Another installment in the Audience Participation Twitterstory. This week's word--minimum--provided by writer and friend Sherry Lynn Meeks, author of Reading Tambri.

(with thanks to Devotchka for providing the inspiration)


(character count, with title: 113)

But You Said

A decade, at minimum, was how long their notes had transpired.
Still, they all knew how it would end.


 
 
Judging by the title, I'm sure you can figure out that this entry is about a parting about a goodbye of some sorts. And I would call you correct, and give you $100 for saying so... but I don't have that money, so I'm not going to give it away.
In my last post, I mentioned this blog is dedicated to my writing life  and the writing life in general. The writing life, however, can be expanded to cover the creative life. And so it is with a relieved heart and mind that I am here to bid adieu to one of my own creative projects: the random-quote-of-the-day blog.
I began the random-quote-of-the-day website at the end of November of 2009 during a period of personal re-evaluation and reclamation. I had come to the realization a few months prior that I had a very difficult time starting and sustaining a project. In my undergrad days, outside of my room was a cork board. I began to post quotes that I found interesting or ridiculous. If friends drunkenly screamed something the night before that I found especially amusing, it made the list. I would usually have a couple of quotes posted on the board and replace them every two or three days or so. One day, while changing a quote, a group of students stopped and waited to see what it was I was posting. I looked at them strangely, and they said they were waiting to see what today's was, and that they routinely would read what was on there. I had walked by a couple of people reading the board a few times as I walked back to my room. It was at this moment that I realized that a small gesture, if done often enough, becomes noticeable and can change others' viewpoints, if just momentarily. Even if you don't intend it to, something you produce can influence and inspire someone else. When I realized that I had not sustained a project for a long, long time, I decided to start the quote of the day again, as it gave me pleasure in undergrad, and it also spoke to other people unwittingly.
For years I have collected quotes or passages from books and lyrics from certain songs that I find particularly poignant, moving, or silly. When I began the project I had a certain buildup of quotes to choose from, and every so often, depending on the topic I was thinking about at the time (forgiveness, motivation, life, running, writing, love) I would stockpile some more quotes. As part of this endeavor, I wanted to do more than just posting a simple line. I wanted to find a song or a scene from a film, or an inspiring picture or something that would connect to the quote itself. (For examples, take a look at the site itself: random-quote-of-the-day.blogspot.com.)
As I have become more invested in creating the site, I have tried to never reproduce the same quote (that I have not done), and I have also tried to not reuse any of the same corresponding materials: songs, scene clips, photos, images, etc., regardless of their appropriate connection to the quote at hand.
Producing the quote made me feel like I was producing something, it made me feel I was sustaining a project. And I became borderline obsessed in ensuring that I never missed a day. (I believe since late November I have missed maybe 6 days total.) In February I began to wonder how long should I sustain this, because producing a different one daily for an indeterminate amount of time I imagined would get tedious and would lose its appeal. I decided to stop when I knew it was time, when it felt right. This lack of specificity, this lack of deadline did not feel right to me; I needed a deadline; I needed a date. I decided upon a year: that seemed like a good round number in which to dedicate oneself to a project; I would continue with the quote of the day until November of 2010. I decided upon a specific deadline as my reasoning was that if I stopped with the project at an arbitrary day, then I would just prove the point I was trying to disprove by creating and daily updating the site: namely, that I couldn't sustain a project.
However, as time wore on, the project began to wear on me. I had proven to myself that I could sustain a project. Much of the mindset and personal malaise I was feeling at the time of the onset of the website had left; I had begun to reclaim and even establish a sense of self; I had an invigorated sense of confidence I had never had before, partially as a result of dedicating myself daily to something but also due to many other personal factors. I began to see the quote as a burden.
I have felt for about a month or so now that the random-quote-of-the-day blog has run its course, and yet, like a codependent relationship, I have continued to plug away at something I feel no passion towards, just an arbitrary and self-perpetuated sense of obligation.
As such, as mentioned above, it is with a sense of relief and shed burdens that I announce that today's quote-of-the-day installment (September 23, 2010) will be the last one posted on the blog. I may occasionally post an thoughtful, inspiring, or Muppetational line on my Facebook page, but it will not be the daily foray and requirement I have deemed it. For those who have obtained any form of comfort, inspiration, or altering of thoughts because of something I have posted, I am very touched and grateful that I was able to contribute to someone else's well-being. However, it is just time to end.
I will do something, I also thought I would not do, and for the first time, merge the two sites I maintain, posting what I had planned months ago as being the final quote on this blog entry. I will also post this entry on the quote of the day blog as well.
As always, thanks.

These, then, are my last words to you: Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create that fact. – William James,
Is Life Worth Living


Say We'll Meet Again - Lindsey Buckingham
Just say we?ll meet again
When the sunset spell is gone in the wind
Please say we?ll meet againEveryone sees a tear in the seam
But talks about the weather
Everyone pays a price for these dreams
So why not dream these dreams together

Just say we?ll meet again
When the sunset spell is gone in the wind
Please say we?ll meet again

That was a dream, that was a time
But nothing lasts forever
Sooner or later we all must go blind
But we can dream these dreams together

Just say we?ll meet again
When the sunset spell is gone in the wind
Please say we?ll meet again
 
 
A friend emailed me the other day and asked if I had ever read Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. I hadn't, I told her, but I had heard amazing things about the book. I have had a hard time putting it on my to-read list based on the fact that many articles and essays I have read claim that Franzen is an asshole. Anecdotal evidence showing that he is highly uncomfortable with the fusion of literature and mass-market appeal is prodigious:
There was the Oprah incident; the 2005 essay in Harper's magazine by Ben Marcus questioning Franzen for his lambasting of the entirety of experimental fiction; the essay that engendered Marcus' response, 'Perchance to Dream: In the Age of Images, a Reason to Write Novels.' Even fans of his writing find much to dislike about him.

She had heard the same things regarding Franzen and did not want to get the book for these reasons or purposes. However, she told me, it was a National Book Award winner, and since she was purchasing it in a used bookstore, she was assured that no money would be going to him. (As someone hopefully about to embark on a writing career, I hope this doesn't happen to me, and, given the state of the publishing industry in general, I have been trying to buy books new or at readings just to continue to support the industry I so hope to become a part of.)
I can't say I will run out and buy The Corrections or run to the library and take out a copy of the book: I have many other books on my shelves that I have never read. But over the past few years I have been trying to change my mentality on writers and their personalities, trying not to let my judgment of them as people affect how I feel about their work. One of the first writers I applied this regard-for-the-work-not-the-person mentality with was Ezra Pound. Pound, after World War I, moved to Italy and wound up supporting the Fascists and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini: "Every man of common sense, including the odd British MP, knows that every man of common sense prefers Fascism to Communism, from the moment that he learns a few concrete facts about both of them." He was against American involvement in World War II, against centralized banking, and was also anti-Semitic. In general, not exactly an upstanding person. However, read these short poems, including the ever-anthologized 'Alba' below:

Alba

As cool as the pale wet leaves
                                           of lily-of-the-valley
She lay beside me in the dawn.

The Encounter

All the while they were talking the new morality
Her eyes explored me.
And when I arose to go
Her fingers were like the tissue
Of a Japanese paper napkin.

Simple, exquisite, timeless. I can forgive all of Pound's odious politics and personal beliefs for those two poems. And there are thousands more that he wrote like that.

Truman Capote was as self-absorbed a human as there ever was. He was gossipy, ungrateful to friends and colleagues, and in his final unfinished novel Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel he publicized the private lives of many of his friends and confidantes. If the movie Capote is to be believed, he turned the film premier of To Kill a Mockingbird into a bitchfest of how the legal system was preventing him from from finishing his book, not once congratulating Harper Lee. He stayed the execution of two men in the Kansas State Prison system, not because of humanitarian purposes, but he hadn't finished interviewing them yet In Cold Blood.
And yet it is that book that made me ignore Capote the man and regard Capote the artist. Within the first sentence, we understand his writing genius:

"The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there.'"

Within the brief space of 22 words, Capote has shown us the entire world of this lonely, prairie town. By referring to Holcomb as a village and not a town, we are given the sense of the type of dependent community of the people: in a village, every person matters, and what each person does or provides can affect everyone else: it's a matter of numbers. Most people have a geographic and demographic sense of Kansas as being isolated wheat field, prairie, long rolling expanses of hills and wheat without many people in between. For other Kansans to refer to this village as "out there" really invokes the destitution and isolation of its people. And by setting this up first, we know, just from our own reading and film mythology, that anything nefarious is possible in an isolated area. Where no people are, it's easier for something dreadful to occur.
And Capote accomplishes all of this in 22 simple words, doing nothing more on the surface than describing a landscape. But what's under the surface of the picture Capote paints in that first sentence, the subtext of those words that made him a true genius. Despite being a horrible person.

A few months back, I read a review about a new biography about Raymond Carver, one of the titans of modern writing, and the king of the minimalist short story. This passage from Stephen King, the reviewer of the biography and someone who knows a thing or two about alcoholism and its destructive effects, says all that needs to be said about Carver the person:

"As brilliant and talented as he was, Ray Carver was also the destructive, ­everything-in-the-pot kind of drinker who hits bottom, then starts burrowing deeper. Longtime A.A.’s know that drunks like Carver are master practitioners of the geographical cure, refusing to recognize that if you put an out-of-control boozer on a plane in California, an out-of-control boozer is going to get off in Chicago. Or Iowa. Or Mexico.

And until mid-1977, Raymond Carver was out of control. While teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he and John Cheever became drinking buddies. “He and I did nothing but drink,” Carver said of the fall semester of 1973. “I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters.” Because Cheever had no car, Carver provided transportation on their twice-weekly booze runs. They liked to arrive at the liquor store just as the clerk was unlocking for the day. Cheever noted in his journal that Carver was “a very kind man.” He was also an irresponsible boozehound who habitually ran out on the check in restaurants, even though he must have known it was the waitress who had to pay the bill for such dine-and-dash customers. His wife, after all, often waited tables to support him."

I posted this article back in November on a separatand a friend replied, "I realized a long time ago that I would never want to meet my favorite authors in person..."

That is so true. I don't think I would want to have dinner or lunch with Jonathan Franzen, or to meet Capote, or John Cheever or Raymond Carver. It was a sad day when I realized that Gore Vidal, one of my favorite writers and quite possibly the best political essayist of my lifetime, was in real life an asshole. However, I still read his books and most of his older essays. (His new works and interviews are nothing more than the screechings of a bitter man.)
But it is possible to divorce ourselves of our personal feelings about an author, and still hold their art, their work in high esteem. And the converse probably holds to be true as well: Nicholas Sparks is probably the nicest man in all of literature.