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20th October 2014

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Try to preserve an author’s style if he is an author and has a style.
— Wolcott Gibbs

Tagged: writingeditingbooksstylewriting styleWolcott Gibbs

19th October 2014

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Katherine Anne Porter on style

I’ve been called a stylist until I really could tear my hair out. And I simply don’t believe in style. The style is you. Oh, you can cultivate a style, I suppose, if you like. But I should say it remains a cultivated style. It remains artificial and imposed, and I don’t think it deceives anyone. A cultivated style would be like a mask. Everybody knows it’s a mask, and sooner or later you must show yourself—or at least, you show yourself as someone who could not afford to show himself, and so created something to hide behind. Style is the man. Aristotle said it first, as far as I know, and everybody has said it since, because it is one of those unarguable truths. You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being.

—Katherine Anne Porter, The Art of Fiction no. 29,Paris Review

Tagged: writingliteraturewriting styleParis ReviewbooksKatherine Anne Porterstyle

16th October 2014

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If he loved her

He tried to think how much he loved her or if her loved her. He could hear her breathing but he could also hear the rain. They lay like this.

She said, “If you don’t want to, it’s all right.”

"It’s not that," he said, not knowing what he meant.

Raymond Carver, ‘The Ducks’, from Would You Please Be Quiet, Please?

Tagged: bookswritingdialoguerelationshipsAmerican literatureRaymond Carver

8th October 2014

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Her voice is thick now and the sound of Yorkshire where she lives moves through it the way the smell of leaves burning far away would flavour a breeze.
— Timothy O’Grady, I Could Read the Sky

Tagged: booksspeechlanguagevoiceaccentsemigrationIrish literature

7th October 2014


It seems to me that when two people want something to stay just the way it is, that’s when it changes.
— Lawrence Block, A Dance at the Slaughterhouse

Tagged: bookschangerelationshipsLawrence Block

7th October 2014

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James and Nora Joyce and Jean Rhys

Joyce’s continuing interest, even with his clouded sight, in the details of women’s clothes was not confined to Nora’s. The novelist Jean Rhys always liked James Joyce because at a party in Paris he had tactfully told Nora to fasten the open zip of Jean’s new black dress – a kind gesture she had not expected from the august (and nearly blind) famous author.

Brenda Maddox, Nora (1988)

Tagged: booksJames JoyceParisliteratureNora BarnacleJean Rhysclothes

22nd September 2014


Under the gathering gloom of the brainstorm

They were shadowy figures with a pungent smell of electricity, a sensed presence, but no one there. Odd to identify the smell of a seizure with electricity, which is odourless, but apt for an electrical storm in the brain.

The ethereal visitors are part of the epileptic aura, a state of altered awareness that serves to forewarn of an approaching seizure. It also has another, more visceral, feature. Naomi says it feels like a sparrow fluttering its wings in the pit of her stomach. The bird ascends to her throat, becomes trapped, and struggles to escape. Up to this point, under the gathering gloom of the brainstorm, in the company of the empty shadows and the sparrow, she is fully conscious and can articulate her experiences. Then the storm breaks and she is swept beyond reflection.

Paul Broks, Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology (2003)

Tagged: booksepilepsypsychologyneuropsychologyelectricity

20th September 2014

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The problem lies not in the nature of man but in the nature of power.
— Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea

Tagged: bookspoliticspowerphilosophyethicshistorynonviolenceactivism

20th September 2014


The trees are different trees

We are no longer in the forest but in an enclosed garden surrounded by a stone wall and the trees are different trees. I do not know them. There are steps leading upwards. It is too dark to see the wall or the steps, but I know they are there and I think, ‘It will be when I go up these steps. At the top.’ I stumble over my dress and cannot get up. I touch a tree and my arms hold on to it. ‘Here, here.’ But I think I will not go any further.

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

Tagged: bookswritingliteraturetreesalienationJean Rhys

16th September 2014

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Feet that feel the sway of it

I stand there. Eyes mist to the wind feel the fresh rush past. Up my nose. That sting. That new day it’s so early in the morning. I see the white and clear. Rising up of the waters. Running round my feet. My gravel feet. My earthbound feet that feel the sway of it. Water. Of the world that’s changing now no changed. It’s changed and this is looking back. The past a flash front.

Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2013)

Tagged: bookswritingwaterliteratureIrish literatureEimear McBride