Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Thinking of favorite things makes everything bad, good again.

Today I’m thinking of three favorite, inspiring writers.

They take me to what my spring art instructor used to say. She said it through thin lips and heavy sweaters. She pointed a long finger, “Keep it painterly.” She didn't explain.

What that meant for me was showing our strokes as artists, our lumps in the paint, the puddles pooled and dripped and the shadows drawn as they were only to us, not as they should be to anyone else.

That meant the sloping breast of a model, mottled if we wanted, or just a blot of our palette knife in one, long, black stroke. That meant the unique curve of the spine stayed or not, and how the direction of our brushes would and should be shown heavily, long after the class had gone. Our interpretations were to highlight that we were aware of our craft. That we were not taking photographs without a filter through our own eyes and our own deceptions.

Keeping it painterly was not as easy as it seems. It’s hard to fight a natural inclination to perfect something imperfect. It’s even harder to show the effort discriminately without overdoing it.

Showing your strokes, admitting to the process. That all things take work, and time, and scars.

That’s hard, on all important fronts. Painting, love, and life.

These writers keep it painterly, well, actually, writerly for me: Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, Joan Didion. I love them truly for this; their effort in each sentence can be analyzed or sped past with all the hints of understanding anyhow. I admire them for that. They do good by it, for me.

And who does for you?


Lynn said...

Two words:

Mary Gaitskill.

goodness gracious! said...

steven millhauser, yo!

Broady said...

It may sound trite, but for me its F Scott Fitzgerald.

Laura said...

Raymond Carver is a nice choice. I love his frankness. So much is conveyed with so few words.

I'll never get enough of Chekhov and Kafka. Chekhov is a master of the ellipses and an unselfconscious sarcasm. His stories don't end with glory or tragedy. When the main character dies, somehow it's kind of ok. We can deal with it. I don't think Kafka needs much qualification.

c-47 said...

haruki murakami_for me brings an unsettling quiet solitude, like thinking back on childhood by a large body of water.

Jose saramago_not sure if this is the best to read whilst in a funk, but blindness (or instance) is so terrifyingly beautiul that i spent a week after reading it partiallay paranoid that i might go hystercally blind. (run on)

and graham greene_power and the glory. its better then bad its good.

beat royalty said...

Two words:

almost literary