Friday, February 20, 2004


I have learned that I have a gentle reader, and she asked me: hey, what happened to that online novel thing you were writing? The one that you link to on the side of this little blog?

So I wrote (a little) more, and I thank my gentle reader for asking. I am a sort of writing exhibitionist. I need a deadline, or a reader, or a threat of eternal damnation, or some combination thereof. This is why blogging can be this wondrous thing when it isn't avoiding unloading the dishwasher or going to the gym: 1) it is so instantaneous, so on its feet; and 2) there is the promise of some kind of an audience.

Before Blogger, though, we had doting grandparents. When I was a preteen and even a teen, I think I sent about a half a billion bad e.e. cummingsesque poems to my beloved grandfather, Pop, and he NEVER said a word except, "Keep 'em coming." Meanwhile, he would casually mention in his beautifully typed letters back to me, the very good literature he was reading. He was a big fan of Brian Moore, and he was teaching himself a little Yiddish just to stay limber. He was a kind of Perfect Reader for me, because basically, when you're first learning to write, and even later on, and even when you're almost dead, it really does come down to keeping the hand moving. And you know who understands that?


Back in the 80s, I taught an intro English course at NYU in the Tisch School of the Arts, 90 percent made up of dance students. And when I told them to write five days a week in their journals...they actually did it. Because for them, it was just another set of barre exercises, done at a notebook. It was another way to move the body. They were splendid, and I miss them very much.

I've been reading Carolyn See's "Making A Literary Life," which I got out of the library, having put myself in Writing Book Purchase Rehab. No more writing books, at least not this month! No more believing the secret is in the next page. But See's book has already brought me a couple of things. She's turned me on to Rose Tremain's "Where I Found Her," which has been pretty damned dazzling 30 pages in. It's narrated by a 13-year-old English boy who's been dragged by his translator mother to Paris so that she can translate the awful medieval romance novels of a wildly popular Russian exotic who's become her own brand. Plus, there's a VERY well-described dog in it, an anxious retriever.

And how do you Make a Literary Life? Ah, it's not so hard. See has to be one of the most cheerfully decadent writing teachers I've read, a generous soul who believes in writing five days out of the seven, writing scads of thank you notes, letting stuff go, and admitting how utterly famous you want to be.


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