Talking, or writing, about endings is hard—whether it’s the end of a marriage, the end of a life, or the end of a book (lest one spoil the conclusion). Life rarely offers sudden and definitive endings or epiphanic conclusions. Rather, events leading up to the end seem to be
“As” is a love poem, after all. It’s a sidelong devotion—all wordplay and switchbacks. Its essence is decocted from its original artifacts, lost and now found, a reverse transit of its multiple parasitic meanings. It feels something like being in the archives, in a family, in love.
Most writers I know have amazing verbal skills. They became writers because they fell in love with reading books. But as Joseph Conrad suggests, writers are equal parts visual artists. We paint pictures with words.
In literature, a return to a previously inhabited place or state often becomes a means of measuring. Here we are, back in the same place, yet not quite the same. What has changed, and what hasn’t, and what does that balance of sameness and difference do to us?
When you start selling perfumes, you are in the business of selling stories. You must learn to be adept in all the tools a writer needs to do their work well. Scent is the most primal sense, the surest trigger of memory, of instinct.
There are a couple of things I try to emphasize when I teach writing workshops. One: writing is not an innate talent that some people are born with and others are not. Two: writing is not a thing to be won.
Because there is language. Humanoids happened, then Homo sapiens happened, and somewhere down the line, we started to talk. Why? Because pictures weren’t enough. Because pictures, dazzling as they were (and still are), are a little less portable, less mutable to the nuances of our shifting perceptions.
Just last week, I received maybe the first piece of editorial advice that I felt compelled to flat out reject: that Latinx writers have a moral obligation to not write stories in which Latinx characters are portrayed in the context of the drug war or violence or anything else
We think of our sensory equipment as separate from that which it apprehends, that our eyes and ears passively convey particulars of the world to our brains. But seer and seen are not separate—looking at a gamma ray burst would detach your retinas.
I recently fell in love with Colm Tóibín’s The Master, a novel about the life of “master” writer Henry James. Notable writers such as Michael Cunningham describe the novel, shortlisted in 2004 for the Man Booker, as “almost shockingly close to the mystery of art itself.”