Tag Archives: essayists

An Experiment in Criticism

 
“The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out.)”
 
– C S Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

Writing as Ritual

 
“An act of will that changed my life from that of a frustrated artist, waiting to have a room of my own and an independent income before getting down to business, to that of a working writer: I decided to get up two hours before my usual time, to set my alarm for 5:00 A.M. … Since that first morning in 1978 when I rose in the dark to find myself in a room of my own –  with two hours belonging only to me ahead of me, two prime hours when my mind was still filtering my dreams – I have not made or accepted too many excuses for not writing. This apparently ordinary choice, to get up early and to work every day, forced me to come to terms with the discipline of art.”
 
– Judith Ortiz Cofer, ‘5.00 A.M.: Writing as Ritual’

Siri Hustvedt

 
“I think we all have ghosts inside us, and it’s better when they speak than when they don’t.”
 
– Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American (Sceptre, 2009)

Judith Ortiz Cofer

 
“It takes a fierce devotion to defend your artistic space, and eternal vigilance over it, because the needs of others will grow like vines in your little plot and claim it back for the jungle.”
 
– Judith Ortiz Cofer

Serious writers and solemn writers

“A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer.  A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.”

– Ernest Hemingway

Another Roadside Attraction

“I am a gypsy in spirit … I travel in gardens and bedrooms, basements and attics, around corners, through doorways and windows, along sidewalks, up stairs, over carpets, down drainpipes, in the sky, with friends, lovers, children and heroes:  perceived, remembered, imagined, distorted and clarified.”

– Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

John Updike (1932 – 2009)

“A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.”

“Each morning my characters greet me with misty faces willing, though chilled, to muster for another day’s progress through the dazzling quicksand the marsh of blank paper.”

“Writers take words seriously – perhaps the last professional class that does – and they struggle to steer their own through the crosswinds of meddling editors and careless typesetters and obtuse and malevolent reviewers into the lap of the ideal reader.”

“The writer must face the fact that ordinary lives are what most people live most of the time, and that the novel as a narration of the fantastic and the adventurous is really an escapist plot; that aesthetically the ordinary, the banal, is what you must deal with.”

“The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all.”

“I would especially like to recourt the Muse of poetry, who ran off with the mailman four years ago, and drops me only a scribbled postcard from time to time.”

“From earliest childhood I was charmed by the materials of my craft, by pencils and paper and, later, by the typewriter and the entire apparatus of printing.  To condense from one’s memories and fantasies and small discoveries dark marks on paper which become handsomely reproducible many times over still seems to me, after nearly 30 years concerned with the making of books, a magical act, and a delightful technical process.  To distribute oneself thus, as a kind of confetti shower falling upon the heads and shoulders of mankind out of bookstores and the pages of magazines is surely a great privilege and a defiance of the usual earthbound laws whereby human beings make themselves known to one another.”

Annie Dillard

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along.  I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too.  I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them …”

– Annie Dillard

Mark Strand

“A poem is a place where the conditions of beyondness and withinness are made palpable, where to imagine is to feel what it is to be.  It allows us to have the life we are denied because we are too busy living.  Even more paradoxically, poetry permits us to live in ourselves as if we were just out of reach of ourselves.”

– Mark Strand