“This life is fleeting, as we all know – the Muse we serve is not. John had a way of taking life’s most difficult things and framing them as challenges, therefore adventures – by their nature awakening and maybe even fun. He was to be admired for that, even emulated. He’ll live on in the songs we wrote…”
– Bob Weir
Faring thee well now.
Let your life proceed by its own design.
William Faulkner is my favorite writer. I fell in love with his work in college, where in 1986 I took a graduate level course in the themes of generation in his novels. I was a senior – an undergrad – but the professor was cool and let me in.
So being such a fan, I was pleased to see a link on Twitter to the letter quoted below.
After college, Faulkner worked as a postmaster for 3 years. He despised the job and basically didn’t do it much. He spent his days writing, drinking, playing bridge, showing up late, leaving early, and occasionally losing or throwing away the mail. Can you imagine a brain that size trapped in such a place?
Eventually, Faulkner’s indifference caught up with him and he resigned. I knew the story but I’d never seen the resignation. And when I started to read it tonight, the screen went black and there was an evil pop-up, demanding I disable my ad blocker. Newp. I think not. I found the letter elsewhere and offer it here for you.
I think my reaction is in the spirit of Faulkner’s own.
As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.
This, sir, is my resignation.
Philip Levine reads They Feed They Lion.
Levine died yesterday.
“It’s easier to understand the idea of death than the reality of life, and so we make an industry of waiting, imagining our end lumbering toward our vain and cubicled selves, inventing the selfish moral blank spots we suspect ourselves of being.”
Michael Thomsen on the vanity of the zombie apocalypse. (Paris Review)
Thomsen was writing about apocalyptic games, but that sure looks like I should be able to relate. Death is the greatest common denominator and poets – and artists in general – have never been able to take their eyes off it for long.
I was very sorry to learn of the passing of writer Bill Richardson of Santa Barbara. I met Bill several years ago in a Montecito coffeehouse and had some opportunities to talk with him. I never took one of his classes but I knew he was a writer, teacher, and a veteran of military service. He mentioned other things he loved to do in his life, such as dancing and hunting. As his obituary in The Independent explains, he was a renaissance man, who lived by his own lights.
Bill was kind, thoughtful, and attentive. He told me about serving in WWII and living high up on Mountain Drive. I remember when he mentioned the loss of his home to fire in 2008. His words were stoic, accepting of life on life’s terms, but there was unambiguous sorrow in his eyes.
Bill always had notebooks with him; he was writing toward sundown. May all we writers have such insight. And when he asked about my writing and what I was working on, he listened. He was ready with a word of encouragement, so I knew I had met a good teacher.
I just read this blog post by a writer who visited the grave of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Massachusetts, and left her pen behind.
If you visited the grave of a favorite writer, what might you leave as a taken of respect?
If someday I visit the grave of my favorite, William Faulkner, I might leave a sprig of honeysuckle or a pair of six pound flat-irons.
Do you know why?
Neil Gaiman addresses the commencement of the University of Arts, and does a wonderful job of it.
Here’s a quote from the prolific writer Gary Paulsen, whose birthday is today (1939).
Paulsen used to run sled dogs, and competed twice in the Iditarod in the 1980s.
“I started to focus on writing the same energies and efforts that I was using with dogs. So we’re talking 18-, 19-, 20-hour days completely committed to work. Totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, the way I’d run dogs….I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work. I don’t drink, I don’t fool around, I’m just this way….The end result is there’s a lot of books out there.”
Right, that’s how you do it, by making a commitment. Remember when the writing professor wrote the letters K A C on the whiteboard and said the secret to writing was reading and keeping your ass in the chair? Well, it’s not how I’m doing it. And what does that tell you?
Paulsen’s web site says:
Paulsen is a master storyteller who has written more than 175 books and some 200 articles and short stories for children and adults. He is one of the most important writers of young adult literature today and three of his novels — Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room — were Newbery Honor Books. His books frequently appear on the best books lists of the American Library Association.
Props: The Writer’s Almanac.
by William Stafford, read by Garrison Keillor.
This poem has always had a peculiar feeling for me, because I first read it when I was younger than fifteen, and many years before I discovered William Stafford for myself.
Someone – probably my parents – gave me an anthology of poems when I was maybe thirteen or fourteen. I remember it had pictures too. I didn’t even take note of the poet’s name but I remember this poem.
Years later, out of college and trying to teach myself poetry using the thinking and reading that I’d been taught to do, I found William Stafford again and learned his name. I was at one of the last readings that he gave, in the summer of his death.
But this poem – Fifteen – has never fit in my mind along with all the others Stafford wrote. Because it alone belonged to that other time; another life, before I turned fifteen.
On Poets & Writers:
Fiction writer Reynolds Price, who died last Thursday at the age of seventy-seven, is the subject of a new documentary, Pass It On, which takes a look at the impact the late author had on his students at Duke University, where he taught writing and the poetry of Milton for more than fifty years.
I enjoyed this little 4 minute intro to the documentary:
A little funny for Friday …
Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like paté.
– Margaret Atwood, novelist and poet
I want to lead your attention to this post on November Hill Press blog, whence my friend Billie will lead it onward to an excellent interview with the writer Jim Harrison. She’ll simply do that leading best.
There, as you sip your tea, as I do now, or your kool-aid, or Thunderbird, or Stolichnaya, maybe you’ll find a clue to why I’ve titled this post as I have. That depends on the quality and quantity of your quaffing, I suppose.