Fair price? (I don’t this is the sole province of writers. I have artist friends who would agree.)
Before I entered publishing, I believed, like most people, that the life of a writer was to be envied. As one of my heroes, Truman Capote, wrote, ‘When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip.’ Now I understand that writers are a breed apart, their gifts and their whips inextricably linked.
—Betsy Lerner, The Forest for the Trees: an editor’s advice to writers
That most complex of things—us. (And then you look at a spider web…)
Humans are not empty organisms, free spirits constrained only by the limits of our imaginations or, more prosaically, by the social and economic determinants within which we live, think and act. Nor are we reducible to ‘nothing but’ machines for the replication of our DNA. We are, rather, the products of the constant dialectic between ‘the biological’ and ‘the social’ through which humans have evolved, history has been made and we as individuals have developed.
—Steven Rose, Lifelines: Life Beyond the Gene
The sense of an ending can also be a beginning…
… it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing—until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.
—Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
I love this comment from Chad W. Post, of Open Letter Books, a US publisher specialising in works in translation. I was to have taken part (with fellow Ledig House residents Saskya Jain, India; Andrés Felipe Solano, Colombia; and F.G. Haghenbeck, Mexico) in a reading sponsored by Open Letter Books at the University of Rochester in November 2012—until Cyclone Sandy came along!
We [at Open Letter Books] believe books are most interesting when they embody the power to change and open minds—and that this is worth valuing over sales potential.
Chad W. Post, Publishing Perspectives, June 2012
Something to think about when you’re tidying up the wrapping paper?
How objects are handed on is all about story-telling. I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious. There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten? There can be a chain of forgetting, the rubbing away of previous ownership as much as the slow accretion of stories.
—Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: a hidden inheritance
Wishing you love and light, and a beautiful day… and snow (well, in my dreams, at least :-))…
Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
Storytelling—a basic human need…
Everybody’s life is full of stories. Your life is full of stories; my life is full of stories. They are very occupying, but they are not really interesting. What is interesting is the way everyone tells their stories.
Hope distilled: to be rescued from deletion…
… when I am gone all the experiences stored in my head will be gone too—they will be deleted with one swipe of the great eraser, and something in me squeaks ‘Oh no—let at least some of it be rescued!’ … By a long-established printer’s convention, a copy-editor wanting to rescue a deletion puts a row of dots under it and writes ‘Stet’ (let it stand) in the margin. This book is an attempt to ‘Stet’ some parts of my experience in its original form … All this book is, is the story of one old ex-editor who imagines that she will feel a little less dead if a few people read it.
—Diana Athill, Stet: an editor’s life
the piano announces itself
against clouding and unclouding skies
rain darkens it sun bleaches it
wind ploughs the lupins the piano sways
eases its joints—moans settles its pedals deeper
under grass and earth …
—Ross Bolleter, ‘On Piano Hill’, Piano Hill
Proof, evidence, witness…
Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we’re still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It’s all the same impulse. What do we hope from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get?
At the very least we want a witness. We can’t stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running down.
—Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood will be a guest of the 2013 Perth Writers Festival in February.