Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Post-Epiphany Resolutions


Marly’s 2008 resolutions (the bookish ones)

1.
Continue writing about Long Grass Books on the blog.

2.
Cease to pay attention to things that fritter and are devoid of meaning. Live the larger and more radiant life of art; give up what shrinks and darkens the spirit.

3.
Clean up the dratted post-earthquake writing room.

4.
Preserve your humility in the face of art.

Zephyr has floated by and asked that I amplify number 4. What does that mean to me, humility in the face of art?

Here goes, at the risk of sounding like an utter ninny...

It means this: despite our civilization’s current turn away from words and away from beauty, the vocation of artist still exists; that it is a vocation of rightness, a calling that matters; that a vocation is not a thing to rest easy in; that making the beautiful is tied to labor and readiness and willingness to explore beyond what has become comfortable. Most of all, humility before art means acknowledging the great mysteries of life and death and striving with no thought of self—in fact, with loss of self in the striving—to make a thing that radiates life and beauty.

Of course, thousands of artists of all sorts have devoted their lives to this work and have passed away as though they had never been. Yet the striving itself was an assault on death and meaninglessness that affirmed that life can have meaning and that people can live brighter, bigger lives.


5.
Bother to send out some poems—don’t sit around waiting for requests.

6.
Post more pieces about younger or beginning writers.

7.
Apply some ingenuity: think about filling all fiction requests, even if they’re “wrong” for you; that is, bend the request into a bow that fits the arrows in your sheaf.

8.
Don’t waste so much time. Listen. That’s time’s winged chariot you hear…

9.
Don’t expect other people to do anything for you, but be sure and thank them if they do.

10.
Grow more chitininous armor, yet grow more tender within.

11.
Don’t wait for someone, something...

12.
And don't fret.



***

Fantasy Magazine has been conducting a poll for best stories of the year, but unfortunately "The Comb" was left off. It's now up, third from the bottom; if you're a reader, feel free to go read and vote. "Seven Crooked Tinies" is also on the list. New Year's Day marked the anthology reprint of "The Comb" in Rich Horton's Fantasy: Best of the Year (Prime Books, 2008).

***

Photograph credit, "Winter 1": I'd be tempted to call this one after the poem, "The Road Not Taken," and say that this is Frost's "yellow wood" when winter comes, as it always must. This trace through a winter forest is courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/ and Peter Hellebrand of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. "I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence / Two roads diverged in a wood / And I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference"

20 comments:

  1. That is a great list. The only one I think I have a handle on is number 9. I would rather just do the shit myself, even if it means that I have to come up with a rope and pully mechanism to get the job done than wait for someone, other than hubby of course who is always game for anything but musicals, willing to help me. If they want to join in then I am ever so pleasantly suprised. I always remind myself of an AA saying, expectation are resentments waiting to happen.

    YOu got some great ones to ponder. I did not even think on a list this year. I have my hats organized and I went to the gym today.

    The cleaning things that whirlwinds have hit is always on the agenda as well...

    (my word verification was funny today--cnogsun

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  2. May I adopt some of these, 8-12 at the very least? They resonate.

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  3. Susanna,

    What's wrong with musicals?

    If you have your galiquan hats organized, you're good to go!

    Never heard that AA remark, but it seems apt.

    Amanda,

    Take what you will!

    Hot air is always free here.

    Hope you have a grand year sculpting...

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  4. hahaa I dont know why he hates musicals so much, I myself could sing my sentences all the time without just saying it plain

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  5. This is the best such list i've read, though i would like you to expand a bit on no. 4...i'm feeling dim and not quite understanding.

    i do not do resolutions. i balk at any enforced behavior modification, even imposed by myself. You know, i need to know i can whisk hither and yon at will!

    But, as with most things, it's a matter of language, semantics...i do seem to spend chunks of time (these days) visualizing how i would like to change the shape of some aspects of my breezing about.

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  6. Susanna,

    When my three were squabbling a lot one week, I sang everything I said to them for several days. Then they sang back. Somehow it broke up the tension and ended in laughter.

    zephyr,

    I shall go and make myself clear. Pronto! I hate being murky...

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  7. A fine list, though as with all such things, the charism of discernment is needed to know exactly what constitutes the thing you aspire to and what to avoid...for example, what is time wasting and what is necessary resting and falling back the better to leap forward?
    I've been pondering the nature of humility, false and true. Ideally, true humility frees you to do greater and greater things, and is rather like balance, once you think about it too much you are in danger of losing it. Lewis's idea (in Screwtape) about being able to take equal pleasure in one's own achievements as if they were someone else's comes to mind. False humility is insidious clutter.

    Do you think our culture is really turning away from words? Or just from the right ones?

    Do I detect the influence of your 'Insecta' experience in 'chitinous armour'?

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  8. Oh, yes, people who like to make things do a lot that looks wasteful to others.

    On humility... That's probably why I said so little about it originally. It's slippery. And really it probably shouldn't be discussed. One is too likely to tumble into Uriah Heepism when talking about such things.

    Yes, I believe we are moving away from a reflective culture that loves words and nourishes people who know what they think because they write. However, a large subset of people will remain tied to words as readers and writers.

    Definitely Insecta!

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  9. I too love your list, especially number four. You always seem able to put into words what I'm feeling, I guess that's why you're the writer. ;)

    I too think we are moving away from beautiful words, and art/beauty in general. I think we as a society are falling headlong into a deep hole of artistic darkness, not unlike the last dark ages.

    And yet, as before, there will be keepers of the flame. So here is to you, one fine keeper of the flame, Happy, Joyous, Prosperous, New Year.

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  10. Ah, Donna, what a lovely thing to say--thank you for the compliment. I hope you have a fruitful and glad year as well.

    As long as we're hoping, let's hope the cloud between us and the sun floats off and we find that we're wrong about the state of things.

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  11. I have a uriah heep album on vinyl. Yes, not only do I have a ridculous hat collection, I also for what ever reason have a banging record collection as well...no false modesty here!

    I think one of the most recent movie moments of humility that I saw was the jewish screen writer in The Holiday. I loved it when he came in to the hall and saw everybody had showed up for his shin-dig (I really wanted to say Party spelled with ee instead of y)

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  12. I'm having a The Loneliest Monk moment, Susanna. Go read David Copperfield, quick!

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  13. Thank you, Marly, for the added words on No. 4. So on the mark...and humbling.

    i am so grateful for books. When the rushing, gushing, crashing world is too much with me i can go into a room and look at or read pages that bring me back to...or at least closer to the heart of things.

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  14. I realized how gloomy that sounded about the dark ages and all, yet I do see some glimmers of beauty. It's just that art doesn't seem to be valued as much in society as it once was. Maybe it never was, I don't know, but I would love to see people enjoying themselves again without having to be so anylytical about it. Some of this may come from the fact that I work in a system where we now test art, believe it or not. Analysis of the sunset for chemical properties does not seem far off. The enjoyment of just watching one seems to be drifting away...

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  15. b. q.,

    "Analysis of the sunset"

    That would make an interesting story, Donna--the world devolving into a place where such things are done!

    ***

    Zephyr,

    I'm glad those words passed the ninny-test, at least for you.

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  17. I had on the wrong hat yesterday, I dont know what I was thinking!

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  18. The movements of the stars and the cataclysms of nations just might depend on the wearing of right hats.

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  19. Doesn't matter what hats you are all wearing Marley, it is a tall list. I liked the Arty one, number 4 especially, I will clearly have to become more er...but I don't want to give up the dark "spirit". I expect I would be healthier if I did but "north of the boarder" needs our support.

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  20. Robert,

    Just got back from NYC, so my eyes are crossed and my compass pointing to N A P.

    I suppose my resolutions fall into the realm of things that Robert Browning (the other Robert) would say "exceed my grasp." That is: "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, / Or what's a heaven for?" ("Andrea del Sarto," 1855).

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.