Soviet-animated Ray Bradbury story. Thanks to Open Culture.
Richard Avedon first photographed Gabriel García Márquez on a rainy day in 1976, but he felt that the portrait was a failure. Avedon finally had another chance to photograph the writer in 2004. This is the portrait that emerged from that second session: http://nyr.kr/1h2usmA
from a conversation between Heather Christle, Michelle Christle, and Rachel B. Glaser, via heatherchristle.tumblr.com:
"I think it’s kind of weird that you get to write and then keep living. There’s this way in which writing is this technology that really belongs to the dead, because it keeps their words around when they’re gone. And also your words are going to hang out for a lot longer than you are, potentially. It is kind of surprising when you write something and don’t die immediately."
“Bees are the smallest of birds. They are born from the bodies of oxen, or from the decaying flesh of slaughtered calves; worms form in the flesh and then turn into bees. Bees live in community, choose the most noble among them as king, have wars, and make honey. Their laws are based on custom, but the king does not enforce the law; rather the lawbreakers punish themselves by stinging themselves to death. Bees are afraid of smoke and are excited by noise. Each has its own duty: guarding the food supply, watching for rain, collecting dew to make honey, and making wax from flowers.”
Bill Murray reads Wallace Stevens, “The Planet on The Table” and “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts.”
Maurice Manning, via Smartish Pace.
"Are there enough good lawyers to fill up all of the law schools? Probably not, but we don’t discourage someone from going to law school. I often say to my students that someone who completes law school and passes the bar exam will probably not be arguing a case before the Supreme Court a week later. Only a fraction of lawyers ever present a case before the Supreme Court. In other words, I don’t think an MFA is an end-point; rather, it is more a beginning. After the MFA it is up to the (usually) young writer to develop the discipline and maturity to write and to have something worth saying. My own MFA experience at the University of Alabama was a similar case of uncertainty. I entered the program when I was 30. By that point I’d been reading and writing in considerable isolation for years. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew I wanted the opportunity to immerse myself in serious study of poetry for three years. It would be something to regret the rest of my life if I did not. I had no idea what it would lead to and certainly did not expect to be teaching or have any sort of so-called career. I was prepared to complete my degree and come back to Kentucky. If the writing didn’t lead to anything but my own satisfaction then I had planned to apprentice myself to a carpenter. I like making things with my hands. Writing poems feels like a craft, a kind of skilled labor. Somewhere at this moment an old man is building a bluebird house at the workbench in the back of his garage. That’s how I view my own work—you take some material and make it into pieces and you fit the pieces together and one day you hope a bluebird perches on it singing."
Brain Pickings revisits Annie Dillard’s 1988 intro to Best American Essays:
In some ways the essay can deal in both events and ideas better than the short story can, because the essayist — unlike the poet — may introduce the plain, unadorned thought without the contrived entrances of long-winded characters who mouth discourses… The essayist may reason; he may treat of historical, cultural, or natural events, as well as personal events, for their interest and meaning alone, without resort to fabricated dramatic occasions. So the essay’s materials are larger than the story’s.
The essay may deal in metaphor better than the poem can, in some ways, because prose may expand what the lyric poem must compress. Instead of confining a metaphor to half a line, the essayist can devote to it a narrative, descriptive, or reflective couple of pages, and bring forth vividly its meanings… The range of rhythms in prose is larger and grander than that of poetry. And it can handle discursive idea, and plain fact, as well as character and story.
The essay can do everything a poem can do, and everything a short story can do — everything but fake it. The elements in any nonfiction should be true not only artistically — the connections must hold at base and must be veracious, for that is the convention and the covenant between the nonfiction writer and his reader. Veracity isn’t much of a drawback to the writer; there’s a lot of truth out there to work with. And veracity isn’t much of a drawback to the reader. The real world arguably exerts a greater fascination on people than any fictional one; many people, at least, spend their whole lives there, apparently by choice. The essayist does what we do with our lives; the essayist thinks about actual things. He can make sense of them analytically or artistically. In either case he renders the real world coherent and meaningful, even if only bits of it, and even if that coherence and meaning reside only inside small texts.
From an intro to Chris Offutt’s visit as a Visiting Writers Series writer at Virginia Tech, circa 2010:
Chris’ workshop was my favorite class at the University of Iowa. Simply put, Offutt did what the best teachers do: he poured himself into his work; he emptied himself out; he went above and beyond. From the moment he walked into the classroom, until the moment he left, he was a presence to be reckoned with. He carried his manuscripts in a battered suitcase, wore sleeveless cowboy shirts embroidered with silver ropes. One minute he’d be hunched at the end of a table, flipping through pages of manuscripts that flickered with color-coded tape, contorting his face wildly in an attempt to try out somebody’s poorly-described facial expression, and the next he’d be leaping out of his chair to grab a stick of chalk from the ledge of a wobbly chalkboard and scribble an illegible diagram that somehow perfectly proved his point. He brought in old drafts of stories he’d written long ago, to show us that, at one time, he’d been guilty of producing the same errors he now preached against. He even invited us to his house, showed us steer skulls and a taxidermied mountain lion and a shelf of books written by former students.
His most pragmatic advice became the most indispensable. Don’t ever write something that makes your readers pause to figure out how old someone is or how far away—in other words, don’t make them do math. Avoid doubling up on prepositions—in most cases, one will do just fine. When choosing a font, don’t gussy up your sentences with fancy typeset—if your sentences were going to surpass their own ordinariness, they would have to do so without the help of Garamond or Perpetua. Know the difference between further (which relates to time) and farther (which relates to distance). Don’t use the word “scramble” in a story if the story’s set before 1939, since the word hadn’t been popularized until fighter pilots used it to describe emergency take-offs during World War II. Don’t use ambiguous phrases that masquerade as specific ones. For example, do not, as one classmate did, use the phrase “tall as a man” to describe the size of something. “Tall as a man?” Offutt had shouted. “Tall as a man? Tell us Edan, how tall is a man?” Do not use asterisks to indicate section breaks, at least not without knowing that, once upon a time, before publishers could print sex scenes, they printed asterisks. Avoid repetition, at least unconscious repetition, as did one workshopper who used the word “when” 27 times in a story, unless you wanted Offutt to circle each instance of it, not only to reveal the repetition, but because beginning sentences with “when” reveals almost immediately the structure of that sentence and therefore undermines the delight that accompanies not knowing how things are going to unfold.
from "A Catalog of Conversations I Haven’t Had with My Father" by Courtney Maum, via Freerange Nonficiton
- On my sixteenth birthday, why did you take me to Mr. Gunthrup’s house and offer me his Vietnamese pot bellied pig as a surprise gift?
- Why do you have two Bernese mountain dogs and three Saint Bernards? I’ve never considered you amiable to pets. Does having multiple large dogs say something to others about your capacity as a family man?
- Why did your wife come downstairs for your 50th birthday dinner in riding chaps and a helmet? Was there a period in your relationship when medication was discussed?
- What is it, exactly, that you do?
- You do know deep down inside of you that the movie “Seabiscuit” represents everything I abhor about mainstream American popular culture, do you not? Why then do you keep suggesting that I make a movie just like it?
- One time you left your EBay account page open, but I was too frightened to check and see what your EBay ID was less it be revealed that you’ve been buying useless miscellanea under the name “poppycock” or some such. And so I’ll ask you now, what is it?
- I suspect that this has something to do with the procurement of all those dogs, but when I was little you listened to stylish music like the Bee Gees and Lionel Ritchie. I would like to talk about your transition to the made-in-the-studio, Styrofoam peanut sound of the new country crap you auscultate at present. Was your decision to “go country” brought on by your wife’s affinity for imitation Native American turquoise jewelry, or is this your way of expressing patriotism in a Post-9/11 world?
- Thanks to some seriously alternative energy work I partook in last summer involving an eagle’s wing, blue pebbles and cinnamon sticks, I can now forgive you for purchasing a Hummer in 2001. What I can’t forgive is the fact that you still drive it. Do you ever feel even the slightest bit troubled by your utter lack of engagement with reality?