“Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance.”
– John Steinbeck
The Roadkill Cure to Writer’s Block
“If the artist starts evaluating himself, it’s an enormous block, isn’t it?” – Philip Guston, painter
Before you go on a tangent today, criticizing your writing (as well as your personality, your life, and the dog with scruffy ears you got at the pound), consider taking a walk.
Instead of spending the better part of the afternoon in a whirlpool of self-doubt, you might find this: a flattened raccoon on the edge of a two-lane highway.
Then you might think, what if I were the type of person who took a raccoon home for dinner? Or better yet, what if I were a taxidermist who specialized in roadkill finds? At this point, you might begin to consider what being a roadkill-taxidermist would mean for you, if that were your life calling. Perhaps you’d take your stuffed roadkill to taxidermy conferences. Maybe you’d explain how you keep some parts of the animal flattened and ragged and bloody because you don’t want to create stuffed, inauthentic “life” from death by 18-wheeler. Maybe you want your viewers to focus on the momento mori of these unfortunate critters. And God knows if you were a roadkill taxidermist you would certainly talk to those dead squirrels, opossums, and armadillos. Who knows, they might talk back.
And just like that, you’ve forgotten about the worm of self-doubt, and instead you’re sitting down at your computer to write about deranged taxidermists and their disemboweled, talking raccoons. Sure, no one might ever read your story, but what does it matter?
You’ve just made friends with a taxidermist and all of his flattened rodent friends, and sometimes, that’s just enough.
The World Must Be All Fucked Up
“The world must be all fucked up,” he said then, “When men travel first class and literature goes as freight.” – Gabriel García Márquez
And with the packing of the books, you know we’ve come to the end of the Georgia days.
The Good Life, Whatever It Is and Wherever It Happens to Be
“Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the ‘good life’, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.”
― Hunter S. Thompson
I spent this past Wednesday through Sunday in Florida, experiencing the “good life,” as best as I have in a while. I’ll write a post about Florida soon—about Hemingway’s house in Key West and the 44 six-toed cats that wander the property; about the five-bar pub crawl where I actually attempted to write drunk, and ended up scrawling indecipherable gibberish in my notebook; about the storm clouds that purpled the sky over the pale sands of Miami Beach; and about watching fireworks burst in clusters of star-flame while walking barefoot in the wet sand on the edge of the ocean.
I’m waxing poetic, so I’ll stop. But it was wonderful—I haven’t been that happy in a while.
The Poetry of Solitude
“Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous — to poetry.”
– Thomas Mann
I’m Going to Austin for the Weekend!
I’ve been traveling all night and have finally been reunited with my long-toothed canine friend, Ms. Maggie Mae (glamor shot featured below). I’ll be out with the family in Austin this weekend, so there won’t be much time for blogging.
But, because everything is BIGGER in Texas, this post has two quotes AND two pictures (you’re welcome):
“Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.” – John Steinbeck
And, from the creator of Lonesome Dove:
“Only a rank degenerate would drive 1500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak.” ― Larry McMurtry
Mr. McMurtry forgot to mention the 7-inch lemon meringue pies from Elgin that are so airy they nearly float off the plate. You have to be a true rank degenerate to skip on one of those mouth-watering delectations.
Until we meet again, bye-bye y’all.
Richard Ford’s Canada
“It’s interesting to leave a place, interesting even to think about it. Leaving reminds us of what we can part with and what we can’t, then offers us something new to look forward to, to dream about.” – Richard Ford
Richard Ford’s latest book Canada has received fantastic reviews, and I’m excited to put it on my book list. According to The New York Times Book Review, it is “a mesmerizing story driven by authentic and fully realized characters, and a prose style so accomplished it is tempting to read each sentence two or three times before being pulled to the next.”
I’ve only read his short story collection, Rock Springs, but it was fantastic.
All Writers Need Windows
“I can’t play bridge. I don’t play tennis. All those things that people learn, and I admire, there hasn’t seemed time for. But what there is time for is looking out the window.” – Alice Munro
Alice Munro, a Canadian author, is one of the greatest writers of our time. She also wrote one of my favorite short stories, “Gravel,” published in The New Yorker last June.
A Portrait of the Author as a Young Girl
“To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain for the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.” – Jane Austen
Based on the portrait below, Austen did not write about the “higher delight” of a plain girl from her own experience. According to researchers, new evidence confirms that a long-contested portrait of a young girl with dark hair and bright eyes is Austen at the age of 13.
If the painting is accurate, Austen was a cradle-born beauty after all.
Of Monsters and Marvels
“Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.”
-Francisco de Goya