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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Art in the city

I've just returned from a stay in New York City with my Yale Divinity group. Many of things we did were special--a private talk with Ed Baynard about "Re-emerging," the current show at Sara Tecchia Gallery, a visit to Makoto Fujimura's home and studio, listening to Hank Jones on piano and Joe Levano on saxophone at Lincoln Center, etc.--and I'll write about some of them over the next few days. The talk with Ed Baynard was, I suppose, the most unusual, as Mako says that he simply does not discuss his pictures. It seems a tribute to Makoto Fujimura the person and painter that Baynard was willing to do so. I won't repeat what Ed Baynard said about the pictures, as I believe that to be "in confidence," but I'll have some things to say about the experience.
* * * * * * *
The photograph of Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building is by Gabor Erdos of Veszprém, Hungary. It is a royalty free picture from

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dear Mr. Keillor,

I rather like you, and don't have any mean thoughts about you, the way some people do. You are a nice man and can talk about important things to people who might not think so often about them without you. You are well-known in the world, and I am not. To boot, one of my children adores Guy Noir with a great adoration, and so I often hear your voice, telling stories, introducing songs. But I just don't get Writer's Almanac a lot of the time. I'm saying this despite the fact that an e-pal of mine recently had a poem chosen for inclusion. I congratulate him, though I am still bemused.

Recently I mentioned that someone wondered if we had lost the ability to tell a joke from a poem. This was after he had heard a poem on Writer's Almanac. It was not a funny poem. It was not light verse.

This morning he said that he wondered if we had lost the ability to tell an anecdote from a poem. So I looked up today's poem on the NPR site. I'll link to a chance to purchase the book. This is the fairest kind of a deal for today's poet, I think, because no doubt there are masses of people out there who will be amused and not bemused, as I am bemused. NPR informs us that it is TUESDAY, 25 APRIL, 2006. They give us the chance to Listen. They tell us How to listen. And here we can buy the book containing today's poem: "A Girl in Milwaukee and a Girl in Brooklyn" from Eavesdrop Soup. © Manic D Press (buy now)

Here it is without those all-important line breaks:

A Girl in Milwaukee and a Girl in Brooklyn
My wife is talking on the phone in Milwaukee To her girlfriend in Brooklyn. But, in the middle of all that, my wife has to go pee.And it turns out that the girl in Brooklyn,At the very same time, also has to go pee.So they discuss this for a moment,And they're both very intelligent people.They decide to set their phones down and go to the bathroom(This was back when people set their phones down).So they do this, and now we have a live telephone line openBetween Milwaukee and BrooklynWith no one speaking through it for about two minutes asA girl in Milwaukee and a girl in Brooklyn go to the bathroom.

And here it is with line breaks:

A Girl in Milwaukee and a Girl in Brooklyn

My wife is talking on the phone in Milwaukee
To her girlfriend in Brooklyn.
But, in the middle of all that, my wife has to go pee.
And it turns out that the girl in Brooklyn,
At the very same time, also has to go pee.
So they discuss this for a moment,
And they're both very intelligent people.
They decide to set their phones down and go to the bathroom
(This was back when people set their phones down).
So they do this, and now we have a live telephone line open
Between Milwaukee and Brooklyn
With no one speaking through it for about two minutes as
A girl in Milwaukee and a girl in Brooklyn go to the bathroom.

I look at this poem without line breaks. I look at the poem with line breaks. Somehow I am wholly unable to find a poem in either version. This is a grief to me. It is probably even more a grief to me than it would be to the author, because somehow it feels to me like the end of the world.

Mr. Keillor, this may be a greater grief to me than seems warranted by one small passage called a poem, by a person who is naturally pleased to be given national and even international airspace. Somewhere in Nepal, somebody heard that poem and learned about American poetry. Somewhere in China, somewhere in Iraq. Astonishing, really: the power of the human voice, wafting through the air.

But could this poem possibly be about less than it is?

Could it matter less?

Could it be tasteless in a sillier way?

Could it be more devoid of music?

Is this what poetry has come to--an anecdote devoid of all the beauty and truth of poetry, a poem that does not dare to sit at the same table with a lyric like "The Song of Wandering Aengus"?

I wish that you would write me and explain. I wish that somebody would write to me and explain. Because I simply do not understand, and I feel faint with despair of ever, ever understanding.

The notebook pages showing women and children at Borders bookstore were sketched by Laura of Laurelines. That makes three of her pictures in a row. Thank you to Ms. Frankstone! Interesting that not one blessed book is in sight...
Creative Commons License.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

In the Valley of Lilies

The redbuds at their frothy, ecstatic peak along Hwy 81 in Virginia.

The Cullowhee community chorus singing Down by the Salley Gardens, one of my favorite songs in the whole world—I adore Yeats, flat-out adore his poems and give not a hoot for any talk of his silliness. His gift most definitely survivied it all.

The tropical fish and live coral tanks at the Aquarium of the Smokies in Tennessee. My youngest child's face, watching the sharks and sawfish slide by overhead.

The Altamaha azalea by the house, with its pink bouquets held above the blue of creeping phlox and the yellow ulularia and the thousand shades of leaf and stem.

An Easter egg hunt in my mother’s wildflower garden.

Green leaves of ramps on the slope, with a wild turkey rambling by.

A long wavering blue ridge in the Shenandoah Valley, with a series of clouds tipped over the top and drifting downward like dream glaciers, a long bar of cloud dividing the ridge halfway down—all that above emerald and yellow fields of blooming mustard.

My mother’s grand cooking, particularly that astonishing raspberry and white chocolate cake for my husband’s birthday. Also, deep South things that are a little rare even in North Carolina: green peanuts, okra, black eyes.

Paging through the Lovedahl family pictures at a wake—and seeing the old mountain images gone sepia, standing in frames among the arrangements of flowers.

Faces from childhood, faces of others who have helped me and mine through the hard times that come to all.

I’m back after nine days away in Cullowhee, North Carolina, the valley of lilies. And already counting up what I’ve lost, what I miss...

Andy just came by with a bottle of wine and a chocolate rabbit—and says that it will snow on Wednesday.

* * * * * * * * * *
The redbud is from Laurelines,
Creative Commons License.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Bamboo Palace

Tolly went to sleep, but for some reason he woke very early, when it was just beginning to get light, too soon for any bird but the thrush to be awake. He looked out of the window and saw the garden dim and far below, with wisps of mist caught in the bushes. When the thrush was silent, there was not a sound in the world. The garden was waiting to be brought to life. He dressed and slipped quietly downstairs and out, feeling inclined in the half-light to keep near cover, to move carefully and look and listen like a wild animal. He didn't know if he was play-acting or not, the dawn was so hushed and hushing. The bamboo hedge and willow thickets seemed to be the places of most attraction. Bamboo is jungle-like, beautiful, light and swaying (though not swaying at all now, but still as in a trance). No one can see what is hiding in it, and any bird that is startled there makes a loud rattle of canes and stiff leaves as it breaks out. Tolly crept along, watching the ground because a fallen cane in the rough bumpy grass could easily trip him up. He heard a startling, rushing noise close behind him, and two swans passed low overhead, the sound of their flight, once they had gone by, continuing far up the river, and in the water underneath them their refelctions flew upside down. After that the world began to tick, faint tuts and chucks, and little flutters and cracklings, as the birds woke up, talked in their sleep, stretched their wings, scratched their ears, and shifted their positions. And all the insects did the same. Even the leaves had a look of waking up, lifting themselves a little toward the sky as it got bluer. The thrush was singing quietly now from the knob on the point of the gable, and a robin close to Tolly's ear was just trying under his breath to see if he was in voice, when a moor hen shot out from under the bamboo calling in a panic to her chicks to come away from danger. Several bobbin-sized babies ran after her...

--from L. M. Boston, Treasure of Green Knowe

The nesting cardinal is from Laurelines,
Creative Commons License.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fenimore Cooper in the Easter Palace


Here during Easter week we have: what may become an Annual Rant Against Fenimore (really, I love him, honest); a poem from my little class on the great religious poets; a good-for-the-season rant from Luther about God, writers, and asses' ears; a cautionary quote; the veritable key to good health; a silly joke that will make you laugh if you are lucky enough to be a silly person who has not heard the joke; and important information about Bun Houses. This is as close to a card from me as anybody is going to get!


For the past six weeks I've taught a class on sacred poetry--Donne, Herbert, Marvell, Czeslaw Milosz, Kathleen Raine, Charles Causley, and more--at Christ Church Cooperstown, where James Fenimore Cooper was Senior Warden and church renovator. Fenimore is always the writer when locals think of "the writer." People throw him up in my face at parties! He meets me everywhere in the landscape, and even his respectable though moldering bones don't seem to get any peace but have to be mentioned at every twist and turn of life...

His angels and demons of good and evil appear to still be around as well, only they aren't just called Indians anymore--they appear under many guises and fly about near and far, bearing love or terror through the shattered world.

When I am irritated beyond bearing with Fenimore's omnipresence, I beard him in his den by reading that marvelous document, Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses, by Mr. Mark Twain. This I find to be consoling and amusing, without fail. I highly recommend it. I may even have recommended it before.

Here is one of the poems that I brought to my class. It is not by Fenimore Cooper. One really must thank heaven for the smaller mercies.


Three masts has the thrusting ship,
Three masts will she wear
When she like Christ our Saviour
Walks on the watery stair.

One stands at the fore
To meet the weather wild
As He who once in winter
Was a little child.

One grows after
From step to the sky
For Him who once was keel-hauled
And hung up to die.

One stands amidships
Before fore and mizzen
Pointing to Paradise
For Him who is risen.

Three masts will grow on the green ship
Before she quits the quay,
For Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Blessed Trinity.

And that flourishing little poem is by the late Charles Causley, sailor and teacher and poet to Cornwall and the world.

Here's a bit off the back of my copy of his Collected Poems, 1951-1975, a lovely edition from David R. Godine. (There's a newer Collected as well.) Causley is one of our language's last great popular poets: his verse rhymes; he employs traditional forms such as the ballad; he writes of the sea, of children, of war, of Cornwall where he has always lived and taught. There's also this note from Derek Parker: The truth about Causley is that he is simply the best poet of his kind we have had since the turn of the century.

Happy Easter to you, near and far. May your ship grow green...


"You know what one of my heroes—a hero, notwithstanding all the warts—said about those who were delighted about the success of their books? Luther advised them to grab themselves by their ears, and if they grabbed themselves well, they would discover a pair of long, shaggy donkey ears! He didn’t think that an author determined the value of a book. He certainly wouldn’t have thought that that the market determined it, or committees who decide about awards, or even the true connoisseurs of good books. In his mind, God determines a book’s value—a tough critic, but a generous one too."
--Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace (Zondervan; The Archbishop's Official 2006 Lent Book)

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice.

I tend to find troublesome the fact that many novelists and poets and playwrights like to pontificate about politics. But I think Easter is probably an appropriate time to remind ourselves that the religious tolerance and freedom of speech that our founding parents held dear as self-evident and precious goods are fragile: "Iran’s supreme leader instructed Muslims around the world to serve as executioners of the Islamic Republic—and they did, killing not Rushdie himself but his Japanese translator, and stabbing the Italian translator, and shooting the Italian publisher, and killing three dozen persons with no connection to the book when a mob burned down a hotel because of the presence of the novelist’s Turkish translator."
--Mark Steyn, in City Journal


Hot cross buns are breakfast at the Palace this Friday: "If properly made on the actual day -- Good Friday--they are supposed to protect the whole family from fires, rats, accidents and shipwrecks." --Caroline Conran, British Cooking

Fires, rats, accidents, shipwrecks. Why wouldn't you eat them?


What do you get if you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole? That's right, hot cross bunnies...


And now, from Hillman's Hyperlinked and Searchable Chambers’ Book of Days: Whether it be from failing appetite, the chilling effects of age, or any other fault in ourselves, we cannot say; but it strikes us that neither in the bakers' shops, nor from the baskets of the street-vendors, can one now get hot cross-buns comparable to those of past times. They want the spice, the crispness, the everything they once had. Older people than we speak also with mournful affection of the two noted bun-houses of Chelsea. Nay, they were Royal bun-houses, if their signs could be believed, the popular legend always insinuating that the King himself had stopped there, bought, and eaten of the buns. Early in the present century, families of the middle classes walked a considerable way to taste the delicacies of the Chelsea bun-houses, on the seats beneath the shed which screened the pavement in front. An insane rivalry, of course, existed between the two houses, one pretending to be The Chelsea Bun-house, and the other The Real Old Original Chelsea Bun-house. Heaven knows where the truth lay, but one thing was certain and assured to the innocent public, that the buns of both were so very good that it was utterly impossible to give an exclusive verdict in favour of either."


"Karaka dubrovnik," a royalty free photograph by Jeffrey Krvopic of Dubrovnik, Croatia, shows a replica of a sixteenth-century ship.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Garden gnomes & marketing, mostly


Scandalous news comes to us over the sea: an article in Germany’s Deutsche Welle, “Experts Revise Theory on Origin of Garden Gnomes,” recently put forward the inflammatory-to-Thuringians claim that south Thuringia may not be the historical source of the garden gnome. A gnomologist (also the owner of a Gnome Theme Park--is this not some gross conflict of interest between the noble and the mercantile?) evidently discovered an advertisement in the Deutsche Illustrirte Zeitung (1886) that suggests that the true historical Eden of the gnome may be Drawno, Poland, a town that once lay in German Pomerania, where a great river is divided into four tributaries running with clay slip, and where you will break your teeth on any apple you try to eat.

Digression: I wonder whether there is some obscure connection between Pomeranian doglets and the faces of garden gnomes. Something about the nose, or the eyes, perhaps…

Deutsche Welle claims that most historians of the gnome believe that the garden gnomes had its genesis in one of three terracotta centers—Thuringia, Drawno (Poland), or Usti nad Labem (Czech). This was news to me, as all my local gnomes appear to have been born hereabouts, or to have migrated to the place from elsewhere on the east coast. None of them grew up in a terracotta city, or lived at any time in a terracotta cottage, manor, tower, palace, or other such terracotta place of residence.

Evidently this new scrap of evidence tossed the Gnome Congress in Trusetal, Thuringia into something of an uproar. And as we all know, garden gnomes do not bear tossing well, and many a shatter-thwock-ping-ping-ping follows a healthy toss. I'd like to have seen the convention hall by the close of events.

* * *
If you ordered a Raven, please keep your eye—now and then, that is; don't be so obsessive!--on the comments section of the Ravenous post whereof thou knowest.

* * *
Once again I’ve been asked to pontificate on what writers can do to help market and promote. Infinite is the curiosity of younger scribblers. Touching is their eagerness. Swift approaches their doom and general disillusionment. Etc.

And there is a certain absurdity in somebody asking me that question because I, like almost all writers, have zero training in such things. Occasionally a writer like Jeff Vandermeer comes along, who is a sort of genius in this area, and who spends hours every day on that topic. But most writers don't have that spark in the business arena.

He doesn’t have three children, or a spouse with nutty hours, and that’s a big help. Point #1: Don’t have three children or a spouse with nutty hours. Too late for me on that one--I'm keeping them!

Jeff gets to know lots of people and then has a long list he can call on for help. Recently I posted some information about a book for him, and I also suggested some Carolina booksellers I thought especially helpful. Point #2: Learn how to marshall help, schmooze, and so on.

I know other writers who frequently ask readers to do specific things to help out the cause. It's a good cause, after all. Books are good; baby must have shoes. There are even some writers who have a sort of “army” of readers who are committed to spreading the news—I find this sort of writer's nerve and complicated organization to be astounding and even somewhat frightening. I come over all agoraphobic, just thinking about it. (I am not agoraphobic, but I have two writer friends who are. Did we cover the fact that writers are odd?) Point #3: Do everything that Marly is too afflicted with modesty (or queasiness or whatever it is) to do. Sure, ask.

What do I do?

I always make an interactive database for my publisher, including information about what I wish they would do and about my own linkages to the wider world.

And I suggest things that I wish would happen; this is called fantasy, or literary fantasy. Sometimes wishes come true.

When The Wolf Pit came out right after 9-11, I wrote reviewers directly because it wasn’t getting reviewed, despite the fact that Catherwood had gotten plenty of good reviews. And that was a worthwhile effort and netted more than 30 reviews, mostly in newspapers. I had, you note, a special reason to write, so it didn’t bug the books editors too much. But it is very possible to bug them too much. And that is not good.

I do events around publication time: the usual sort of thing. Some years are better than others because life is rather complicated and gets in the way of such things. Children, death, and sundry other issues crop up.

And I’m building the Palace, ethereal stone by stone. (Another thing: learn to blog at a high rate of speed, or it could begin to take over real life.)

Lately I’ve set out to publish short fiction in anthologies and magazines, in part to support my book-length fiction, in part because I'm currently subject to a story-writing mania.

Oh, and I suppose the Raven discount was marketing, wasn't it?

* * * * *

If there’s anything else that a.) I don’t know anything about but that b.) you would like to hear me burble wisely about, please let me know. Anything. Leave a note in comments or drop me an email. Golf, baseball (despite the Baseball Hall of Fame's best efforts), the gold standard, the exact composition of a particular glacial moraine, the dialects of China: these are all things I know nothing about. There are millions more such topics. Just ask.

* *
GNOME PHOTO CREDIT The picture was taken by Lonnie Bradley, somewhere near wonderful, wacky Waco, Texas. He says that his little friends (or perhaps they are relatives) eat four times as much as regular Texans. He doesn't say whether they are also four times as big as regular gnomes. He doesn't say whether he is, in fact, also a garden gnome. I'd like to know. Also: their names and any gnomely occupations. And whether they eat barbecue.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Books 3 Ways

Tonight I spent almost four hours at at the Oneonta Book Club and had a rollicking good time. I haven't done much with book clubs lately--I used to visit them often in Chapel Hill--and had forgotten how smart and how much fun nineteen women in one room can be.

The OBC has been going strong since 1969. Three of the women present had been yacking about books at the book club since 1969.

Alice Lichtenstein has visited them. Also somebody with a book with a lemon on the cover and naughty bits inside. I missed part of the story on that one! The unknown writer left promptly, unlike me.

I am very glad that nobody has tried to put a lemon on one of my books.


During the evening, I remembered an odd thing that happened about B. I wrote The Wolf Pit in great part because of his ruling passion about the Civil War (and his distress about why his ancestors were on the wrong side.) During a t.v. interview in Wilmington, I was asked what he thought of the book by a very cheerful hostess. I said quite truthfully that he hadn't read it! (B. does not read fiction.) The interviewer was a bit confounded and shaken in her cheer.

She: Why not? Aren't you bothered about that?

Me, after a split second of panicked wonder about what on earth to say in response: I didn't give birth in order to increase my readership!

As he still hasn't read it, I hold to that opinion. His latest read was a book on English heraldry, very useful to the obsessive young historian.

* * * * * * * *

I just read and signed N's 3rd-grade journal for school. Funny stuff noted: "Today is Tuesday, April 4, 2006. Today we made a prediction about tomorrow's weather. We are going on a Field trip. Homework: make a list, clothes I plan to wear on the field trip. Do not bring glass. Ware flies and scrachy pants."

Ware flies and scrachy pants?

Beware flies and scratchy pants?

No. Wear fleece and scratchy pants!

After the field trip: "Rogers Environmental Center. Today we went on a field trip. I saw bugs I've never seen befor. I saw a dead frog! We went to a pond and we got a net and we caught bugs!"

The dead frog is a nice touch, isn't it? How very environmental. N. also has drawn a marvelous picture of a Canadian goose, realistic except that he has a human eye, a nose, and a beak that looks like a pair of protruding lips.

His follow-up essay seems pleasantly exclamatory. Amazing how lively one can be given the motivation of "scrachy pants."

Photo credit: Royalty free "card catalogue" by Pawe Sobociñski of Kraków, Poland. Source:

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

ThePalaceat2 Book Promotion


Thanks to the bloggettes--mostly regular visitors--who ordered a book. If you like it, please pass the word! More news here soon. I'll post an address for sending to me in Comments, plus info on when the books arrive. I don't really know how long it'll take, but the order is in.


Illustration at left: the upcoming Firebird edition cover
by Renato Alarcao


The Aprille-with-his-shoores-soote

reserve by midnight April 6th.

I have a chance to get some first edition hardcover copies of The Curse of the Raven Mocker (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003) a little more cheaply than my usual 40% author-discount-plus-shipping, and I've decided that I might like to spring for a book promo deal of my very own for visitors to The Palace at 2:00 a.m.

If you're interested in a copy or copies and are in the U. S., I'll send you one or more signed or signed-and-inscribed book(s) for the grand amount of five dollars each. The retail price is $18.00. I'll cover the postage to me and then to you plus the cost of the book (don't count on first class!), and I'll cover any gap between that amount and my cost--I'm not quite sure what the total will be.

I'm not going to ask for anything in return, though I hope you'll like it enough to send out some word-of-mouth and to consider buying a copy of Ingledove at your favorite bookstore, either in the Farrar, Straus & Giroux hardcover or the upcoming Firebird paperback.

If you're interested, leave me a note in comments by midnight on April 6th. Better yet, 2:00 a.m. the next day! I'll figure out how to manage the logistics later. . . There will be a limited number of books available (matching the limits of the royal purse), but order as many or as few as you like; I'm don't imagine that buyers from three days of "palace traffic" will be too difficult to manage!

The Curse of the Raven Mocker -

The Baton Rouge Advocate's Best Children's Book of 2003,
Books & Culture's Top Ten Books of 2003

If you haven't heard about this novel, that may be because it was published as a Young Adult book. Then again, it's a novel that eludes categories right and left. It's a fantasy—but nothing like most books in that genre. It draws a lot on Cherokee lore, but it isn't a "Native American" book. It is a portrait of the artist as a girl about to become a woman, and a story of the Spirit (and of spiritual warfare). As I have learned since first getting acquainted with her work a year and a half ago, Youmans (pronounced like "yeoman" with an "s" added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. She writes like an angel—an angel who has learned what it is to be human. I hope you too will discover Youmansland. --Books & Culture.
Raven Mocker is Wonderful Feat of Imagination ". . . This is a book that is destined to become a classic and to win many awards. It is my early favorite for the National Book Award for Children's Literature." --Greg Langley, The Baton Rouge Advocate
Well, that didn't happen, but it was a splendid thought!


Ingledove -

The Baton Rouge Advocate's Best Young Adult Novel of 2005

INGLEDOVE is a marvelous book. I loved it and thought it was even better than Marly Youmans's first book about the magic land of Adantis, The Curse of the Raven Mocker, where the inhabitants and their magic are half Cherokee, half Border Celtic. I loved the way the Hidden Land materializes around you as you read as naturally as breathing. And the magic seems to arise almost as naturally--though it can be as sudden and cruel as a snakebite--and all of it is always breathtakingly wonderful. Then, instead of leaving you simply gasping at her marvels, Marly Youmans has the courage and the good sense to point out that experiences of this order cause people to change. I really admired this book. --Diana Wynne Jones


In this exceptional novel Youmans skillfully mixes Celtic, Appalachian and Cherokee mythology and language to create Adantis, a fantastic world, half hidden in nature. Abandoned by their father and orphaned at their mother's death, Ingledove and her brother Lang know Adantis only as a fairy tale world from their mother's stories. Yet when Ingledove’s brother Lang is haunted by a beautiful serpent demon, the children must make the perilous journey to Adantis to free Lang from his deadly enchantment. There Ingledove discovers her mother’s legacy, the powerful beauty of Adantis, and her own inner strength. Youmans’ characters are compelling; the dialogue is unique, rich with invented vocabulary. Her prose, lush and evocative as fireflies, seems to lift from the pages. A simply beautiful novel. --Midori Snyder @ The Endicott Studio


Both books will be available in paperback from Sharyn November's Firebird imprint in the fall. For more review clips and an interview, click on the titles to the right, under the "Bookshelf."

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Quotes from Flannery O' Connor (1925-1964),
The Nature and Aim of Fiction
in Mystery and Manners (FSG)

On writing classes--
". . . so many people can now write competent stories that the short story as a medium is in danger of dying of competence. We want competence, but competence by itself is deadly."
On bad writers--
". . . these are times when the financial rewards for sorry writing are much greater that those for good writing. There are certain cases in which, if you can only learn to write poorly enough, you can make a great deal of money."
On reading--
"Some people have the notion that you read the story and then climb out of it into the meaning, but for the fiction writer himself the whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction.
On an "enlarged view"--
"It seems to be a paradox that the larger and more complex the personal view, the easier it is to compress it into fiction."
On the richness of subject--
". . . the straightforward manner is seldom equal to the complications of the good subject."
On 9-11--
". . . it's well to remember that the serious fiction writer always writes about the whole world, no matter how limited his particular scene. For him, the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima affects life on the Oconee River, and there's not anything he can do about it."
On the "escape" in fiction--
"I'm always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system. "
On the call to write--
"There is no excuse for anyone to write fiction for public consumption unless he has been called to do so by the presence of a gift. It is the nature of fiction not to be good for much unless it is good in itself."
On bad writers--
"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."
* * * * * * *
That's just a taste from an essay full of special beauties . . . Go dig up a copy!

The Endicott Studio will celebrate National Poetry Month (April, natch--the cruelest month) by putting up an ecard with picture and poem each day at No doubt this will be an improvement over the atrocious cards available out there in e-land. I wish Laura would do ecards . . .

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Palace Fool

I have learned to love marketing, the way Catherine Morland learned to love a hyacinth! I'm going to do a promotional event per day and be crowned Queen of Bookflogging at the World Festival of Books by King Kremer and all his train of followers!

Yes, it is that day.

Once again it is time for the rule of the April Fool with all his foolishness and pranks. So I am thinking about Scalimander the Palace Fool, who is shaking his little beribboned maypole and jingling and dancing and playing tricks.

But most of us don't need our own private fool to remind us of our human foolishness.

The letters O, L, F, and O sometimes form in gold on my forehead--though not in quite that order. So I was glad to see this line:

The one thing a writer doesn't need to have is pride. You have to be very humble and just go in there and make a fool of yourself. –Molly Giles

Exactly right.

Happy Spring Misrule! Blessed April Fool's Day! I am, alas, subject to incessant pranks here at the Palace. I'll let you know if anybody gets a good one by me.


Photo credit: Royalty-free photo of "two court fools on top of an ancient building, next to St. Nicholas' church in Gent" from By Ulrik De Wachter of Belgium.

Corey Mesler Gets Eschatological

Update below!

Solar rainbows are spinning around the Palace playroom, but this morning the local substation collapsed under the weight of all the unexpected sunshine. After no juice for four hours, I whipped out for a little weightlifting and a nice hot shower. And now I find the power on again--and squeezed into my mailbox with his black hat and glasses is Corey Mesler, writer and bookseller.


VerbSap: You’ve said that supporting independent bookstores keeps money in local communities rather than allowing it to “line the pockets of the wolves.” I’m all for supporting my community, but I’m also for lower-cost books. Is there a special circle of hell for people like me who buy their blockbusters at Costco but go to their local independent bookstore to find literary diversity?

Mesler: Yes. This is not a grey area. For every book you buy at Costco you will endure untold tortures of the damned. Sorry. It was, as they will tell you in hell, your own decision.

* * *
Mesler: Authors are rarely difficult. They are gentle, harmless creatures not unlike the sloth or the capybara. I love having them in my store though they bring in next to no business.

* * *
Mesler: ...Interest in books waning? Yes, definitely. We are in the endtimes as evidenced by our lack of interest in reading. Start storing water. Teach your children how to duck and cover. It’s almost all over.

***For more about Corey the poet, novelist, and co-owner of Burke's Books in Memphis, toddle over to Photo credit: This royalty free self-portrait is by Hans Widmer of Thalwill, Switzerland and was obtained at Evidently he is a shadowy figure. Like Corey, he wears a hat.


Corey and I have been having one of our intermittent bouts of correspondence, begun some time after he reviewed The Wolf Pit in 2002. I wrote him a thank you note, and poof! we were penpals.

He relished the love note in comments, and he had this to say about the remarks about book-reading:

A scrap! I love it that some folks think literacy, or more plainly, bookishness, is not in decline. I assume these are the same folks who answer those emails from Nigeria.

Another good Corey-line: Contests--I still enter because I still believe a fairy is gonna save the bookstore. It's the same kind of faith.

The rest of our exchanges are too funny and disillusioned to post!