SAFARI seems to no longer work
for comments...use another browser?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Short thoughts

Cherokee black ware by Joel Queen.
Collection of potters Joan Byrd and George Rector.
Bardo Center, Western Carolina University
Thanks to Michael for the phone snaps!

Michael and I are in New York again after fifteen days in North and South Carolina (Cullowhee and Aiken, where I was born), in which we hiked, stared at art and scenery, visited my mother, feasted, and set a few disorderly things in order. I have been away a great deal this year--Paris, Worcester (a stay at the American Antiquarian Society, MA), three trips to the Carolinas, and Japan--and am glad to be back, stocking up on candy for All Hallows. May you all make it safely through that night to All Saints Day!

Writing news

News will be upcoming first in the next Rollipoke. Must say that I do like good secrets! And will share when I have leave to share.

The hinterlands

I've been thinking about what it means to be a writer in an isolated region. Most of my contacts with writers occur on Facebook or twitter. My close friends in Cooperstown have been painters.

Of course, a long-dead writer takes central place in Cooperstown. Tourists still troop over to Christ Church to stare at the tomb of James Fenimore Cooper and the stained glass in his memory. But even though many shops and locales are named for figures and locations in the Leatherstocking novels, it's not a particularly bookish village. That said, occasionally I am asked to read in the Village Library series or visit a book club. We do have some word-related events.

Cooperstown is more an opera-and-painters sort of place. Oh, and baseball, of course. The Baseball Hall of Fame. The BHF has its own little baseball arts gallery, so they support the arts to that extent. We have Glimmer Globe's summer theater by the lake, the Glimmerglass Opera, the Smithy Gallery, the Cooperstown Art Association's galleries, the Farmers Museum, and the Fenimore Museum. I'm glad of those institutions, though baseball is wasted on me. They are a great deal more than most villages of 2500 can muster.

But now that my third child is progressing through college, I have more freedom. Perhaps I'd like to go back to Yaddo again, or somewhere. Perhaps I'd like to feel that I am not the only one of my peculiar kind left in the world.

Thought on Ezra Pound's birthday, October 30th...

Though we would like to think it not so, artists are not immune from folly. The wielding of words is a power. Like all powers, it can be unstable and dangerous.

Robert Heinlein quote for the day

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

"This is known as 'bad luck.'"

Triple Falls, DuPont Forest,
Transylvania County (no vampires observed),
western North Carolina


  1. I’m not sure what to make of the Heinlein quote. Hmmm.
    My mind is running to Austen rather than Heinlein today, and I wonder what she would have thought about poverty and art.
    Postscript: your photo of the falls makes me homesick...I miss my Western Pennsylvania mountains...but I will never see them again.

    1. Well, let me know what you think when you work it out! I thought it was a good one to go with the Pound comment, but it also has pertinence to current issues.

      Well, Austen turned down a comfortable marriage and kept to art, so...

      Fly up there for a visit? It's a long way otherwise.

  2. That Cherokee pot is fantastic. I've noticed in the past that Zuni carvers often depict ravens with red eyes. I wonder if this is an example of borrowing within the Native American art scene? Regardless, it's truly striking.

    As for feeling isolated as a writer, I get that. a local Presbyterian minister just had a surprise hit with a novel he wrote, and he apparently organizes a weekly meet-up during National Novel Writing Month. As I get more involved in the community, I'm starting to wonder if I ought to try to start something more permanent. Local artists and artisans have all banded together for mutual support, and it's worked out wonderfully for them. But when Diane asked me what a writers' group for our five rural ZIP codes would actually do, I admitted I didn't know. Your post suggests to me that camaraderie might well be enough.

    1. That little shot doesn't show it properly: it's huge! There was another pot of his with inlaid turquoise. It may be a borrowing, as all the black ware I remember from childhood was decorated in a flatter manner, all black.

      I was talking to a painter friend who lives in Gloucester, MA, and the writing group there sponsors all sorts of events and is continually active. I don't care so much about a "writer's group" in the sense of critiquing; I've always been (for good or ill) rather private about those things and didn't like to bother other people with what I was drafting. But there is something to be said for feeling that you're not alone in the art.

    2. p. s. Shall order your book tomorrow!

  3. I'm with you on that. I've never wanted or needed a "critique group"; I don't need others to tell me when something I'm writing is a little too out-there. And, selfishly, I don't have time to slog through other people's drafts. I'm thinking events and camaraderie might be in order, and of others want to form some sort of editing circle, they can feel free to do so (without me!).

    1. For me, I think it started as Southern politeness--I never wanted to "bother" anybody with reading my work. Though I did an event with Allan Gurganus, and he said that he has seven beta readers, and he's Southern! Maybe not deep South...

      Yes, I get a lot out of being with painter friends--things translate from mode to mode in an interesting way, and I just like the sensation that other people are as obsessed as I am. And I have friends who talk about their wonderful writing groups--Ruth Sanderson talks about hers in western MA. I'm not all that near anything, though. But camaraderie and events sound good!

  4. One has opinions about this or that but the great thing about writing novels is your characters may have entirely divergent opinions about this and that. Thus you may explore both enthusiasm and antipathy while wearing a mask. In life Pound had been too hard for me but not for my favourite heroine, Jana, in Out Of Arizona (see below). And then, having written this, I magically found Pound more congenial. You know if you write there's no need ever to leave what the French call le clavier, always assuming you've done a bit of living beforehand.


    Someone, not Day, name now forgotten, had said no one should ever read Ezra Pound. His politics were barbaric and his verse opaque. She ran through the index of an anthology she had picked at a marché aux puces, killing time in Bordeaux.
    Pound was listed once. It wasn’t what she’d expected or what she needed:

    I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman -
    I have detested you long enough.
    I come to you as a grown child
    Who has had a pig-headed father

    But its directness seized her. Especially since she had taken against Whitman following her aborted attempt to read him aloud to Day.

    1. As a Southerner (child of a defeated country, full of original sin, right?), I was stuffed full of guilt at an early age, so I tend to have sympathy and a sense of remorse for people in their delusions. I also am deeply suspicious of all pronouncements of a political nature. Those two things conflict in the case of Pound. The Avedon photographs of him seem like pictures of a tormented individual, the landscape of his face ceaselessly worn and pot-holed by rivers of... of what? I don't know. Likewise, I can't fathom Eliot being anti-Semitic.

      I agree with you and your Jana--it is one of my favorite things about writing and reading that we can be someone else entirely, even someone not very likable. I just reread a novel about someone not very likable who manages to make us root for him anyway.

      Also, at the current moment people are so very vehement about opinions, and many so set against seeing how and learning from how other people think that I believe the novel may be a good antidote. If anyone reads anymore, that is!

  5. Marly, I very much like the notion of novel as antidote. ‘Tis a great phrase that I might have to borrow with attribution, but only with your permission, for an upcoming posting.

    1. You're always welcome to pillage anything you like here!

    2. FYI


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.