nice pictorial representation of story forms, by Kurt Vonnegut via Mia Eilam
As someone who still hasn’t got the hang of Evernote, I like the simple tips in this article. I already like the different notebooks for different things one – I had one for Sarah Selecky’s excellent course, Story is a State of Mind, and have a fresh new one for my Humber times. I have DA’s little grumpy book for my personal rants and etceteras…
But I need to start colour-coding and leaving space between entries…and a table of contents is good, too.
The other day I found a treasure at a used bookstore. It is this book, selected Prose and Poetry of Poe, with the introduction by W.H.Auden.
Now, I haven’t started on the Poe part yet, but I am suffused with joy at the introduction. Must say, the more I know Auden, the more I put him at my imaginary dinner table in heaven. I’d like to spend just an hour or so in his company, if he’d let me.
His gentle yet critical view of Poe’s work is filled with a shared amazement at how Poe persisted, his gaps, his utter failures bounded by spectacularly odd successes.
Poe’s development as a critic “never ..to his potential full stature” is compared to Baudelaire’s –
Think of the subjecs that Beaudelaire was granted – Delacroix, Constantin Guys, Wagner- and hen he kind of books Poe was asked to review:
Mephistopheles in England , or the Confessions of a Prime Minister
The Christian Florist…
Dashes at Life with a Free Pencil …
One is astounded that he managed to remain a rational critic at all, let alone such a good one.>
In terms of Poe’s character, which was described as romantically doomed, Auden points out that this is not the case, “it turns out he was only the kid of fellow whom one hesitates to invite to a party because after two drinks he is apt to become tiresome, an unmanly sort of man whose love life seems to have been largely confined to crying in laps and playing house, that his weaknesses were of the unromantic kind for which our age has the least tolerance, perhaps because they are typical of ourselves.”
On second thought, I might be afraid to have Auden at my dinner table. I would be terrified to bore him, to hear this damning with faint praise I’ve dreaded all my life.
On the other hand, he makes me want to read Poe, not the usual Raven or Casks, but Gordon Pym , Ligeia and The Man of the Crowdand his other poetry, in ever knew of the existence of these stories, poor ignorant me. I know I will be richer for the experience of reading them.
So glad I found this book, and so many others, in a serendipitous way. Second hand bookstores are mystical treasure troves, and I hope they never ever cease to be.
Love Larkin’s poetry. This one, an aubade, or a dawn song, usually apparently written by a departing lover looking at a sleeping woman, I’m posting for two reasons – first, to remind me I want to try my hand at this format, which deals with separation, distance, longing; and second; because it is both beautiful and sad. I love the line: “Death is not different whined at than withstood.”
BY PHILIP LARKIN
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
Philip Larkin, “Aubade” from Collected Poems. Used by permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.
Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)
Everyone talks about the importance of the first line in your story, long or short, but there is often such grace in the last line that they need to be mentioned.
The last line can give you a punch, a feeling of “whoa!”, and last lingering taste of the story, that makes it live in your head long after you are done.
The short story “How Far She Went” by Mary Hood, as featured in Janet Burroway’s “Writing Fiction” (2nd edition, pp. 207-213) is an excellent example. The story itself is filled with imagery, familial history, danger, and sadness. It concerns a rebellious teenager who has been left at her grandmother’s by her father. The entire story is worth a read, but my breath caught in my throat when I read this last line:
“The girl walked close behind her, exactly where she walked, matching her pace, matching her stride, close enough to put her hand forth (if the need arose) and touch her granny’s back where the faded voile was clinging damp, the merest gauze between their wounds.”
The whole story, the girl’s turnaround, the meat of what happened, is captured in that line.
The more I read it, the more it hits me. Not a word too many, or a word too few. And yet, everything.
Ah, Romancing the Stone, one of my all time favourite cheesy romantic movies, both for the Danny DeVito chase scene, and for the author’s retort to her friend, who accuses her of being a hopeless romantic.
“No,” she says, “not hopeless. A hopeful romantic.”
Yep, I know how that goes. That whole hopeful romantic thing.
Wishing things would mystically turn out, whether romantic things or other life scenarios, hoping for magic instead of dipping my head into the gritty realities of life.
But often, looking about, I see stories that make me weep when I read them, my own or someone else’s.
Sometimes, my life feels a bit like the movie. Somehow I end up on the wrong bus, heading into the jungle instead of where I should be going, being followed by sinister agents, or covered with mud. I place my faith where I shouldn’t, adventure where I would more wisely leave things to the authorities.
In my travels, unlike in the movies, I can see others around me who have much more difficult lives, less romance, adventures I wouldn’t choose, and I marvel at their strength when I feel like I struggle with the small challenges I experience.
I wish for a movie happy ending for everyone, one where the music swells and everyone ends up in the arms of their lovers or being cuddled by their wise parents and grandparents or winning the race or hearing their music or art being praised. It’s that Pollyanna/romantic part of me.
I hope she never leaves.
But sometimes she could use a hug.
Interesting thoughts here, and I like the possibility of a writing retreat for academic women. As a “burst” writer, who wrote my MSc thesis in ten days (after thinking about it for many more), I think this approach may well work for me and my non-fiction book.
Originally posted on Doctoral Writing SIG:
I am at a desk overlooking trees soaking up misty rain. This post represents a spasm of procrastination from the article that I’m writing on what is for me a new area of research interest.
Beside me I have an ambitious stack of reading for the week; I need to get my head round recent literature. In front of me, the laptop, currently showing my resurrected Endnote library—somehow I have lost a more recent version so need to move on and recreate. Around me, other women academics are also writing, including a couple of them finishing their PhD theses, and a couple who are newly graduated and now pumping out articles to meet their post-doc grants’ mandates.
It’s the third day of one of Barbara Grant’s writing retreats for academic women. I have read five articles and skimmed two journals—two books and another five journals sit waiting…
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