Thursday, 25 May 2017

WRITERS ON WRITING #94: Harry Hansen

There is only one definition for a novel –– it is the way the man who writes it looks at the world.  And there are as many ways of writing a novel as there are ways of looking at the world.

Source unspecified

HARRY HANSEN was a US journalist, editor, historian and literary critic.  Click HERE to read his Wikipedia entry.

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WRITERS ON WRITING #4: Kurt Vonnegut
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Thursday, 18 May 2017

POET OF THE MONTH #39: George Orwell



Sometimes in the middle autumn days,
The windless days when the swallows have flown,
And the sere elms brood in the mist,
Each tree a being, rapt, alone,

I know, not as in barren thought,
But wordlessly, as the bones know,
What quenching of my brain, what numbness,
Wait in the dark grave where I go.

And I see the people thronging the street,
The death-marked people, they and I
Goalless, rootless, like leaves drifting,
Blind to the earth and to the sky;

Nothing believing, nothing loving,
Not in joy nor in pain, not heeding the stream
Of precious life that flows within us,
But fighting, toiling as in a dream.

O you who pass, halt and remember
What tyrant holds your life in bond,
Remember the fixed, reprieveless hour,
The crushing stroke, the dark beyond.

And let us now, as men condemned,
In peace and thrift of time stand still
To learn our world while yet we may,
And shape our souls, however ill;

And we will live, hand, eye and brain,
Piously, outwardly, ever-aware,
Till all our hours burn clear and brave
Like candle flames in windless air;

So shall we in the rout of life
Some thought, some faith, some meaning save,
And speak it once before we go
In silence to the silent grave.

Published in The Adelphi, March 1933

The Poet:  It can be easy to forget that 'George Orwell' was, in fact, two different writers –– the creator of the dystopian masterpieces Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and, under his real name Eric Blair, a composer of verse which, in the early to mid 1930s, appeared occasionally in The Adelphi, one of London's most widely circulated and respected literary journals.  The committed Socialist was also something of a closet Romantic whose adolescent years had been spent, as he once explained it, 'writing bad and usually unfinished "nature poems" in the Georgian style.'

Many of Blair's poems contain themes –– the beauty and purity of nature, nostalgia for what was largely a romanticized vision of the Edwardian England of his childhood, the need to exhibit some overriding form of personal responsibility in our dealings with others –– that he would later go on to explore at greater length in his journalism, essays and novels.  Each of his nine published books contains at least one passage in which the idea of contentment is directly equated with experiencing the joys of the 'unspoiled' English countryside.  One of the best examples of this appears in Nineteen Eighty-Four when its protagonist, the downtrodden and secretly rebellious Winston Smith, remembers what he calls 'the Golden Country' of his pre-Big Brother childhood ' an old, rabbit bitten pasture, with a foot track wandering across it and a mole hill here and there.  In the ragged hedge on the opposite side of the field the boughs of the elm trees were swaying very faintly in the breeze, their leaves just stirring in dense masses like women's hair.  Somewhere near at hand, though out of sight, there was a clear, slow-moving stream where dace were swimming in the pools under the willow trees.'  

This is a remarkably poetic passage (note the use of the arresting simile in the line '… stirring in dense masses like women's hair') for what is a brilliant but generally prosaic work of fiction intended to expose totalitarianism and its ruthless crushing of the human spirit.  Although Eric Blair abandoned poetry altogether after 1936, its influence lived on in the work of his alter-ego George Orwell, whose poetic sensibilities were, it seems, of a subtler but no less affecting variety.     

Click HERE to read more poems by GEORGE ORWELL at the website of THE ORWELL PRIZE, an annual UK award created 'to encourage writing in good English –– while giving equal value to style and content, politics or public policy, whether political, economic, social or cultural –– of a kind aimed at or accessible to the reading public, not to specialist or academic audiences.’  You can also click HERE to read more about the life and work of ERIC ARTHUR BLAIR, better known to the world as GEORGE ORWELL.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

THINK ABOUT IT #25: Christine Rosen

If, in the twentieth century, 'character' gave way to 'personality'… then in the twenty-first century 'personality' exists only if it is broadcast, rated, praised and consumed by as many people as possible — put on display for strangers as well as intimates.  In addition, the overpraised American personality expects regularly to assess the worth of others, regardless of his qualifications for doing so:  instant polling, telephone surveys that follow even the most mundane business transaction, voting on television shows such as American Idol, ratings on websites such as and eBay that rank buyers, sellers, and even rate the raters all give the overpraised American a perpetual reminder of his own supposed control over the success of others.

The Overpraised American: Christopher Lasch's 'The Culture of Narcissism' Revisited  
[Policy Review #133, 1 October 2005.]

Click HERE to read the full 2005 article by CHRISTINE ROSEN on the website of The Hoover Institution, a library and research organization based at California's Stanford University which 'seeks to secure and safeguard peace, improve the human condition, and limit government intrusion into the lives of individuals.'  (And I wish them the very best of luck with that in a world as destructive, corrupt and paranoid as this one has been for the past 2000+ years.)

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Thursday, 4 May 2017

GRANT SNIDER All I Need To Write (2013)

Re-posted from the blog INCIDENTAL COMICS

© 2013 Grant Snider

Click HERE to visit INCIDENTAL COMICS, the wonderful blog of US artist GRANT SNIDER.  You can also click HERE to visit his Patreon page, HERE to order his newly-released book The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity (published by Abrams ComicArts in April 2017) and HERE to read an interview with him posted on the Tumblr blog The Artist & The Librarian.

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GRANT SNIDER How To Make Write (2013)

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

WRITERS ON WRITING #93: Barry Hannah

Many of us have been writers since we were ten because we've been hams in one way or another.  We want our times dramatized.  We don't want to be erased by time, and I think that's what it's all about.  I think everything's a monument, every piece of work we do, to a past.  And that's the story.  That's the plot.

The Art of Fiction #184  [The Paris Review #172, Winter 2004]

Click HERE to read the full BARRY HANNAH interview by LACEY GALBRAITH in the online archive of The Paris Review.  You can also click HERE to read another BARRY HANNAH interview by FIONA MAAZEL originally published in the Fall 2001 issue of Bomb magazine.

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WRITERS ON WRITING #13: François Mauriac 
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