Thoughts for Thursday - Woolf on writing

From a letter by Virginia Woolf, on writing:

One must renounce, you say…Ah, but I’m doomed!...It is not possible now, and never will be, to say I renounce. Nor would it be a good thing for literature were it possible…The human soul, it seems to me, orientates itself afresh every now and then. It is doing so now. No one can see it whole, therefore. The best of us catch a glimpse of a nose, a shoulder, something turning away, always in movement. Still, it seems better to catch this glimpse, than to sit down with Hugh Walpole, Wells, etc. etc. and make large oil paintings of fabulous fleshy monsters complete from top to toe…I mean , life has to be sloughed, has to be faced: to be rejected; then accepted on new terms with rapture. And so on, and so on; till you are 40, when the only problem is how to grasp it tighter and tighter to you, so quick it seems to slip, and so infinitely desirable it is. …One must renounce, when the book is finished; but not before it is begun…I was wondering to myself why it is that though I try sometimes to limit myself…to the things I do well, I am always drawn on and on, by human beings, I think, out of the little circle of safety, on and on, to the whirlpools; when I go under.


Did I write this?

I've been very restless, wanting to read and write, and so decided to visit some of my old start files. You know the ones: Stories or sketches or whatevers that started with what you figured at the time was a great idea, and then, whether due to lack of time or interest, you never got back to. The rag-tag beginnings. The shirttail endings. Paragraphs that grin at you with gapped teeth, missing sentences or quotes or whole trains of thought. Sometimes when you reread these endeavors, you think, "Gee, why didn't I finish that!" Sometimes you think, "What the hell was I thinking?" Sometimes you wonder, like a mother who gave birth to quintuplets, "Did that really come out of ME?"

I got that quintuplet-birth-feeling, combined with a queasy did-my-alternate-self-write-this-moment, from this tidbit that I thought I'd share, from the LitKit Grab Bag (first draft, keep in mind):

It’s a well-known fact that Mr. Abrahams ate his children. Well, at least one of them. One might have run off, and who would blame him? The other one, the eldest, he was just another pork chop.

Here’s what we know: The night of the Elvis Festival Mr. Abrahams left his wife and daughter at the Blue Suede Shooting booth, and took his two boys, Tucker and Chip, home. Mrs. Abrahams swears up and down that nothing was wrong except Tucker had a bellyache from too much sun. Two teenagers say they saw Mrs. Abrahams riding the Bullwhip between that nice-looking new teacher who puts shiny new pennies in his loafers and her little girl, laughing it up a little too much. But that’s suspect. What we do know is that Mrs. Abrahams and the girl left around 10 p.m. and walked home alone. The girl still insisted on carrying a half-eaten cotton candy stick around like a mangy fur.

Now, the next thing we know is the Rockville Police got a terrible call. Sergeant Bustermeier was on the desk. He called Captain Rucker to meet him at the Abrahams place. Murder, he said. Involved a child.

The next thing you know the story’s headlining the Rockville Register: “Local eats son, with a glass of milk.” Mrs. Abrahams didn’t care for that much. My husband doesn’t touch dairy, she said. It didn’t take long for the other papers and TV stations from around the country to horn in. I guess CNN got the facts most right, but we all thought the Sun-Times sounded better:

An Illinois man was charged last night with cannibalizing his 12-year-old son. He is suspected in the disappearance of a second son, according to local police.

Avery Abrahams, 52, denied the charges, saying that the son, Tucker, got his hand caught in a meat grinder while attempting an imitation of Elvis Presley. Abrahams says he dumped what was left of the boy’s limb on a dinner plate in an attempt to salvage anything “usable.” The glass of milk by the plate, as well as salt and pepper shakers, were quite incidental. The police say Abrahams couldn’t explain the presence of cilantro in the flesh or why he failed to contact an ambulance immediately after the accident. So far there has been no trace of a second son, eight-year-old Charles. Mrs. Abrahams said she thought Chip, as the boy is called, might have witnessed the alleged incident and run away, though, she added, “he usually wasn’t that smart.”

People round here think the kid was sold off to a Chucky Cheese chain and made into one of them automatons. That’s how they get them things to look so real.

No one knows what to make of Abrahams and the meat grinder story. Tucker was a strange one. He had dressed up like Elvis (young Elvis) for the festival and talked like Elvis and even took a piss like Elvis, swinging his arms around, standing on his tiptoes and swiveling his pelvis around. With a kid like that, it doesn’t take much of a stretch to see him trying to pick a meat grinder like a guitar.

Kinda makes you scratch your head and say HUH, doesn't it?

Writing is such a funny business. Funny weird. Funny ha-ha. And Funny, I didn't think I was THAT insane.

I guess all this comes up as my sinuses clear, my workload lightens and, inspired by BikeProf and other fellow bloggers' efforts (and the upcoming NaNoWriMo), I forge ahead, revamping my home office and otherwise gearing up for Daily Fictionalizing Practice.

I do enjoy finding a Lit Bit in the Grab Bag that doesn't scare but delights, such as this:

Fade-in: Synthesizer version of Jesus Christ Superstar. Roll credits.
Starring: Sister Beneficence
Assistants: [this is where I come in] Mary Ellen Worely and Betsy van Mandolin
Produced and Directed by: Thaddeus Crowmaker

Today’s guest: County inmate convicted of assasinating pets of three local CEOs

Despite what my parents say, there are worst things than working for a cable TV show starring a cigar-chomping nun.

Every week Sister Beneficence – or sister B, as people called her –led the mysteries of the rosary. People were invited to call or email their favorite celebrity to devote the mystery of the week to. Frequently she interviewed guests whose souls were in particular jeopardy or who just wanted to be on a cable-TV show (and there were plenty of those, including a woman who looked just like Betty Boop and gave Sister B. a manicure).

Along the way Sister B wove in jokes (many involving a priest, a rabbi and an agnostic), curse words (Holy shit was her favorite expletive) and homely advice that warmed people’s hearts. “ XXXX,” she’d say, with a little Groucho Marx-wave of her cigar. “People don’t need to be saved by saints. They need to have someone rooting for them who’s on the hook as much as they are.”

Hmmm...not bad. Maybe I'll have to get back to this one....


What's in a name?

Still brain dead, still not able to read. Makes for depressed kitten.

So, to perk things up, thought I'd do a little post on my favorite character names.

Names are hard -- and so important. An author and a reader must live with them for a long, long time. Some authors try too hard and wind up with unwieldly or completely inauthentic-sounding names. This isn't the greatest example, but I never did like the name Stingo in Sophie's Choice. (And I don't like the name Tom Wingo in Prince of Tides much either. Maybe I just don't like "-ingo" names.)

The best names have a ring of authenticity, are memorable and descriptive, and somehow really embody the personality of the character...Dickens was a master at names, The King. David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge, the list goes on. Heck, when you think about it, the writer Charles Dickens couldn't have had a more tailor-made name than Charles Dickens.

Here are some of my favorite fictional monikers, no particular order:

1. Holden Caufield (different, quirky, yet real)
2. Scarlett O'Hara (to think, Margaret Mitchell first named her Pansy!)
3. Ichabod Crane (that whole story is full of great names)
4. Ebenezer Scrooge (is there a better name for a miserly villain?)
5. Emma Bovary (memorable yet romantic. Hard to pick a fave out of some great literature named after women: Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre)
6. Beezus Quimby (now that's a great children's-book character!)
7. Rose-of-Sharon and the Joad family (it's as if the names blew at Steinbeck straight from Oklahoma's Dust Bowl)
8. Raskolnikov (the very name feels like a moral tug of war)
9. Sherlock Holmes (would we be willing to follow detectives without their great names -- Sam Spade, Miss Marple, Charlie Chan?)
10. Captain Queeg (closely followed by Captain Ahab. Somehow, though, Queeg really lives up to his name...)