poem process novel theme

History of Love

11 Nov 2011


At the end of History of Love, I involuntarily did three things: smiled, to nobody in particular, because I couldn’t help it; muttered, “Fuck!” as in, “Fuck, that was such a great book!”; and threw it to the ground (in this case my sofa bed) to impart violence on its end. I threw the pen I was taking notes with to the ground as well, though it rebounded and nicked an area right above my left knee.

Last night, before I left work, I looked up at our company bookshelves and saw The History of Love. I’d already ordered 2 copies of it on Amazon (accidentally), but lifted the shopworn copy — I was curious. The first page wasn’t captivating, but it was good enough. Then I kept reading, and after that quote, “…her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering…” I could do nothing else until I finished the book. So. When I came home, I read until 10:40 p.m. I took a nap and woke up at 3:14. Now it’s 6:51, and daybreak has come and gone.

Thanks for the recommendation. I don’t know if it was a self-fulfilling prophesy, but I saw so much I wanted to emulate, a long list I’m going to type down soon, and maybe send to you later. One aspect I particularly enjoyed was how Krauss doesn’t use a single 50-cent word in the entire book, which disproves the vague notion I’ve held, out of habit, that “great” writing needs to be esoteric and fancy for its own sake.

Thank you again,

— 1 year ago
#book  #email 

When she stopped talking he kissed her. Maybe he had telegraphed his approach, leaned in too quickly, taken the left side of her face in his right hand too forcefully. Maybe he was guilty of physical coarseness; maybe she was turned off by his inexperienced brutishness. When his lips made contact with hers, he felt them with the faintest brushstroke, before she recoiled backwards and grabbed his wrist with her hand. He had come nowhere close. The look on her face was sad and halting.

— 1 year ago with 1 note

“That guy is loving life right now.” Teddy pointed to an old man looping the dance floor: Einstein mustache, burbling chin, a tan Polo stretched sheer against his pyknic body. He was holding a drink wrapped in a paper napkin. Why? To avoid clamming up his hands with condensation? Because his beer was too cold? Just to stand out? Whatever the reason, Teo could tell he was having a great time. And why wouldn’t he be? To be fifty and to be surrounded — even accepted — by youth! The world was an amazing place.

— 1 year ago
drama queen

He enjoyed being a drama queen, smoldering away in a corner, hoping somebody noticed his sourness. The relish in his voice gave it away: upon hearing the inevitable, “Are you OK?” Teo would summarily dismiss her in a tone that implied, “No, but you wouldn’t understand anyway.” 

— 1 year ago with 2 notes
new books

I am excited, because I have ordered 10 new books for the new months. 

  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove - Karen Russell
  • Lolita - Nabokov
  • Peace Like a River - Leif Enger
  • Nine Stories - Salinger
  • Ex Libris - Fadiman
  • The Emperor’s Children - Claire Messud
  • Collected Stories of William Faulkner
  • Mrs. Dalloway - Woolf
  • Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It - Malie Meloy
  • Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
— 1 year ago
#process  #book 
log cabin in the woods

I’ve never been able to write in cafes. There are always new people, and new people distract me. Give me the solitude of my room, the comfort of my workstation, or even the aesthetic of a dimly lit stairwell. Bring me to a deserted beach, or a sparse mountaintop, or a tame patch of suburban grass: anywhere strangers aren’t present. My mental energy needs to be trained on the uncertainty in my head and on the page, not the external world.

(Friends are OK. They’re already wound up in the rhythms of my life. Everybody else, leave me be!)

— 1 year ago
#writing process  #process 

I keep a tuft of wild weed in an inky pen-well, a throwback to days when my grandmother wove clover into crowns. “Look,” she said, “you’re a king now,” as I scratched my belly. We tied together our feelings against days two times less weary, sepia sunsets when grand-dad would come out, the fields spinach-thick with some common winter green, miraculous moist green, slow green. His ropes were nine-fers; study; squeezed of life; given the peppery spent smells of his industrial hands. He made me a crown, but made himself one too. "Granddad, you were our rock."

— 1 year ago

Jamie enjoyed the unexpected skills she picked up on the job. She became breathtakingly good at shooting wadded-up paper into waste baskets; deciphering handwriting (even the curved up-and-down letters: ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘r’, ‘u’, ‘c’); writing across the whiteboard in a straight line; and, of course, switching instantly from sweet/relatable to vigilant/firm.  

— 1 year ago with 1 note
#Novel  #creative writing 
a high

Elation walloped Teo at the most inconvenient moments, but it wasn’t unwelcome: the concerns mucking up his mind were now gone! Superseded, he felt, by a robust sense of self-esteem that rent all negative thought unworthy of occupying mindshare. It started, tonight, with a dinner Teo had with his boss and some of the other traders on their floor. He had listened to a story about an engagement — how the girl had insisted on getting syrup for her pancakes even as she was being handed the box for her ring — and told a story of his own, about a three-on-three date he had been put up to by some acquaintances from college, where he had exhibited a similar, egregious lack of awareness.

At the end of the meal, they ordered a round of schnapps, rowanberry and elderberry and all manner of small hard bright berries Teo had never seen in person before, and the group downed them, in measured gulps, from stork-like champagne glasses. Outside, toeing the concrete curb as a surprisingly fierce wind whipped at his ears, Teo felt an irresistible urge to move — jump, skip, kick, shake. There wasn’t a reason; it was rather because he felt like he had to, because it felt like the most natural thing to do, and, on a night like this, why wouldn’t he do what he wanted?

"Want to go out tonight?" Teo asked Devin as he stepped outside. "I’m feeling it." 

"Got to work late tonight, bro," Devin responded, as he buttoned up his coat. "Going back to the office." 

"Come on," Teo said. "I’ll cover for you tomorrow. Let’s go." Teo jumped off and on the curb. A recklessness had infected him. He felt as if he could get away with anything.

Devin laughed. “As if you could do my work. Sorry, bro.”

Teo’s spirits were hardly dampened. Tonight was the kind of night that would resolve itself — as long as he stayed out, somewhere, anywhere, except his apartment, an opportunity would arise from the yeast of his good feeling. Some frame of his life was about to be shifted. He just knew it.

— 1 year ago with 1 note
#Novel  #creative writing  #prose  #happiness 
the void

The passage was carved in the wood, the gullies of the letters revealing a deep brown. 

Think of the present not as inhumane punishment, but rather a chance to re-clothe yourself.

The words washed over Teo like a warm bath. Growing up, he had layered on excess — priorities, emotions, people — just to continue the goulash churning in his mind. He headed off misery as soon as it bubbled up; he buried purposelessness with a deluge of action. Teo’s weapons were his guitar, his computer, a girl he didn’t think was pretty but who would let him come over, and a game on his phone where he cut fruit in half.

There were times when he felt his consciousness nudge him with uncomfortable thoughts: you’re hiding from your fear; squeezing through cracks; turning away from the truth; drowning yourself in white noise; wiggling your way out of hardship. But he couldn’t face the alternative: a landscape scrapped and bare, stripped away of activity, landscape, and people, spartan living where he would have to confront the nothingness, and realize the foundation upon which he had built his comfortable life was made of nothing at all.

— 1 year ago with 1 note
#Novel  #creative writing  #prose 

"College was great: you were only up against 5,000 other people, all of them 18-21 year olds. It was easy to be the best!"

"And because you were the best, you developed this outsized ego at how easy it all was."

"But then you graduate, and suddenly, you’re competing against the entire world. You can’t just be good anymore — you have to be great. Not only are you up against the establishment, but you’re fighting against every giant from the past."

"And who am I to even think that I can produce anything that belongs on the same bookshelf?"

— 1 year ago
#writing  #process 

Jamie would have described her street as “blighted,” but not derelict enough to warrant concern. As long as she locked the doors at night, and smiled at neighbors when she saw them, she saw no cause to be anxious about what would or would not happen. It was ramshackle enough, though, for her to know that she could put out three plastic bags of slightly spoiled nuts — almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds — on top of the fire hydrant, leave for yoga, and have them disappear by the time she returned. 

— 1 year ago
#Novel  #creative writing  #prose 
pickles and plantains

Jamie had heard it repeated before: the best conversationalists were the ones that focused on the other person. But the advice never went any deeper. “I know how to ask generic questions about people. Where do you work. What do you do on weekends. But how do you really get at who they are?” Jamie lifted her eyes to meet Jasper’s. 

He placed one finger on his cheek. “So one of the things I’ve realized is that you never ask someone, ‘What’s your favorite food?’, because you’re going to get the same answers. Chocolate, cheese pizza, ice cream, steak. It’s so much more fulfilling to ask, ‘What food do you like more than other people?’”

Jamie cracked her neck to the left. She had a concerned look on her face.

"Well?" Jasper asked.

"Oh! Uh, for me, it’s pickles and plantains.”

"See? That’s interesting. You make the questions personal, and that way, you get to their idiosyncrasies.”

— 1 year ago
#Novel  #Prose  #creative writing 

"We wade through such great muck, engage in bastardly circumlocutions, pursue all manner of frivolous activities — just to avoid motes of embarrassment! And for no consequence!” Teddy harrumphed.

"It’s true," Jasper said. "Shame has too much a stranglehold on daily life." 

— 1 year ago
#Novel  #Prose  #dialogue 

What’s your ratio of content consumption to content creation?

— 1 year ago