THE OBSERVATION OF FAILURE

Failure is the one thing that modern men are almost always willing to excuse and yet are almost never willing to learn from. No wonder it does them so little good.

from The Business, Career, and Work of Man

THE DANGER from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Part of me greatly adores and admires words, as they are man’s chief means of communication and the primary treasure of his High Word Hoard. Another part of me, an equal part, absolutely distrusts and detests words as they are the means by which far too many men habitually deceive themselves and the rest of the world, and mankind’s primary method of excuse making in order to avoid noble and just action.

(As a writer) I am like a man caught in the grinding maw of some bizarre and fantastic creature who is sometimes angelic, and sometimes demonic, yet always dangerous.

 

THE MONSTER IS – THE HIGHMOOT

The monster is and always will be exactly as big as you allow it to become before you kill it.”

Rhorric of Cappadocia (the Vigilante) to Marsippius Nicea (the Byzantine Commander of the Basilegate) on what is to come.

Or, put another way, the Old Man tells the Young Man how it always really is…

I KNOW YOU ALL – FIRST VERSE (WILL SHAKESPEARE AND JOHN GUNTER)

This happens to be my favorite section of monologue from a play by Shakespeare (any play by Shakespeare), and there are many brilliant ones. This is from the Henry Cycle. (Henry discusses his past nature as scoundrel and the companion of scoundrels and his coming nature as king.)

Since I was a kid, a teenager actually, I have taken what I consider to be great sections of poetry, prose, plays, songs, etc. and rewritten them to see if I could improve upon them in some way (linguistically, poetically, phonetically, in meaning or emphasis, etc.). As an exercise in the improvement of my own poetic capabilities. Or towards the improvement of whatever other capabilities I happened to be attempting to exercise.

To me this is the very paragon of verse from Shakespeare’s plays, for any number of reasons, not least the undercurrents of shaded meaning, the psychologically acute self-analysis, and the prophetic pronouncements of the future. I have rewritten this section many times and in many different ways but did it again late last week as an exercise to keep myself from becoming rusty and out of practice at this type of verse and monologue.

The first section is the Work of Shakespeare. The second section is partially Shakespeare’s, the part in italics (in order to set the theme of the monologue), and the last part is my rewriting of the same. It is not only a rewriting, I’ve also altered the emphasis, slightly and subtly, but it also contains allusions to other subject matter and characters I have written about in my own poetry, such as Orpheus and the Tears of Iron.

I hope you enjoy it. I also hope you try such exercises for yourself to improve your own capabilities.

 

I KNOW YOU ALL – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humor of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mist
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work,
But when they seldom come, they wished for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promisèd,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And, like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend to make offense a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will.

 

I KNOW YOU ALL – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND JOHN GUNTER

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humor of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mist
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.

Of temperance there is none found in me
When overwhelming Wyrd o’ermasters
All the conduct of my prior faculties
Yet when I am come, and baring as I come
The former foil that gilds me dull, yet sharp
In indiscretions manifold who
will vouchsafe all my claims and titles
Young with new maturity, if not I?
In reform well sprang like Orpheus
From the chair of Pluto and his iron tears
My coming crown unworn, my sins unshorn
Shall outline the very shadowed limits
That I so like the scorching sun of noon
Shall burn away when the Dawn of Me
Does unexpected rise from deep within
And clotted clay, the seeming sepulchre
That frontiers all I have ever been
Will be seen to walk beneath the heavens
As if a new king bestrode the mortal world
In glory more like ancient gods than man…

 

ALL GREAT LITERATURE from MEMORABLE LITERARY LINES

All great literature can ultimately be reduced to three basic pronouns: I, you, and us.

THE WELL OF WISDOM…

Most of this advice is quite good.

Advice on Writing from Modernity’s Greatest Writers

by

What sleep and plagiarism have to do with the poetry of experience and the experience of poetry.

I recently stumbled upon a delightful little book called Advice to Writers, “a compendium of quotes, anecdotes, and writerly wisdom from a dazzling array of literary lights,” originally published in 1999. From how to find a good agent to what makes characters compelling, it spans the entire spectrum of the aspirational and the utilitarian, covering grammar, genres, material, money, plot, plagiarism, and, of course, encouragement. Here are some words of wisdom from some of my favorite writers featured:

Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created — nothing.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Don’t ever write a novel unless it hurts like a hot turd coming out.” ~ Charles Bukowski

Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser

A short story must have single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ~ Saul Bellow

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” ~ T. S. Eliot

Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” ~ Stephen King

Good fiction is made of what is real, and reality is difficult to come by.” ~ Ralph Ellison

The problem with fiction, it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.” ~ Tom Wolfe

You cannot write well without data.” ~ George Higgins

Listen, then make up your own mind.” ~ Gay Talese

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Write without pay until somebody offers pay; if nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.” ~ Mark Twain

And then, of course, there’s the importance of knowing what advice to ignore:

THE GENESIS OF THE THING

Very well expressed by Mr. Carroll

Furnishing a new story

Several times recently I was asked what it feels like to begin writing a new book. I struggled for an answer until I remembered something. Two decades ago I was sitting in the completely empty living room of the new apartment we’d rented and in which we still live today. The movers were coming tomorrow to bring the furniture and other stuff. I had come to check things out a day early just in case something needed attention. After making sure all was okay, I sat down in the middle of the living room floor and looked around for a long time. The wooden floors had recently been refinished and the place smelled strongly of wax. The walls were newly painted white. Nothing else was there. What I remembered was how deeply satisfying it was to sit in that empty room, knowing in a day it would fill up with the furniture, objects, and various things of several peoples’ lives. This was going to be home for at least a few years and everyone in my family loved the big new space. Empty now, it was something in between— home but not yet. Ours but not quite. Virginal. Pure, but undoubtedly the apartment all of us wanted.

That is what it is like for me to begin writing a new novel. You’ve chosen a place to live for the next years but it has nothing inside it yet. Only the walls, floors and windows. Because you have specifically chosen this space, now you must furnish it. But you’re really looking forward to the task, no matter how long it takes. The other day I heard an interview with the writer Junot Diaz who said it took eleven years to write his last novel. Eleven years, two years, six months— it doesn’t matter. The writer chooses a specific space to inhabit. Next his task is to fill it with the best, the *only* furniture he knows how to make or find. If he is lucky and does it well, whoever comes to visit when it is finished will hopefully be delighted with the way it has been done and want to stay there a long time.