5.18.2007

8 Random Things about Little Ole Me

Amanda A. at The Blog Jar tagged me on this meme, but I state unequivocately that I cannot top her list!

Hard to come up with much; I'm neurotic, but only in the most mundane sort of way. But here goes.

8 Random Things About Me

1. I studied French for 8 years.
2. I adore handbags. I think because they can be pretty and frivolous yet practical. And you don't have to stand in front of a mirror and try them on.
3. I never flew on an airplane until I was 21.
4. I once backed into the car of the German Ambassador who was visiting Arizona. He said never mind, everything was covered.
5. Two high-powered publishing agents have contacted me (well, I was referred to one by an author who admired my work) about publishing a novel, yet I still have managed not to finish one. That is random AND pathetic.
6. My mother had 4 children in five years: Two boys and two girls. I'm the third child, first girl.
7. Both sets of my grandparents came from Poland.
8. In high school I played Liat in South Pacific. I wore a really long black wig like Cher and got to dress skimpily and kiss a really cute boy in front of a live audience (including parents and nuns). That was pretty fun.

Okay, lest I break the circle and forget to tag others: Courtney, Yogamum, Ched, Verbifore, Litlove -- you are it!

5.17.2007

Thoughts for Thursday - Jack and Marcel

Okay, if you're a regular reader, you know I've been enmeshed -- er, enrossed -- in Proust. As many pages as I can stand, each evening.

In my previous Proust post, I pondered on how his prose struck me like a heavy drug trip: you know you've had a profound experience, but you are not sure you could describe it.

Litlove commented that she had to write about Proust as a critic. I was suitably impressed.

It got me to pondering more about what makes Proust Proust.

Somehow, that got me thinking about Kerouac, another writer I've been reading and whose work I admire. Then I got to pondering (I ponder quite a bit in my downtime): Why am I associating these two writers in my mind?

I think I may have hit upon a link--I'd like to hear your thoughts. The prose of Jack and Marcel cannot be discussed in terms of conventional literary devices (plot, character, dialogue) if you have a hope of conveying their writing. You can discuss theme, but I think with both writers you would have to broaden the discussion.

They are working on a different plane than many other fiction writers: Employing Language to convey Big Ideas. Kerouac also employs Style/Voice (which I cannot precisely account for in Proust).

Is this simplistic or just plain wrongheaded? Am I figuring something out that about a hundred critics have already figured out 20 years ago? What do you think about the Jack and Marcel connection -- and which other authors work on the same plane?

A note about your comments: I love comments. I feel as if I am having a discussion or actually connecting with a person. Maybe that's a technical glitch, a mechanical illusion. But I don't care. Bring on the comments! Please know that I cherish each and every one of them. Even when I don't quite understand them.

5.16.2007

The mystery of publishing

Check out this interesting article from the NY Times, in which publishing bigwhigs debate about the industry and how little they know about the marketplace:

...other industries...have made a point of using new technology to gain a better understanding of their customers. Television stations have created online forums for viewers and may use the information there to make programming decisions. Game developers solicit input from users through virtual communities over the Internet. Airlines and hotels have developed increasingly sophisticated databases of customers.


Publishers, by contrast, put up Web sites where, in some cases, readers can sign up for announcements of new titles. But information rarely flows the other way — from readers back to the editors.

“We need much more of a direct relationship with our readers,” said Susan Rabiner, an agent and a former editorial director. Bloggers have a much more interactive relationship with their readers than publishers do, she said. “Before Amazon, we didn’t even know what people thought of the books,” she said.

Most in the industry seem to see consumer taste as a mystery that is inevitable and even appealing, akin to the uncontrollable highs and lows of falling in love or gambling. Publishing employees tend to be liberal arts graduates who enter the field with a starting salary around $30,000. Compensation is not tied to sales performance. “The people who go into it don’t do it for the money, which might explain why it’s such a bad business,” said WilliamStrachan, editor in chief at Carroll & Graf Publishers.

Apparently, little has changed in the industry since Guttenburg's press:

It’s the way this business has run since 1640,” he says. That is when 1,700 copies of the Bay Psalm Book were published in the colonies. “It was a gamble, and they guessed right because it sold out of the print run. And ever since then, it has been a crap shoot,” Professor Greco said.

There is a “business model” that supports this risk-taking. As Mr. Strachan puts it, “Lightning does strike.”

5.14.2007

Turning on, tuning in to Proust

If reading is a drug, then Proust is the literary equivalent of an LSD trip.

You read Proust, and you see writing and the world in an entirely different way. You've glided through the doors of perception, tuned in, experienced the Divine Truth.

Then you wake up the next morning and try to explain the experience to someone.

And you cannot find the words. And you start thinking, what was it that I really experienced? Has my reading comprehension really degraded that much? Do I really understand English?

Although I'm about 2/3 of the way through In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, I couldn't tell you the plot. I think Marcel is going from adolescence to adulthood. He breaks up with Gilberte. He goes to a hotel. He meets a few snobs. He acts like a cry-baby.

But he's at his most hallucinogenic when he reflects on life.

Here, for example, is a striking passage about artists and friendships:

Friendship is a dispensation from this duty [to live for the artist's self], an abdication of self. Even conversation, which is friendship's mode of expression, is a superficial digression which gives us nothing worth acquiring. We may talk for a lifetime without doing more than indefinitely repeat the vacuity of a minute, whereas the march of thought in the solitary work of artistic creation proceeds in depth, in the only direction that is not closed to us, along which we are free to advance--though with more effort, it is true--towards a goal of truth. And friendship is not merely devoid of virtue, like conversation, it is fatal to us as well. For the sense of boredom which those of us whose law of development is purely internal cannot help but feel in a friend's company (when, that is to say, we must remain on the surface of ourselves, instead of pursuing our voyage of discovery into the depths)--that first impression of boredom our friendship impels us to correct when we are alone again, to recall with emotion the words which our friend said to us, to look upon them as a valuable addition to our substance, when the fact is that we are not like buildings to which stones can be added from without, but like trees which draw from their own sap the next knot that will appear on their trunks, the spreading roof of their foliage.

Now, I ask you: How can you explain this passage to someone, without destroying the experience of actually reading it? That, to me, is what makes Proust a writer like no other. His prose can only be experienced by the reading of it. Not by making it into a film, not by reading a book review or Cliff's Notes or a few chapters. No cheap bottle of Ripple or bong hit will do. You have to lay yourself open to the entire experience to get the buzz.