“There either is or is not, that’s the way things are. The colour of the day. The way it felt to be a child. The saltwater on your sunburnt legs. Sometimes the water is yellow, sometimes it’s red. But what colour it may be in memory, depends on the day. I’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. I’m going to tell it the way I remember it.”—― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
“For those of you who are beginning your stories, who might believe, as I once did, when someone tells you there are certain conditions necessary to be a serious writer, a real writer, let me say: I am writing this in a dollar notebook from Staples, with purple gel pen. I can’t believe I’m still at a card table. I am not alone (my youngest is home for spring break with a friend who cannot fly East, and since they are both tall, they have just changed the burned-out porch light bulb), but I am outside, where my neighbors are grilling carne asada, and a homeless man is pausing at the corner with his shopping cart making that shimmery rattle, and I think I’ve finally figured it out.”—Susan Straight, I love you. (via italicsmine)
“Writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself.”—From Notes from a Literary Apprenticeship, by Jhumpa Lahiri in The New Yorker (via thegist)
“Suddenly for no earthly reason I felt immensely sorry for [her] and longed to say something real, something with wings and a heart, but the birds I wanted settled on my shoulders and head only later when I was alone and not in need of words.”—Vladimir Nabokov, from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (New Directions, 1941)
“You can’t reconstruct a story—you can’t even know what the story is—if everyone is saying, “Mistakes were made.” Who made them? Everybody made them, and no one did, and it’s history anyway, so let’s forget about it. Every story is a history, however, and when there is no comprehensible story, there is no history. The past, under these circumstances, becomes an unreadable mess. When we hear words like “deniability,” we are in the presence of narrative dysfunction, a phrase employed by the poet C.K. Williams to describe the process by which we lose track of the story of ourselves, the story that tells us who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act.”—Dysfunctional Narrative BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: ESSAYS ON FICTION Charles Baxter
“You do what you have to do, basically, as an artist, as a human being, to survive. And to put out something that’s meaningful in the world because you care about doing that. You have to be able to tell the truth. As a reader, if it’s not really true and bold and creative and courageous, I can’t really believe it, and I won’t get invested in it. I feel like I owe that to my readers as well, this level of honestly, or else why bother? If you’re not going to be brave, who cares? I don’t know of any work that I love that isn’t brave.”—Conversations With Writers Braver Than Me #16: Rebecca Walker (via therumpus)
“Your desire allows you to stay with the project, allows you to stay in the dark, to survive in the dark. If you’re always in the light when you’re writing a story, it’s probably not a story I’d care to read. One of the reasons we continue this very delicious mystery of talking about creative writing is that you can’t learn about the dark by turning on the lights. Everybody has to go off into the dark. And the reason we’re doing it is not for glory, but for our love of our material. That’s the cornerstone.”—Ron Carlson (via mttbll)
“But as anyone with the least knowledge of literature and writing—maybe art in general—will know, concealing what is shameful to you will never lead to anything of value. This is something I discovered later, when I was writing my first novel, when the parts that I was ashamed like a dog to have written were the same parts that my editor always pointed out, saying, This, this is really good! In a way, it was my shame-o-meter, the belief that the feeling of shame or guilt signified relevance, that finally made me write about myself, the most shameful act of all, trying to reach the innocence of the now burned diarist—self.”—Karl Ove Knausgaard (via mttbll)
“In the end I am uplifted, profoundly so, by the bleakest, despairing work. It’s a great unburdening to read work of this sort. I do not want to be asked to pretend that everything is all right, that people are fundamentally happy, that life is perfectly fine, and that it is remotely ok that we are going to die, and soon, only to disappear into oblivion. I feel a kind of ridiculous joy when writing reveals the world, the way it feels to be in the world. That’s what hope is, a refusal to look away.”—Ben Marcus (via mttbll)
“Freedom of the soul, I feel, was crucial for these pitiful pigeons. Without it, life is meaningless, and yet they seem never even to have heard of the word.”—Uyghur writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin was born on this day in 1974. The above is an excerpt from his story Wild Pigeon, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. (via penamerican)
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson (via thatkindofwoman)
“So why do I write, torturing myself to put it down? Because in spite of myself I’ve learned some things. Without the possibility of action, all knowledge comes to one labeled “file and forget,” and I can neither file nor forget.”—Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison. Ellison was born on this day in 1914. (via penamerican)
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views others find inadmissible.”— Carl Jung (via psych-facts)
“Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: Don’t wander into the woods, and always obey your parents. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and anti-establishment.”—Guillermo del Toro on how horror is inherently political as a genre, Time Magazine (x)
“If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange—meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil.”—― Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
“Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement. The achievements of exile are permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind for ever.”—Edward Said in his essay, ‘Reflections on Exile’
Fiction is more dangerous than nonfiction because it can seduce better. I think we all know this, know that deeper truths can be approached in fiction than in fact. There are risks for the reader, because after reading certain books you find you have changed irreversibly. There are risks for writers: in China, now, and Ethiopia and other countries right now, writers face real persecution. Fiction is risky for writers also in that the process of making certain books, of shaping certain narratives, leaves scars and marks on your inner life.
If there was no risk, it wouldn’t be art. It wouldn’t be worth making. There is risk even in a fairy tale. Fiction is closest to pure narrative, and pure narrative is simply the logic we try to impose on an ever-changing reality.
“…you must say words, as long as there are any, until they find me, until they say me, strange pain, strange sin, you must go on, perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on”—― Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
“But little girls are raised on fairytales. Is it any wonder we all crave the happy endings to the dark things in our lives? No one ever tells you that sad things stay sad, some people die angry and unforgiven, and some things are lost and never found.”—~~ Lisa Unger, BEAUTIFUL LIES
“Fiction is that place where human beings do not have to be better than they really are, where characters can and should confront each other, where they must create scenes, where desire will have its day, where all truth is beautiful. Fiction is the antidote to the conduct manual.”—
(via Sackett Street Writers instructor and author Dina Nayeri)
“Writing is like hunting. There are brutally cold afternoons with nothing in sight, only the wind and your breaking heart. Then the moment when you bag something big.
The entire process is beyond intoxicating.”—Kate Braverman