes me want to spell that word with a k. Dark and dangerous and beautiful and weird.
It provoked very strong love-it-or-hate-it reactions on Goodreads, which is not terribly surprising, given how non-linear and impressionistic it is. A lot of people didn’t “get it.” And a good number of people had no patience for the central character, a fragile young woman with a rare eating disorder (pica) which compels her to eat stuff that isn’t food, like chalk.
It reminds me a bit of Duplex, actually. Both Kathryn Davis in Duplex and Oyeyemi here are writing fairy tales, and they’re also writing about bodies, female bodies, torn up and chewed up and remade and unmade again. And, you know, the female body is often the object of the fairy tale, the prize to be won, so perhaps in order to write about what that’s like, they have to rip out the seams of the tale itself, and stitch it back together with other scraps.
I’m not going to say it’s sexist not to be interested in that project—but I do think it’s a feminist project. And I do see sexism in the comments from readers who react to this young female character with a sort of “oh, you think your eating disorder makes you special, but you’re not” kind of attitude.
Not all stories are for you. That’s fine. But the stories that aren’t for you are still worth telling.