Author Archives: James Warner

Is Writing a Type of Sympathetic Magic?

Ferrel Moore blogs, “Writers are magicians. They turn nothing into something. From swirling dark archetypes of the subconscious they pull fragments and potentialities and craft them into an imaginary world peopled with characters more real than themselves. Writers are the God of their created world. From the dust of their lives, they bring forth protagonists […]

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Repetition Repetition Repetition

From Rick Moody’s Rumpus column — “I’m not sure why repetition is pleasing, but I know what I like. Whether it’s Rothko’s overpowering sequences of ‘windows’ (or, to give a more recent example, Maureen Gallace’s innumerable paintings of houses), or Steve Reich’s pulses, or the minute gradations of rhythm in Beckett’s last works, repetition slows […]

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Gary Lutz on Sentences

I just read this speech by Gary Lutz, which was printed in “The Believer” earlier this year. Lutz describes the feeling of writing a sentence —“Once the words begin to settle into their circumstance in a sentence and decide to make the most of their predicament, they look around and take notice of their neighbors. […]

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Anthony Burgess on the Short Story

I believe all novelists should also write short stories. Anthony Burgess had this feeling too, even though he himself largely stopped writing short stories quite early in his career — there’s a piece he wrote about the short story, in “Les Cahiers de la nouvelle” #2, January 1984, that raises a lot of important issues. […]

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What Short Stories did you Read as a Kid?

I’d like to hear your answers to this question – my own experience is doubtless atypical. Short story writers I relished as a “tween” include P.G. Wodehouse, Saki, James Thurber, Roald Dahl, Giovannino Guareschi, John Wyndham… this was 1970s England that I was growing up in… I also remember stories by Bertrand Russell and by […]

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The Fate of TriQuarterly

We were all probably expecting this recession to snuff out some literary magazines.But the news about TriQuarterly is disturbing and kind of weird. Here’s the spin from Northwestern University. Celeste Ng reports here. Not all of us are upset that TriQuarterly is shifting from print to online publication. More troubling is that the editors have […]

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How Does Description Work?

Samuel R. Delany, About Writing — “During a recent conversation I was having with a friend, he picked up his well-read Vintage paperback of Ulysses, opened it to page 36, and said, ‘Listen to this: “On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.” Now, I love that sentence. […]

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In Defense of “Like”

Few expressions are so often denounced as “like” – as in “Suppose we like, just turn that idea upside down…”After I first moved to California, I started saying “like” a lot. I think it’s unfortunate that spoken British English has no real equivalent. One British friend, after I started saying “like,” asked me in bemusement, […]

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Douglas Hofstadter on Translating Francoise Sagan

Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach inspired me greatly when I was a teenager. Reading Hofstadter’s essay “Translator, Trader,” last night, I learned that I can still be blown away by Hofstadter’s combination of vast enthusiasm and sheer intelligence.In “Translator, Trader,” Hofstadter describes having to “internalize” a book before translating it. Before translating Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin,” he […]

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More on Citationism

Somewhat related to yesterday’s post, Jonah Lehrer has a post up about musical mash-up as a model for the production of new ideas in working memory.Which made me think about John Livingston Lowes’s book The Road to Xanadu: A Study in the Ways of the Imagination, a study which traces phrases in Coleridge’s poems to […]

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Damion Searls and Writing Like Someone Else

Soon after reading Damion Searls’s short story collection What we Were Doing and Where we Were Going, I read his translation of Rilke’s “Interiors,” in “Paris Review” 190, and felt some uneasiness. The voice in the translation was Rilke’s, yet I felt it was also Damion Searls’s voice.Writing fiction can be a way of filtering […]

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Some Signs of the Times

Last Friday I celebrated PARK(ing) day for the first time. This idea started in San Francisco and has since caught on worldwide. A friend of a friend rented some sod, enough to fill the parking place outside his store in North Beach — these are apparently good times for the sod business, because when a […]

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More Perspectives on Publishing

Samuel Johnson’s birthday today.Here’s a link to some thoughts from Daniel Menaker on the publishing industry, including “Publishing is often an extremely negative culture,” and “Genuine literary discernment is often a liability in editors.” Those are the cheeriest bits.Mike Shatkin responds here, pointing out among other things that —“Each new book today is competing with […]

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Six Months Have Flown + InsideStorytime EXILE

I’ve been doing this blog for six months now. Persistence furthers, says the I Ching. Here’s a Viktor Shklovsky quote I found online:“You have to store up books, becoming acquainted with human experience; let them lie around your thoughts, becoming yours—ring upon ring, as a tree grows, let them rise up from the depths like […]

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Works of Art Whose Agenda Doesn’t Include Me

“And the grafitti alongside the Amtrak: The rails head north out of Penn Station under the streets, almost as through a tunnel, alongside the passing logos of gangs and solitary hit-artists who use the patches of sunshine that fall into the brief spaces between overpasses, their fat names ballooning into the foreground of their strange […]

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