unaware of my presence, moving just their lips, forming words that I will soon pronounce for them

I’ve learned to write on trains and in hotels and waiting rooms. On the tray tables on planes. I take notes at lunch, under the table, or in the bathroom. I write in museum stairwells, in cafés, in the car on the shoulder of the motorway. I jot things down on scraps of paper, in notebooks, on postcards, on my other hand, on napkins, in the margins of books. Usually they’re short sentences, little images, but sometimes I copy out quotes from the papers. Sometimes a figure carves itself out of the crowd, and then I deviate from my itinerary to follow it for a moment, start on its story. It’s a good method; I excel at it. With the years, time has become my ally, as it does for every woman—I’ve become invisible, see-through. I am able to move around like a ghost, look over people’s shoulders, listen in on their arguments and watch them sleep with their heads on their backpacks or talking to themselves, unaware of my presence, moving just their lips, forming words that I will soon pronounce for them.

~ Olga Tokarczuk, Flights (August 13, 2018)


Olga Tokarczuk, 56, is one of Poland’s best and most beloved authors. In 2018, she won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights, becoming the first Polish writer to do so.  Tobias Grey wrote a profile of Tokarczuk in the NY Times on August 8, 2018 titled: Olga Tokarczuk’s Book ‘Flights’ Is Taking Off.” Here’s an excerpt from the profile:

“Ms. Tokarczuk likened herself to a tailor making a dress. ‘The dress is beautiful and comfortable to wear,’ she said. ‘But like the reader, the person who wears it is not expected to know precisely how all the materials that make it are connected.’ When Ms. Tokarczuk finished writing ‘Flights’ she gathered all her pages and spent a week studying them spread out on the floor of her living room. ‘It was funny because I had to climb onto a table to see how they looked from a high vantage point,’ she said. ‘I trusted my intuition to find the book’s order, and I wouldn’t change anything now.'”


Portrait of Olga Tokarczuk from Los Angeles Review of Books

Take a look at those sentences, thundering across the page

Novelists rarely retire in the formal sense, and tend not to stage news conferences when they do. Philip Roth…who died in Manhattan on Tuesday at age 85, took a different approach six years ago when he let it be known through the press that he had quit writing fiction — after more than 50 years of near-constant scribbling.

He had nothing more to say, he contended, and was happy to put the struggle of writing behind him. He envied the “gush of prose” he attributed to two of his rivals, John Updike and Saul Bellow, but lamented his own writing process as a grueling “fight for my fluency” that dragged on sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, until the novel reached the finish line.

It seems doubtful that writing came easily for Mr. Updike or Mr. Bellow, and it could well be that the smoldering and hard-edge style he sought was simply more difficult to come by. Those Rothian sentences can be felt slamming across the page like tennis aces or marching forward in a phalanx, giving the reader no refuge from the argument the author is making…

Take a look at those sentences, thundering across the page, one after another, like an advancing line of earth movers.

~ Brent Staples, from “Philip Roth’s Earth-Moving Prose” (NY Times, May 23, 2018)


Photo of Philip Roth via Telegraph

Truth

Culture replaces authentic feeling with words. As an example of this, imagine an infant lying in its cradle and the window is open, and into the room comes something, marvelous, mysterious, glittering, shedding light of many colors, movement, sound, a transformative hierophany of integrated perception. The child is enthralled, and then the mother comes into the room and says to the child, “That’s a bird, baby, that’s a bird.” Instantly the complex wave of the angel, peacock, iridescent, transformative mystery is collapsed into the word. All mystery is gone, the child learns this is a bird, this is a bird, and by the time we’re five or six years old all the mystery of reality has been carefully tiled over with words. “This is a bird, this is a house, this is the sky,” and we seal ourselves in within a linguistic shell of disempowered perception.

~ Terence McKenna, Ordinary Language, Visible Language and Virtual Reality 


Notes: Quote via cobotis. Photo: Ahmed via Eyeem via Newthom.com

Saturday Morning

Morning was calm and early afternoon beautiful, with temps near sixty degrees. Then the wind rose out of the canyons and the trees on the mountaintop bowed to some unseen god in the east…The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time. Time to think or not think, read or not read, scribble or not scribble – to sleep and cook and walk in the woods, to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills. I produce nothing but words; I consume nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. By being utterly useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.

~ Philip Connors, from “Diary of a Fire Lookout” in Paris Review


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth at Alive on All Channels. Photo: FOTO:MOG

Lightly child, lightly.

But words light up in the head
To take their deep place in the darkness,
Arcing quickly from image to image
Like mica catching the sun.

~ James Dickey, from “A Letter,” Falling, May Day Sermon, and Other Poems 


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Memory’s Landscape. Photo: Philippe conquet 
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

It all began with her

Bob Greene, excerpts from I Actually Thanked A TeacherNow 88, she gave me a refresher in the lesson I’d learned in first grade: how to read the word ‘look.’ (wsj.com, April 12, 2017):

…My first-grade teacher was named Patricia Ruoff…I still recall the day she helped me learn the first word I could ever read…and she showed me what the shape of the four letters on the first page meant, and what they sounded like. That one word: “Look.”

I went home so thrilled that day. I knew how to read a word. “Look.” When the day had begun I hadn’t known it, and now I did. Such a magical feeling, accompanied by the sure knowledge that other words would soon follow. […]

it became important to me to find that teacher. It took some doing—it turns out she has been twice widowed, and thus has had two different last names since back then—but I reached a woman on the telephone who I thought might be her.

“I’m sorry if I have the wrong number,” I said. “But I’m looking for a Patricia Ruoff, who once was a schoolteacher.”

“Yes,” the voice said. “You have the right person.”

“You taught me to read,” I said.

I told her my name.

“Oh, Bobby,” she said. […] [Read more…]

I cling to words or phrases which seem to ring true

bed-aleep-sheet-white

Wonderful a fistful of snow in the mouths
of men suffering summer heat
Wonderful the spring winds
for mariners who long to set sail
And more wonderful still the single sheet
over two lovers on a bed. 

I like quoting ancient verses when the occasion is apt. I remember most of what I hear, and I listen all day but sometimes I do not know how to fit everything together. When this happens I cling to words or phrases which seem to ring true.

~ John Berger, To the Wedding


Photo: Harmonic Hesitation

They’re almost sacred. Words…Head. Heart. Pen and paper.

welder

Mining Poems or Odes won the BAFTA Scotland award for best short documentary in 2015. It’s 11 minutes long. You will say you don’t have time. Save the link and come back to it. It’s that good. His accent, his passion, his story, the cinematography – all hypnotic.

“The Scottish poet Robert Fullerton is a former shipyard welder who was an apprentice when he found his love of books thanks to his mentor. Like its subject, Mining Poems or Odes finds beauty in language and in the docks of Glasgow Fullerton’s thoughts on mining and lyrical readings of his poetry with scenes from the Govan shipyard’s distinctly working-class milieu.”

Here’s a large chunk of excerpts from the documentary:

[Read more…]

Bubbles came up on the water. Then blood came up, and the water stilled.

annie-dillard

A writer named Lorne Ladner described it. Bubbles came up on the water. Then blood came up, and the water stilled. As the minutes elapsed, the people in the crowd exchanged glances; silent, helpless, they quit the stands. It took the Seminoles a week to find the man’s remains. At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then—and only then—it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something is moving through the air and headed your way, on two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. If it were a baseball, you’d hit it out of the park. It is that one pitch in a thousand you see in slow motion; its wings beat slowly as a hawk’s. One line of a sonnet, the poet said—only one line of fourteen, but thank God for that one line—drops from the ceiling.

~ Annie Dillard, from “The Writing Life


Notes:

Walking Cross-Town. With a String of Pearls.

pearls

What’s the significance of words strung together like gleaming pearls lassoed around your neck.

a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.

I roll them around my head like a handful of marbles in my right hand, glassy, smooth, and manufactured in absolute perfection.  My Marbles. Mine.

As Firth read Thomas Wolfe’s passage, it was lightning, an electric current, the body shivering from a forced seizure.

I grabbed the remote control to pause the streaming. There was Firth, in the frozen frame, holding the pages of the manuscript, waiting patiently for me to catch my breath, to digest the words.

Yet there’s been no digestion. I float down a slow moving river that loops, bathing in the beauty of the words, the rhythm of the passage and the mystery of their meaning.

…a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.

What unfound door?

What forgotten faces?


Notes:

Thomas Wolfe: Who better to talk to than the man who created something immortal. More and more I trouble myself with that. ‘The Legacy.’ Will anyone care about Thomas Wolfe in 100 years? Ten years?

F. Scott Fitzgerald: When I was young I asked myself that question every day. Now, I ask myself, “Can I write one good sentence?”

 

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