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13/01/2012  9:56am

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Bohemia Lies By the Sea, Anselm Kiefer

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Nobel Banquet Speech, William Faulkner

We have to find meters whose scales are unknown in the world, draw our own schematics, getting feedback, making connections, reducing the error, try to learn the real function… zeroing in on what incalculable plot?

Gravity’s Rainbow*, Thomas Pynchon

As Orwell points out in his indispensable essay “Politics and the English Language,” they write in prepared phrases, not in words, and the most they do with a prepared phrase is vary it to show that they know what it is. 

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg from Cultural Amnesia (adapted), Clives James

* Please don’t be misled; I have not read Gravity’s Rainbow, at least not past the first five pages. 

I am now staring at her as she drives, using my sophisticated hermeneutic skills to try and work out in which way every single story in the book is really about her. I don’t get it, though. When she chatters merrily about her son, there’s no mention of the baby she accidentally killed in story three; when I ask about her early years, I get nothing about how she was once a minor movie star dating a mechanic like in the first story. And don’t you hate that? When people just lie for a living?

Zadie Smith on Lorrie Moore

Fact and fiction, fiction and fact. Which stops where, and how much to put in of each? At what point does regurgitated autobiography graduate into memory shaped by art? How do you know when to stop telling it as it is, or was, and make it into what it ought to be — or what would make a better story?

A Writing Woman, Gail Godwin

To make an idea come alive in a sentence, some of its words must be left for dead: The penalty for trying to bring them all alive is preciousness at best. If such preciousness is not firmly ruled out by the writer, there will be readers all too keen to supply it. In modern times, critics have earned a reputation for brilliance by pushing the concept of “close reading” to the point where they tease more meaning out than the writer can conceivably have wanted to put in; but it isn’t hard, it’s easy; and the mere fact that their busy activity makes them feel quite creative themselves should be enough to tell them they are making a mistake.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg from Cultural Amnesia (adapted), Clive James

I tell them to get an exercise book.. If you haven’t got any ideas just copy out something that you’ve liked in someone else’s book… But copying is what artitsts do; it’s often how they start, I think. And, I know (if) because I still use a pen quite a lot, I know that if I copy something out, there’s a sense that, you’re sensing with, sensing with your body the sort’ve joints of the sentence and how the, the weight of the sentence is gathered and carried and how it’s kind’ve slung from one end of the sentence structure to another. That always gives me a great deal of pleasure. You have to write slowly, and you can see how it’s done, even though you don’t know how to do it — but you can — you can see the joints of the thing.

– Transcribed from ABC Radio National coverage of Sydney Writers’ Festival 2008, Helen Garner

(x) Days of Photography is a flash fiction/photography collaboration with Austin Andrews of Disposable Words. This is Day Twelve.

…all seemed to be waiting for something to occur; the dead man only was without expectation.

The Damned Thing, Ambrose Bierce

He tried to sleep on the streets, but couldn’t; he still had enough money to eat.

– Did you see it?

He tried to eat but it just brought on desire, and in digestion, a misguided hope in sleep.

– Did you see that?

He tried to find the young man who had taken photos of him, so as to forget them.

– I can see you now.

He tried for a job and got it.

– No wonder.

He tried to understand his contract and didn’t.

– Wait a little longer.

He tried to find a place as far away from his work as possible.

– Just turn your ear.

He tried to sleep on the train to and from work.

– Clutter!

He tried to read ghost stories.

He tried to stay scared when he woke up from nightmares.

He tried to take baths instead of watching television.

He tried bringing cats to his balcony with a tree made of fish-bones.

He tried reading great poetry against the mirror to correct his reflection.

He tried to remember what you can and can’t say about yourself.

He tried staying away, but couldn’t.

– Greed! A band of noise…

He tried to wait outside the entrance for someone to let him in.

– … always using up ideas.

He tried the side alley.

– You want movement?

He tried to smash the bathroom window with his fist wrapped in a jumper.

– Pick up my inconsistent breath.

He tried to balance with one foot on the sink and the other on the bath’s edge.

– If you hear it can you see?

He tried the light switch in the hallway.

– The scuttle of the cat’s claws…

He tried to let his eyes adjust.

– …day and night, without repeat…

He tried to feel his way around the apartment.

– …always in my ear.

He tried to hear her mumbling over the sound of his breath.

– If you want to know…

He tried to clean in search of her.

– …where you are going…

He tried to make out the trace of the dead man’s life to take her devotion.

– …turn around, my sweet, and go…

He opened the cupboard door again and again, but she didn’t re-appear.

– … back from whence you came.

FIN

Photo Copyright ©2008 Austin Andrews

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