Bad Advice Wednesday: Wally Stegner Chimes In

categories: bad advice / Cocktail Hour

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steg-portraitI don’t know of any better bad advice for writers, and humans, than what follows, from an interview in the middle of On Teaching and Writing Fiction by WS (edited by Lynn Stegner):

 

Most artists are flawed; but they probably ought to make the effort not to be. But how do you teach people to enlarge themselves in order to enlarge their writing? It is a little like asking them to “commit experience” for literary purposes.

 

Largeness is a lifelong matter–sometimes a conscious goal, sometimes not. You enlarge yourself because that is the kind of individual you are. You grow because you are not content not to. You are like a beaver that chews constantly because if it doesn’t, its teeth grow long and lock. You grow because you are a grower; you’re large because you can’t stand to be small.

 

If you are a grower and writer as well, your writing should get better and larger and wiser. But how you teach that, the Lord knows.

I guess you can suggest the ideal of it, the notion that is is a good thing to be large and magnanimous and wise, that it is a better aim in life than pleasure or money or fame. By comparison, it seems to me, pleasure and money, and probably fame as well, are contemptible goals.

 

I would go so far as to say that to a class. but not all the class would believe me.

 

 

Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Everybody’s Fool” by Richard Russo

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Over the course of a rich and varied reading life, I find myself returning to the pleasures of an engaging story, well-told, again and again. Excursions to the academic and literary fringes (and too often, the fiction pages of the New Yorker) reveals a miasma of intellectual postmodern tomfoolery that leads this reader, unfulfilled, back to the power of a simple story, offered up by the hands of a master story-teller. Everybody’s Fool, a sequel to the much loved Nobody’s Fool, by Richard Russo, is the quintessential example of just such a story and just such a writer.

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Last Trump Blasts

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Okay, so it’s not the most sophisticated political cartoon in the world, but it passed an important test: it made Hadley laugh out loud. (And I finally got around the whole problem of his face being too much of a caricature to draw a caricature of…)

trumpangry

 

Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Unknown Caller,” by Debra Spark

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Debra Spark’s recently published fourth novel, Unknown Caller, might be superficially characterized as a mystery, for it is certainly mysterious. From the opening (“It is two in the morning when the phone rings… When the phone rings at 2:00 a.m. at their house, it is always her calling.”), author Spark is inviting her readers to interrogate the reliability of their assumptions. An early morning phone call is ALWAYS a portent of disaster, right? And when the caller on the other end of the line rarely speaks, it weaves an almost claustrophobic sense of impending doom. But this beguiling novel is far more than mere mystery. At the heart of this riveting, non-chronological narrative, riven as it with myriad twists and turns and somersaults and flips, lies an examination of the very nature of perception. Continue reading →

Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Lounge: “Hillbilly Elegy,” by J.D. Vance

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance is a curious book that brought to mind both Thomas Franks’ What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America and Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class Wars. While the two latter titles are much more overtly political in perspective than Vance’s memoir, all the works reflect a growing preoccupation with a demographic group that feels left behind in the tectonic cultural and employment shifts that have ensued in the wake of globalization.

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In the Trump Mines

categories: Cocktail Hour

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2016-09-28-11-35-26-01          It’s the familiar lament of the political cartoonist. As a human you hate the politician and want them gone as soon as possible. But as a cartoonist, you want the same person to stick around for a long, long time. This has never been more true than with Donald Trump. Who wants to spend four years drawing Hillary?

The problem is not an acute one for me as I am no longer a professional cartoonist. I’m a writer and probably should stick to what I do best, but every four years or so I feel some sort of evolutionary, almost primal, prodding to pick up the pen and dip it in ink. It worked out pretty well with Romney and I was pleased with my caricature of him (which was challenging since he is blandly handsome). Trump has given me fits, however. I think it’s the same with satiric writing about him: how do you caricature someone who has pushed himself beyond caricature? But for me it’s even more basic than that. I don’t have him yet, and that bugs me. While my wife self-medicated (red wine) to get through the debate, I sat there with my drawing board in my lap drawing Trump after Trump after Trump. Sometimes I felt so close to capturing him…it should be so…easy….that strange little pouty kissy thing he does with his mouth…..the Grinch-like frown…..the brows pulled down like an angry Dad…..the sighs and overblown body language…..it’s just sitting there, a caricature already, so why can’t I just get it? I draw forty more Trumps and still, like a disobedient dog, he won’t come. Continue reading →