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The 17th already?  And only the second blog entry for the month.  Caramba.  What a lackadaisical blogger I am. It was easier to stay on top of this when I was driving truck.  Hunkered down in the sleeper cab, parked in some diesel- and urine-redolent truckstop, it was pretty easy to find the time to […]

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In my quest for Spanish literature, I read a mildly interesting thing the other day by Javier Cercas that would have made a good short story. Unfortunately, he stretched it out to three hundred and four pages. It was called La velocitad de la luz (The Speed of Light), which was kind of funny because […]

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William Faulkner is supposed to have remarked once that Earnest Hemingway had the distinction of never having used a word that sent a reader to the dictionary.  Hem’s reply, upon hearing of this, is alleged to have been, “Poor Faulkner.  He thinks you need big words to make big emotions.” A few of my own […]

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Virginia Woolf, as near as I can tell, never finished what is widely considered one of the greatest novels ever written.  Tom Eliot had been praising it to the skies, and maybe, she says, that is why she admittedly approached Ulysses with a chip on her shoulder.  Then she had trouble getting into it, and […]

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Having my students rearrange their stories is beginning to pay off.  Today, one of my 5th graders apologized because she decided she didn’t like her new arrangement, and was going to have to start over again.  Breakthrough!  I seized the moment to tell them one of my favorite (very possibly apocryphal) writing stories, which may […]

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Jack Kerouac’s motto is supposed to have been “first thought = best thought.”  I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that he thought up a lot of other mottos before settling on that zippy little nugget of wisdom.  Kerouac was even more of a liar than is usual with writers; he even lied about his methods […]

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Rather incoherent, says Virginia Woolf, and also, as is the case with all theories, too definite. Theories often seem too definite to me, too, especially theories about art, but still I can’t resist whittling away at one.  Earnest Hemingway says that when he used to get writer’s block he would write down the truest thing […]

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My extended tour of early 20th century English writing continues to be both amusing and instructive.  I don’t know of any other time and place in which writers were thinking and talking and writing so extensively about writing.  In London you had the Bloomsberries and the anti-Bloomsberries duking it out in magazines, newspapers, lecture halls, […]

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I have just begun Cyril Connolly’s Enemies of Promise, which, like Orwell’s “Inside the Whale,” is an examination of the state of English literature.  In his youth, Connolly was widely supposed to have a great career as a writer before him, but what he became instead, mostly, was a literary critic.  I generally don’t read […]

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So what really matters in fiction?  What you say, or how you say it? I’ve just read a hundred and eight pages of Hesse’s Narziß und Goldmund, an allegorical tale of the opposing Apollonian and the Dionysian spirits.  Each of the main characters represents a spirit, and that’s my difficulty with Hesse – that his […]

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