Some Random Thoughts About Things

Hello. This is not going to be my typical blog. Rather, it’s just a bunch of notes I’ve jotted down, things I’ve been thinking about as I go about my writer days. And reading days. And art days. Etc.

I’ve been reading voraciously the works of Hilary Mantel. She’s amazing: sharp prose, great pacing, vivid insight into her characters, great wit, and not at all formulaic. So then a book group I occasionally inhabit decided to read another writer (they haven’t read Mantel), and they picked an eleven-hundred page tome which is formulaic, boring prose on potentially interesting subjects; since the members of the group meet only once a month, and cannot be persuaded to read more than one hundred pages per meeting, it’s going to take a year to read this book. I’m not willing to read this genre fiction for a year; I’ve got too much other, much better literary fiction to read. And poems. All I’ll say about this writer is that I don’t think, after two hundred pages, he’s succeeding at what he’s trying to do. The much earlier book, non-fiction, Bronowski’s  The Ascent of Man is far more interesting; I may reread it again soon. And it’s not at all formulaic; the writing’s enjoyable; it’s more capable. And just think, it’s nowhere near 1100 pages.

I’ve been considering punctuation. A poem I wrote recently hung on a single choice in punctuation to set up the concluding line. I can’t give you the poem, as I’m planning to submit it to some journals (and if it’s presented here, it’s considered published, and no one will take it). A period? A colon? I couldn’t finish the poem until I settled it. So, I made two drafts (it’s a short poem), one with a period, one with a colon. And I found my answer. If I ever get it published, I’ll share it with you. Mantel had an interesting sentence in one of her books: two words, colon, two words, colon, two words. Fascinating! I think writers use a lot of experimental punctuation; I know I do. But of course, I also use “legal” grammar practices, too: I don’t want to be incomprehensible.

For my last two writing submissions (June, August), I went out on a limb and sent short fiction. I wasn’t, and am still not, confident about it (although I think one piece is, as a writer friend of mine described it, “deliciously wicked!”) I hope some editors also think so, and will pick it up.

I’ve also been considering the problems of drafting and endlessly revising a poem until it’s smooth as glass, and yet, when I can do more, I find it has no heart, no soul. In fact, it’s clichéd, even though I use no clichés. It just ate away at me. So finally, because I needed to write about the subject, I ditched the soulless version, and completely restructured it; I like the new version, with its new title and images, much better; it’s not clichéd, and it’s got some depth and is intriguing. We’ll see where that goes. My October submissions will be poetry again, and I think I’ve got some strong, good, interesting stuff.

Finally (and this has nothing to do with writing), I have reacquainted myself with backgammon. A friend and I went to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, and toured the grounds. Then we had lunch there, and after lunch played a cut-throat game. It came down to one point left, and I won it. Then my friend went to clean up, and an elderly man from the next table came over and said, I couldn’t help but listen to your game. Your friend cheats. (He was just teasing.) Then he said that he and his wife had had a wonderful day at the arboretum: among other things, he said his lunch came with chocolate milk, “which I haven’t had since I was a kid,” and then here we were, playing backgammon, complete with friendly competition (one of us would make a good move, and the other one would say “rat” or “monster” or “fiend”), which he hadn’t seen played since his younger days. I generally don’t like games, but I like backgammon because it’s a mix of strategy (like, but not as complicated as chess, which I used to play a lot) and luck (you have to roll dice).

It was a wonderful day, fun away from reading and writing.

Finally, I finished the still life I’ve been drawing. It presented some interesting problems, but when I feel completely sick of everything, I find doing art very revitalizing. It’s intense, enough so that I can’t think about anything other than what I’m doing, yet very therapeutic.

May you have a wonderful day.


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