Quite a few of us on staff are working writers, and we know, despite all the available wisdoms floating in the universe on securing life/art/family/work/torpor “balance,” how difficult, and yet, how necessary it is, to–forget about the slippery, vague notion of balance (What is it? Who is so lucky to have it?)–just get the words into our heads (read) and also get them onto the page (write).
We don’t believe literature is something to be written and read only by the leisure class, or by folks unyoked by family responsibility, or only during moments of supreme comfort, quiet, and solitude. Literature happens as we move through our busy, demanding hours. Literature happens on our lunch breaks, when we’re tired, when we can’t sleep, in conversation with writers whose minds we admire. Literature happens on post-it notes that get tucked into our back pockets and tossed in the wash, in the pre-dawn hours, irregularly. Life bounces like light onto our words and, we hope, makes them better and more true. The hours don’t need to be perfect, because we are tough, tender, and ardent. This week, we loved this essay from the LA Review of Books blog, by working writer and Michigan professor Tina Lupton, on work and literature. She writes on “what literature might sound like if it became the medium of the work rather than the writer in financial and practical repose.” And I’ll just go ahead and quote a bit more, because it’s so darn good:
Listen, I am writing with a baby at my breast; I am reading between shifts, and this is what I thought. I am speaking to the journalist on the street. I have a class to teach, but I went last night to the theatre and this is what I wrote over breakfast this morning. I am writing this from the demonstration where I am working to make things better — but look: I am also editing the document you write. I am talking to you, who are tired, but are also working, of my work. You have no time, but this message comes with the news that you have just enough time to read this.
With Lupton’s heartening words in mind, may you enjoy, on your phone, in an elevator, on your way to work, between bites of a sandwich, waiting to pick your kid up from school, some of these internet trocitos:
- Siri Hustvedt, on the phenomenon of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s serialized novel, and “gendered literature and the feminization of feelings.” Hustvedt writes:
Every human being is capable of being wounded. If the feelings that result from the inevitable cuts and scrapes every person accumulates in the course of a lifetime are understood as “feminine,” then it seems to me we have all become terribly confused. The difference between male and female vulnerability may be that in a woman this quality fits into our perceptual schema more easily than it does in a man.
- An addictive little graphic, each panel blooming with thoughtful reviews of favorite books of the year from National Public Radio.
- A profile of a great independent bookseller, Kenny Leck. We salute our independent bookstore buddies across the seas for ten years of a very good thing. Five years yore, I lived in Singapore and toiled for the regal cats of Book Actually in a shop house on Club Street near Chinatown. Cheers, Kenny, Renee, and all the rest of you wild animals.
- An essay tribute to Claude Cahun and Kathy Acker, from Jessa Crispin’s The Dead Ladies Project, over at The Offing.