“ It is unsafe to take your reader for more of a fool than he is.
“ Your brain is trolling you.
E. B. White writing in his boat shed overlooking Allen Cove, 1976, using a portable manual typewriter. Photo by Jill Krementz
My favorite photo of E.B. White.
by Philip Larkin
Child in the womb,
Or saint on a tomb —
Which way shall I lie
To fall asleep?
The keen moon stares
From the back of the sky,
The clouds are all home
Like driven sheep.
Bright drops of time,
One and two chime,
I turn and lie straight
With folded hands;
They choose this state,
And their minds are wiped calm
As sea-leveled sands.
So my thoughts are:
But sleep stays as far,
Till I crouch on one side
Like a foetus again —
For sleeping, like death,
Must be won without pride,
With a nod from nature,
And a lack of strain,
And a loss of stature.
Meet Cosima Herter, Orphan Black science consultant and the real inspiration for clone Cosima!
"Real Cosima helps us with the science and the larger picture of where the science fits into society…" - Graeme Manson
From a Q&A with Herter: “I see how the science of biology, almost more than any other science, is marshalled into the service of politics, which it tends to be. And, the conception of this show, right down to the characters, the fact that you have a main female character multiple times over! Women are often, throughout history reduced to their biology. And marginalized because of that biology.”
[The following is excerpted from Newsweek with permission of the author]
I came to Los Angeles with a suitcase full of books and shoulder pads stuffed with cash. It was 1992, just a few months after the infamous riots, and I was about to start graduate school at the University of Southern California, near the epicenter of the unrest. One of my professors advised me against coming here—I don’t remember exactly what he said, but the substance of his message could be summarized in three words: Drugs! Guns! Violence! I had been warned so often about muggings that I decided to sew some bills inside the shoulder pads of my jacket. I didn’t know a single soul here.
At once the city felt familiar to me. After all, it had already beamed its likeness to my television screen and to the movie theaters of my hometown 6,000 miles away in Morocco. Look, here was the Hollywood sign, white against the green of the Santa Monica Mountains. Here were the skyscrapers downtown, glowing pink and orange under the rays of the setting sun. Here were the blue skies, the palm trees, the freeways, and the vanity license plates.
— Laila Lalami // Read the rest here.
“ Isn’t it surreal to give narrative shape to life events that seemed so arbitrary and chaotic a decade ago? And surreal to think that everything that happens now will get its own arc in my mind/writing in another decade?
"I know that it is possible to consider history wholly in the context of ideas—the rise of this abstraction, the pressure exerted by that—because people do. And are impatient and even enraged if you suggest that human personality enters into it. But that isn’t the way my mind works. I have to get out an imaginary telescope and fiddle with the lens until I see something that interests me, preferably something small and unimportant.… If the telescope is focused properly, ideas are caught in it as well as people." — William Maxwell, Ancestors
Yesterday’s air travel clusterf*ck emergency re-read
I’m thrilled to take part in Maud Newton’s wonderful ancestry project: The Begats. I wrote about a photo of my grandfather and some lines he wrote, a gift from my Mom, and a thing I treasure…
I’m excited about scottcheshire's High as the Horses’ Bridles, a novel about about inheritance, religious and otherwise, which centers on a lapsed child prophet and preacher and his reckoning, later in life, with his sick father. The title comes from the Book of Revelation, which, Cheshire says, “looms large for me, always has since childhood.” (I can relate.) Victor LaValle calls the novel “tender and enlightening, riveting and raw.”
In advance of the book’s publication tomorrow, Cheshire writes below about his own remarkable grandfather, Thomas Kirkwood, pictured above in Hoboken, in 1928.
My grandfather, in front of a merchant vessel, leans against a pier railing, looking like he owns the place, cooler and more assured (it seems) in this frozen moment than I have appeared in all my forty-one years. By the time this photo is taken he’d already sailed as a U.S. Merchant Marine for sixty-five merchant lines, on seventy-five ships. He’d seen the world and brought home keepsakes from Egypt, and India, from countless countries throughout Europe and Africa. He’d stowed away, and evaded ship police, from Copenhagen all the way to Hamburg—and wrote about it. He’d survived malaria, German ocean mine explosions during World War I, and spent three months marooned on an empty island after his ship was torn in half by a typhoon.
I never did meet him, though. I know all this because my mother found his sea journal, after it’d been hid in a box for seventy-five years. The pages are faded, all in pencil, and mostly in Spanish (he was Chilean born), except for poems and song lyrics like this one, seen here, typed in an affably shaggy English, his second language. My mother made this totem for me: nine unashamedly simple and lovely typewritten lines on a note card—“When you wake up in the morn/ be a little optimistic”—along with a handsome photo of him at the time. She knew I would appreciate knowing this sort of thing was in my blood, a love for adventure, and the impulse to make art.
There is something to that, the romantic idea that something besides DNA lives on in the blood. And maybe it does. From him, I certainly got my height, my coloring, and my hair. I got other things from my dad’s dad, and from my dad, surely. Not to mention from my mother, and my grandmothers, plus all who came before them.
Anyway, I keep these nine typed lines and this picture in my writing bag, flat between the pages of a book. Always. And when I write, I take it out and set it on the desk beside me, a sort of ritual, I guess, or nod of respect, to hopefully invoke his spirit.
I have not traveled the globe. Not yet, anyway. I have not been to war. But I do write stories. I write to figure out my place in the world. I even wrote a novel, a book all about family legacy, what invisible longings we pass on in the blood, about understanding where you come from is exactly who you are. Plus there happens to be an old photo in the book, the sepia ghost of another long gone grandfather. My small way to honor his memory, and whatever part my grandfather played in the making of the novel. Not to mention, his advice is good. Whenever I find myself stuck, with nothing but my A.M. coffee and the whiteness of the page, I read: “So just follow this advise/ When you wake up in the morn/ be a little optimistic.”
Simple? Yeah, sure. But where on earth did he write this? In the belly of a rocking ship, and deathly sick with fever? Amidst enemy shelling at sea? Or maybe he composed these lines in his head, while shipwrecked, and skirting sharks, subsisting on found coffee grounds and sugar. No matter what, I’ll take his word for it. I’ll take him everywhere I go. I’ll take him everywhere the white page takes me. — scottcheshire
Stuff I Like
- Creation A Watched Pot Within Me
A hangover aside from researching this essay on Daphne du Maurier: In one of her letters to her publisher, she...
- The Original Gone Girl: On Daphne du Maurier and Her Rebecca
Du Maurier called the house her “rat-filled ruin.” It wasn’t hyperbole. Rats,...
- “Publishers are like, ‘We don’t know who your market is, we don’t know who we’d sell your book to,’ and I’m like, ‘What do you mean? Like… People with...”
- “If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat...”
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