With the creation of Scribblings & Bibblings that question was actually already answered: to blog. However, as is the case with everything in life, one question begets other questions which begets other questions which... we see where this is going. (There really is something to that "Ignorance is bliss" thing.) The real question is "to blog every day or not to blog every day?"

The decision to blog leads to the question how often does one blog. That is where I stand. (Some might think the decision to blog would lead to the question, what does one blog about. But, I would think those questions would be reversed in causality.) Since I decided to launch this website, and since I decided to launch this blog aspect of the website, I have been wrestling with this question. It is a question all bloggers must address at some point. And the answer each one comes up with depends on the person, the blog, and the audience, if there's a readership.

I determined early on that I should probably update the blog two to three times per week, that would be a good way to maintain new material, to not inundate people with updates, and to not overwhelm myself with the time commitment that an everyday, thoughtfully written blog post would require. It would also give me opportunity to give a day or two of thought to my posts, to refine the writing. And, a day or two break between posts would afford me the time for those that would require greater research: when the switch from 'A historic' to 'an historic' began (see author bio at side); book reviews; how punctuation can serve as a style, i.e., the personal preference over parentheses, ellipses, etc.; random top ten pop culture lists; my lifelong bibliomania. (Next post, by the way: my compulsive need to have a book with me at all times.)

And then I read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project.

In the chapter 'March', Rubin decided to tackle the aspects of her work life where she could improve her happiness. Part of this was to start a blog. But I'll let her words speak for her:

But despite the promise of a big happiness payoff, I felt apprehensive. I worried about the time and effort a blog would consume, when I already felt pressed for time and mental energy. It would require me to make decisions that I didn't feel equipped to make. It would expose me daily to public criticism and failure. It would make me feel stupid.
Then, around this time, I happened to run into two acquaintances who had blogs of their own, and together they gave me the few pieces of key advice that I needed to get started. Maybe these providential meetings were a product of cosmic harmony --"When the student is ready, the teacher appears"-- or maybe they were examples of the efficacy of articulating my goals. Or maybe I just got lucky...
"Post every day, that's absolutely key," insisted my second adviser, who ran a law blog. Oh dear, I thought with dismay, I'd planned to post three times a week.

And so it is we are back to the beginning of the entry. What to do, what to do? How many times to post? This question ranks for me in the same realm as "Should I have another cup of coffee? Should I have another beer? Should I start homework or check Facebook statuses (statusi?) one more time?(Note to self: blog post for future: what words or plurals could stand to be updated or improved upon?) Should I move to New York City, back to Boston, or to a different city entirely?" Clearly this question bedevils me. I guess I'll figure this out in the upcoming days, weeks, and months, hopefully years, that this will be in existence.
 
 
A couple of months ago I was guest lecturing a friend's undergraduate short story class. The topic I was to cover was point of view. For the latter portion of the class, I opened the floor to any questions the students had for me, or for just general discussion. I had discussed most, if not all, of the points of view in which a short story can be written: first person, close third, third person omniscient, third person neutral, shifting point of view (which would be third person omniscient), and in rare cases, second person.
One of the students asked me what point of view I believed Melville's Moby Dick was written in. Novels many times shift point of view, and a novelist has a significant amount of leeway to shift points of view than he or she does in a short story. The novelist can take risks that the confines of a story don't allow. Anyway, my response to the student: I froze. And then I came clean.
"I have a confession to make. I've never read Moby Dick." This was met by some understanding and sympathetic laughs.
I began thinking after the class. If I wanted to teach writing on a college level, which is one of my goals, I should probably read all those classics, all those books that I should have read by now. I should probably read those books on my shelves that make it seem I am a well-rounded, classically-educated reader.
A few days later, I made a list of all the books I would like to read in 2010, with the realistic caveat that if I read 75% of the list, I would consider myself successful.

Herein is that list. Note: some are classics, some are books I have wanted to read for a long time or books I started years ago and never finished; some are neither and are deliberate fluff (Edgar Rice Burroughs), but it's good to sometimes give your reading brain a vacation. Also, this is not in the order in which I will read them:

1.      Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

2.      Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes

3.      Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle

4.      The Myth of Sisyphus – Albert Camus

5.      Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

6.      Middlemarch – George Eliot (unfinished)

7.      Wizard and Glass – Stephen King (on my to-read list for too long)

8.      The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time – Phyllis Rose: to be read in preparation for reading all seven books of Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past in 2011.

9.      The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin (I began this over the weekend and am about halfway through.) - FINISHED

10.  Trailerpark – Russell Banks

11.  Dubliners – James Joyce (unfinished)

12.  Modern Man in Search of Himself – Carl Gustav Jung

13.  Flow – Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi - FINISHED

14.  Nosferatu – Jim Shepard - FINISHED

15.  To the Lighthouse, or Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

16.  The Stories of Richard Bausch – Richard Bausch. (unfinished)

17.  The Collected Stories of John Cheever – (unfinished)

18.  Samuel Beckett – Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable, Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape

19.  The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri

20.  Either V. or Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon

21.  Image-Music-Text – Roland Barthes

22.  One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

23.  Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars Series Books #2 – 4 (Gods of Mars, The Warlord of Mars, Thuvia, Maid of Mars)

24.  Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

25.  The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

26.  As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner (unfinished: started at least half a dozen times. I love the first 50 pages. I haven't read past that. My hyperactive brain moves on to something shiny.)

27.  The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

28.  The Metamorphoses – Ovid

29.  A Personal Matter – Kenzaburo Oe

30.  Anna Karenina – Tolstoy

31. The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios - Yann Martel (COMPLETED)

32.  Emma – Jane Austen

33.  Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (see hyperactive brain from As I Lay Dying- No. 26)

34.  Pierre Guiraud – Semiology

35.  Paradise Lost – John Milton

36.  Thus Spake Zarathustra – Nietzsche

37.  The Analects – Confucius

38.  Alice Munro – Selected Stories (unfinished)

39.  The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (unfinished)

40.  Flaubert

41.  The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet – Reif Larsen (FINISHED)

42.  The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & other Stories – Etgar Keret (COMPLETED)

As an addendum, I may add the works of Shakespeare to the 2011 list. As of now my reading list for 2011 consists of only the works of Shakespeare and Proust. 2011 is shaping up to be a very pretentious year.


 
 
While writing the last entry on the revision process, I was reminded of a poem I wrote in undergrad. It is a mediocre poem, however at the time, tainted with undergraduate brio, I thought it was brilliant, and I thought I was on my way to becoming the next Rilke, Neruda, Ferlinghetti.
The one aspect of the poem that retained a good idea was the fact that I kept every revision of it, including the original long-hand version, and every cross-off and each line that I X'ed out with my typewriter. (Yes, I used a typewriter in undergrad. I'm not dating myself; I'm just indicting my inability to embrace technology in a timely manner.)

I have included all those versions below as a means to show how, even in a mediocre poem, a piece evolves over many version. The last version of the poem, I revised in the process of this entry, almost fifteen years since the last revision.

All testimony to the fact that a piece of writing will never fully be completed by its author. We just choose to stop working on it:

Sunflower (version 1)

a sunflower
painted with meticulous strokes
on a coffee cup
(evoking memories of Ginsburg and of Blake and
and of Blake and Kerouac from him)
memories
of running through a field
blowing
with pursed lips
from the depths of my lungs
the spokes and feathers and petals and leaves
off
each and every
dandelion
geranium
pussy-willow  &%$@*-willow
sunflower
that crosses my path
into the air
decapitating the flowering
with each swipe of my arms
 

Sunflower (version 2)

A sunflower
Painted with delicate meticulous strokes
on a hand-crafted ceramic cup
evoking memories of Ginsburg
(and of Blake and Kerouac from him)
evoking memories of
childhood
of running carelessly through an open field
blowing
with pursed lips
with breathes mustered from the depths of my lungs
pulmonary sacks filling like a blowfish
like Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks
the spokes and feathers and and petals and leaves
off
each and every
dandelion
geranium
brambleweed
sunflower
that crosses my wayward path
into the stanch fragile air
blowing
with unmitigated ferocity
each leaf from its burgeoning stem
decapitating the poor harmless vegetation
with each pendulous swipe
of my arms
mouth sustained in an oblate grin
laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing
and running aimlessly after
each dandelion puff floating pathlessly in the air
each sunflower
running and laughing the whole way through
my golden field
my harbinger of spright
sits atop my paper-strewn
desk
sturdy base
slowly seeping its imprint
into the grain


Sunflower (version 3)
 
A sunflower
painted with meticulous strokes
evoking memories of Ginsburg
(and of Blake and Kerouac from him)
of childhood
running through an open field
blowing
with pursed lips
from the depths of my lungs
the spokes and feathers and petals and leaves
off
each and every
dandelion geranium pussy-willow sunflower
that crosses my path
decapitating them flowering
with each swipe
of my arms
mouth in an orbicular roundish grin
laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing
and running after
each dandelion puff
floating in the air
each sunflower
running and laughing the whole way through
my golden field
sits atop my
paper-strewn desk
seeping
its imprint
Into the grain
 

Sunflower (version 4)

a sunflower
painted with meticulous strokes
on a coffee cup
evoking memories (of Ginsberg
and of Blake and Kerouac from him)
of childhood
of running
through an open field
blowing
with pursed lips
from the depths of my lungs
the spokes and feathers and petals and leaves
off
each and every
dandelion            geranium             pussy-willow      sunflower
that crosses my path
decapitating them
with each swipe
of my arms
mouth in a roundish grin
laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing
and running after
each dandelion puff
Each sunflower
running and laughing the whole way through
my golden field
sits atop
my paper-strewn
desk
seeping its imprint
imprint
into the
grain.


Sunflower (version 5)

a sunflower
painted with meticulous strokes
on a coffee cup
evoking memories (of Ginsberg
and of Blake and Kerouac from him)
of childhood
of running
through an open field
blowing
with pursed lips
from the depths of my lungs
the spokes and feathers and petals and leaves
off
each and every
dandelion            geranium             pussy-willow      sunflower
that crosses my path
decapitating them
with each swipe
of my arms
mouth in a roundish grin
laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing
and running after
each dandelion puff
floating in the air
each sunflower
running and laughing the whole way through
my golden field
sits atop
my paper-strewn
desk
seeping
its imprint
into the
grain.

 
Sunflower (Version 6 – edited in the process of this entry)

a sunflower
painted with meticulous strokes
on a coffee cup
evoking memories (of Ginsberg
and of Blake and Kerouac from him)
of running
through an open field
blowing
the spokes and feathers and petals and leaves
off each and every
dandelion            geranium             pussy-willow      sunflower
that crosses my path
each swipe of my arms
mouth in a roundish grin
laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing
and running after
each dandelion puff
floating in the air
through my golden field
sits atop
my paper-strewn
desk
seeping
its imprint
into the
grain.


Picture
 
 
Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.
Bernard Malamud

I recently completed a massive revision of the second half of my graduate thesis. The second half of the thesis is a novella, currently titled "I'm Hoping This Will Work." This arduous, and ultimately rewarding, process obviously caused me to think about the nature of revision itself. It is much like how a child views school: you certainly don't enjoy it while you're doing it, but after it's done, you enjoy the results and see how necessary it was.
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I will be the first person to tell you that I am not a poet. I dabbled a bit in poetry during my undergraduate years, as all writers do, but I soon gravitated towards fiction and essays, where my interests in writings still lie. I know many astounding poets, and I have read wonderful works from these and other people. I read it on occasion and am always envious of their ability to parse and expand the language, to imbue an entire world, emotion, and theory in the briefest, most efficient use of language. I wish I could write that concisely. (I wish I could think that concisely, actually, but that's a separate neurological issue.)

I recently attended the AWP conference in Denver. While preparing for the conference I pored over the schedule of events and narrowed down the seminars, workshops, and lectures I would attend before I arrived. There were many attending that were poetry oriented. In my effort to whittle the hundreds of lectures per day down to a handful, before I later pared that list, I ignored anything that had poetry in the title, or anything that had to do with poetry. This makes it seem like I am anti-poetry. I am not. I just did not have a need for it during the conference. That is until the last lecture of the week. I was convinced to attend this last lecture, which concerned the digital copyrights of poetry and music, and the changing and emerging legal issues concerning digital copyrights and the use of other persons' words. (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/foundation/poetryinstitute.html) While at this lecture, I began to wonder why I had so abdicated poetry over the years, why I had stopped any of it, why I had stopped taking an interest. Even though I had stopped writing it years earlier, why had I abandoned any interest in poetry with such fervor, as if it had nothing to teach me?
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While conceiving of the idea for a quick blog post about revision, I realized that some of my undergraduate attempts at poetry weren't entirely awful. They weren't entirely good, either, which is why I write fiction and essays still, and not poetry. One of these less embarrassing forays into poetry went through many revisions, and I kept every version, including the original longhand scribbles. I kept each copy as a means of showing myself, and possibly other people, how revision is necessary, how much a poem, a story, an essay, etc. changes from its original incarnation to its final state.
 
 
Before anyone asks, if anyone is prone to do so, I thought I would explain where the title for this blog came from.

I have included below the clip from the film "Amadeus," one of my favorite films of all time, showing where I appropriated the title.

Enjoy