Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recent Sketches

Rauschenberg, Charles, Betancourt, Foote, Wilson, Cheever, Merwin, Snyder, Wrigley, Gladwell

(Click on sketch to enlarge)
Landscapes made out of food

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fire, High Wire

First Fire of the Season

Sunflower Seeds

Peppers, Persimmon

I look forward to all the "Year's Best" lists that come around each December. Mid-November seems a little early to start in on that, but today's New York Times Magazine in "The Screens Issue," featured 12 writers, directors, and bloggers, each commenting on the most memorable visual moment of the year (clip, scene, show, movie, computer graphic, etc.). Ann Patchett chose Man on Wire, the superb documentary about Philippe Petit, who evaded authorities to string a cable between the twin towers and walk between them one memorable morning in 1974, shortly after they were completed. Having seen the film recently and marvelled at its quality--not to mention Petit's stunning, audacious high wire act itself--I would agree with Patchett's choice. She writes,

His art was exhilaration, fearlessness, a wild grab at life. The wire he and his friends strung at night between the two towers formed the intersection of recklessness and precision. And those buildings, those silent supporting actors, you can’t help marveling at how young they are. In August 1974, when Petit took his morning stroll, they were still raw on their upper floors, not completely finished. I would wish for those buildings that they could someday be remembered for how they began — with the felonious act of a young man who was madly in love with them, their height, their audacity, their doubled beauty — instead of how they ended. “Man on Wire” gives those towers back to us, at least for a little while. It also reminds us of all that art is capable of when what is risked is everything.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Richard Ford

Recently, I heard novelist Richard Ford speak at the University of South Carolina in the "Caught in the Creative Act" series organized by Janette Turner Hospital. Ford read an excerpt from The Lay of the Land and then spoke about the origins of that scene in a news item he once read. From there he launched into a pitch-perfect talk on the writer's life. In a self-deprecating note, he evoked Henry James, who said that for a writer to talk about himself is "to serve up the feast that starves the guests."

Ford admiringly drew from F. R. Leavis's essay on D.H. Lawrence, asserting that literature is "the supreme means by which we undergo a renewal of sensuous and emotional life, and learn a new awareness." He said that literature provides a commentary on what convention has no response for. He also quoted Thoreau: "A wrtier is one who, having nothing to do, finds something."

Ford said a writer must honor the skeptical view hinted at by Thoreau and at the same time the Leavis contention that the word is magical/mysterious/enlightening. Good writers hold those opposites in mind, something that a liberal education should teach us to do. In the end, he said a novelist must believe that "life is worth the notice the novel gives it."
From an interview with poet Dana Levin in The Kenyon Review:

G.C. Waldrep: What, then, is the relationship between autobiography and imagination in your work?

Dana Levin: The interesting question here is: what constitutes autobiography? I think of the Prologue to Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Carl Jung’s autobiography (undertaken when he was 83 and a fascinating read, particularly in terms of autobiography as form). In it he says,

In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one. That is why I speak chiefly of inner experiences, amongst which I include my dreams and visions. These form the prima materia of my scientific work. They were the fiery magma out of which the stone that had to be worked was crystallized.
For “scientific” let’s say “poetic.” And for autobiography’s “childhood” let’s say “psychic development.” And I mean psychic, which is not only psychological because it includes notions of soul, or whatever you want to call the non-egoic inhabiting spirit in each of us. The suspicion in which I held Confessionalism while in grad school was well-founded in terms of aesthetic concerns, but it was absurd in terms of being a student of the psyche. How can one advance one’s study of human experience without plumbing the depths of one’s memories, deepest feelings and dreams?
Other Kenyon Review Interviews with Writers: Ted Kooser, Rebecca McClanahan, Stanley Plumly, many others

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival

Our annual campus Fiction and Poetry Festival unfolded on a beautiful fall weekend, November 6-8. Tom Perrotta kicked things off on Thursday with a colloquium in the afternoon during which he discussed his novel, Election, an appropriate choice for this year and a book that a number of classes had read. Several classes, including my own composition sections, had read his story collection, Bad Haircut. Perrotta's work went over well, and students turned out in force for his reading and commentary. That night, he read from Little Children and talked about the writing life.

Over the next couple days, Ethan Canin, Valerie Martin, Sara Gran, Robert Wrigley, and Dorianne Laux held sway. Each did a reading/presentation, and each took part in at least one panel discussion or informal session. We combined the two poetry classes for a meeting with Wrigley and Laux, whose work we had read and who were captivating for students. They're good friends, and this was evident in their easy back and forth discussion. A great bonus for the weekend was the presence of Joe Millar, Laux's husband and a wonderful poet in his own right.

Tom Perrotta --- Ethan Canin

Valerie Martin --- Sara Gran
Robert Wrigley --- Dorianne Laux
Wrigley, Laux, and Millar
Finkel Poems from The Cortland Review

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Yes, we can!
Election Speakers on Campus (2007-2008)
Commentaries on Obama's Election: