The Last Word

"The End” by  Bob Marzewski via Flickr used under a creative commons license.
“The End” by Bob Marzewski via Flickr used under a creative commons license.

On a recent episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour the crew discussed first impressions in movies, books, films and TV. Panelist Glen Weldon gave some of his favorite opening lines in books then went on to create this comprehensive list of opening lines.

Coming to the end of the rewrite on my own novel, I find myself contemplating endings rather than beginnings, and I have another writerly confession to make: I judge a book by its last word, which I read first.

Before you lay judgement, things that I know:

A) This is a ludicrous habit.

B) The likelihood that an entire book could be encapsulated by only the last word, when considering the numerous books in existence, is outrageously and implausibly small.

And you might wonder how I can peek at the last word without spoiling the ending.  My ability to flip to the last page and peek, only taking in that last word, maybe two, has been fostered by years of looking at scary movies through fingers, ready to close the gap in a nanosecond lest I see a wayward severed head. Continue reading “The Last Word”

What’s in a Name?

“Nameless here for evermore.” – The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe Recently I got married, and in the moments when I wasn’t deciding where my grandmother would sit during the ceremony, or trying to remember if I ate lunch that day, a quandary of many female writers weighed on my mind–once married, should I publish using … Continue reading What’s in a Name?

When Artists Retire

image courtesy of The Philip Roth Society

Last week, several American news outlets reported that novelist Philip Roth had written his last book.

Here is an excerpt from an article posted on Salon.com:

Roth said that at 74, realizing he was running out of years, he reread all his favorite novels, and then reread all his books in reverse chronological order. “I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing,” he said. “And I thought it was rather successful. At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said: ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ This is exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.

“And after that, I decided that I was done with fiction. I do not want to read, to write more,” he said. “I have dedicated my life to the novel: I studied, I taught, I wrote and I read. With the exclusion of almost everything else. Enough is enough! I no longer feel this fanaticism to write that I have experienced in my life.”

As an artist at the beginning of my career, Roth’s statements seem hard to believe. With more books to read than I can count, and story ideas that keep me awake at night, how could a lifetime be possibly long enough to read everything I want to read and write everything I want to write?

Roth’s statements bring to light a great debate or paradox for many artists: is being an artist a job or a calling?

Continue reading “When Artists Retire”

The Benefit of Knowing Artists

“I felt a twinge of regret that I wasn’t a writer or painter, someone special enough to be invited to talk with Gertrude, to sit near her in front of the fire, as Ernest did now, and speak of important things. I loved to be around interesting and creative people, to be part of that swell,” –excerpt from The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

“Art Opening” by Vivian Chen via Flickr

My boyfriend pointed out to me recently that all my friends are famous. What he really meant was that several of the people I’ve grown up with have gone on to accomplish things in the public’s eye. I have a friend who works as an intern for the Seattle Symphony, I used to dance with a kid who had amazing pirhouettes; now he’s a New York based photographer who shoots Broadway stars, dancers, and occasionally, Abby Lee. My friend the jeweler just made a necklace for Lisa Kudrow. My boyfriend isn’t immune to the fame-brushing phenomenon; one of his friends is a World Fantasy, Nebula, and Hugo award winner. In short, there is no shortage of talented artists in our circle of acquaintances.

I’m not here to tell you that I think my friends and acquaintances are cooler than yours. Like Hemingway’s wife in McLain’s novel, it’s that I love “to be part of that swell.”

Continue reading “The Benefit of Knowing Artists”