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Monday, June 11, 2012

Grand Teton reading #1

by Joyce Carol Oates

What advice can an older writer presume to offer to a younger? Only what he or she might wish to have been told years ago. Don't be discouraged! Don't cast sidelong glances, and compare yourself to others among your peers! (Writing is not a race. No one really "wins." The satisfaction is in the effort, and rarely in the consequent rewards, if there are any.) And again, write your heart out. (p. 24)

Life is lived head-on, like a roller coaster ride: "art" is coolly selective, and can be created only in retrospect. But don't live life in order to write about it since the "life" so lived will be artificial and pointless. Better to invent wholly an alternative life. Far better! (p. 25)

I've never thought of writing as the mere arrangement of words on the page but the attempted embodiment of a vision; a complex of emotions; raw experience. (p. 35)

But what are the origins of the impulse Wallace Stevens calls the "motive for metaphor"? -- the motive to record, transcribe, invent, speculate? The late William Stafford says in a poem,

So, the world happens twice --- 
once we see it as is;
second, it legends itself deep,
the way it is. (pp. 38-39)

When I'm asked, as sometimes I am, when did I know I "wanted to be a writer," my reply is that I never "knew" I wanted to be a writer, or anything else; I'm not sure, in fact, that I "want" to be a writer, in such simplistic, abstract terms. A person who writes is not, in a sense, a "writer" but a person who writes; he (or she) can't be defined except in specific terms of texts. (p. 41)

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