Saturday, August 28, 2010

taking a break

I took a break from writing for the last two weeks. It wasn't intentional. I didn't need a break per se, but, a break is what it ended up being. But, during that break, I did a lot of reading.

The result:

I am re-energized about writing but am reminded about how much work it is to make my writing "good enough"...and I don't mean "good enough" for an agent, or editor, or publisher, or the reading public. I mean, "good enough" for me. I want my writing to live up to my standards first and foremost and, while taking a break from writing should help me toward that end, when I spend the time off reading other really teriffic stuff, I come back to my work(s) in progress, not only skeptical of my abilities, but frustrated with my own notions of what works and what doesn't.

I'm not sure what the fix is. Maybe I shouldn't take breaks like this. Maybe I shouldn't read during the break and should confine my reading to while I am writing, to keep the metaphorical creative juices flowing. All I do know is that I won't adjust my standards or lower my sights.

A goal that is too easily reachable is not a challenge an that's just not me. I've always loved a good fight.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

exceptional excerpt number two

So, as I've done previously, I am posting here a tiny nugget of wisdom from a novel I'm reading. As is usually the case with Philip Roth, there are too many little gems to keep track of them all but, here are two that I think warrant attention from his novel, "The Counterlife"

Page 127, where the main character, Nathan Zuckerman, explains how he can write about things without having experienced them or wanting to experience them:

"...imagining violence and the release of the brute, imagining the individuals engaged in it, doesn't necessitate embracing it. There's no retreat or hypocrisy in a writer who doesn't go out and do what he may have thought about doing...the only retreat is retreating from what you know."

Similarly, a few pages later, page 131, this sentiment is somewhat subtley expouded on when Zuckerman says:

"...certainly a life of writing books is a trying adventure in which you cannot find out where you are unless you lose your way."

Both of these sections are ones that made me stop and think and then think some more which is why I've put them here so that I won't foret. These are the nuggets of truth that I don't want to rely on my page-folding for. They deserve their own blog entries of course. Ah, the wonders of the digital age.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

my new favorite word


yes, thanks to my reading of Philip Roth, I have discovered a new favorite word..."meshuggah"! It's Yiddish for crazy or senseless but it has such a nice sound when you say it.

wikipedia lists the pronunciation as:


I came across this for the first time while reading Philip Roth's "The Counterlife" and he uses "meshugge" which is a variation but still in Yiddish. Mostly, aside from discovering this word and how much I like to say it, the word itself gave me an idea for this blog entry.

The word prompted research. That research led me down other research rabbit trails deeper into the Yiddish language which revealed that Yiddish is only spoken by approximately 1.7 million people worldwide but that it is the official minority language in Sweden. As a high German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin which is actually written in the Hebrew alphabet, I find the language (in translation of course) extremely interesting and definitely necessary to a thorough reading and understanding of the work of Philip Roth.

Oh, and as for the Ashkenazi Jews, well, those are the Jews who are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany.

There are many well known Ashkenazi Jews including Freud, Einstein, Kafka, Gershwin, and Anne Frank. These are the German Jews who, to my amazement now, in the 21st century, probably used the word "meshuggah" to refer to their respective political and socio-economic upheavals, or advances or lack thereof in science or of their societys' worldviews.

In all honesty, to imagine for a moment, Sigmund Freud staring down his nose at a patient, saying to himself, "that goy is meshuggah" just makes me giggle and I love it.

Just when you think you can't learn anything from reading fiction.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

exceptional excerpts

so, in reading lately, I come across passages that I think warrant remembering and, as suggested by my brother, I thought I'd start posting what I feel are exceptional excerpts from books I've read so that I have a record of them

the book of the moment is John Updike's "Marry Me" and it's a passage I came across last night and that, since upon waking today and being met with rain and more rain, it seemed that this passage was meant to be placed into this blog for future reference.

from page 113

"The rain talked to her, talked in a metallic tapping voice near the windows, in a softer voice as she moved to the center of the room, in no voice at all when she covered her face with her hands. Each passing car made a comet-shaped swish and splash on the road. Upstairs in the bathroom, the windows were misted and the rain-gutter at the eaves, damned with maple wings and seedlings, joked at her, gurgling, burlesquing the fall of her urine into the oval of water beneath her. As she moved about making beds, the rain whispered attic secrets-mice, shingles, dry wrapping paper, Christmas excelsior."

It kind of makes me want to clean house this morning as the last drops of rain tiptoe across my back deck...just so I can see what it might have to say to me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

folding pages

I'm a page folder, or so I've decided. I'm not sure if that is something to be proud of or if it is rather a sign of some part of me that likes to hold onto things. I always think I'll go back and look at the page and some paragraph or sentence that caught my attention but I often don't do it. Yet, somehow, the folding of that page earmarks for me, in my memory, as something that IF I wanted to look it up later I could. That is comforting in its own way. It's like leaving little reminders for myself and going back, when I do it, is always entertainig.

I think to myself, why did I mark this? What about my life at that point in time made me want to remember this? Sometimes, if I've only folded down a page, I have to study the page itself to remember what words really mattered to me. It's always odd for me to get stumped by myself. But it happens. I don't always remember the why...but it still feels good to know that there was a reason...once upon a time.